When protein is mentioned, one thinks of
1) The highly controversial High Protein and Fat, Low/Zero Carb Atkin’s Diet
2) Expensive and huge intimidating tubs of whey powder from GNC
3) Fatty and sinful slabs of steaks chuckful of artery-clogging cholesterol
4) Miracle protein sources such as soy, or more affectionately known as the ‘boneless meat’
5) Meat. (This invokes very different reactions; meat-lover salivate at the very thought while vegeterians lose their appetite)
Looks like we have a lot to talk about 😉
The first thing about protein you should know is this:
Not all types of protein are essential for human function. There are only 8 types of proteins that are considered essential amino acids (EAAs). We will discuss this in future posts.
The second thing about protein you should know is this:
Not all protein is the same. Some are healthier than the others. It depends on the type, source and the method of processing/packaging/preparation.
For example, a grilled steak originating from a healthy and grass-fed cow that resides in a large farm in New Zealand is vastly different from a sausage, laden with preservatives and artificial flavourings/colourings, that has been deep fried in vegetable oil.
Guess which is a healthier choice?
The third thing about protein you should know is this:
Protein is the most thermogenic macronutrient. (You burn the most calories digesting it). It also provides the most satiety. (You feel full faster after eating protein).
Excessive protein intake DOES NOT lead to renal or kidney failure because the body fails to handle the huge influx of protein.
However, it is NOT recommended that you neglect eating your greens. A rich source of alkaline-forming fruits and vegetables is required to buffer the increase in acidity brought by consumption of (red) animal meat. A reduction in pH decreases the solubility of uric acid, making the urine more concentrated, thereby increasing the chances of developing a kidney stone.
It is only advisable to lower one’s protein intake in the event when one develops a kidney disease. Otherwise, feel free to eat fresh, organic meat but balance it with equal amounts of fruits and vegetables.
Neither does eating too much protein cause anyone to develop cancer; This claim resulted from a FALSE report that carcinogenic compounds found in undigested dietary protein in the colons. Ignore it.
Then again, I must remind you no one ever got healthy and achieved six pack abs from eating fried chicken, hamburgers and sausages/processed meats.
If the above constitutes what you consider as ‘meat or protein’, for the sake of your health and longevity, I implore you to reconsider your definition.
The last thing you should know is this:
Most people (including you and me) consume too little dietary protein. This is very true for most athletes (especially those who engage in resistance/strength training programmes). The majority of the population eats less than 2g/kg per bodyweight when we should be aiming for a minimum of 4g/kg per bodyweight.
Not much people seem to appreciate the importance of protein in our diet.
But why is it imperative that one also mainains a minimum protein intake?
Protein has many uses and supports many bodily functions such as repairing muscle tissues after a workout, provide raw materials for the body to replace dead cells, increase meal satiety, provides lasting energy and burn fat. In short, protein is good and everyone needs to eat more protein.
Since we need more protein in our diet, it is important that we know where to get high quality protein from. Generally, health-conscious people (like the Japanese) sources dietary protein from cold-water fatty fish such as salmon and tuna or high quality meats like grass-fed beef and free range organic chickens. This will increase the intake of (very beneficial) fatty omega-3 acids as well as increase one’s satiety after a meal. (Look out for a future post concerning ‘organic food’)
Protein is also a vital component in sports nutrition. It is responsible for repairing fatigued and damaged muscles after exercising and this ensures the muscle grows and adapts to the training rigours. Remember: Training is catabolic (breaks down the body and muscles). We need protein to repair our muscles, hence the need for post-workout meals.
Lastly, high quality protein is not unhealthy at all. Examples of good protein sources include grass-fed beef, wild alaskan salmon and organic eggs. These food sources all contain very healthy nutrients such as omega-3 fats and are complete protein sources (have all the 8 EAAs). If you can rotate between any one of the three for 3 meals a day, your protein needs would be more than thoroughly taken care of.
However, beware of poor protein nutrition. Poor protein sources includes sausages, processed hamburger patties and fried chicken. The protein in these sources have been contaminated with disgusting additives and preservatives to ‘enhance’ the taste of the food and prolong shelf life.
A sure-fire way to determine the healthiness of a protein is to examine the ingredients list. Does it have more than 5 ingredients? Strike one. Does any of the ingredients sound foreign to you? (Does Natamycin or Pimaracin ring a bell? How about sodium nitrite?) Avoid them like the plague.
Just like Michael Pollan saying:
“Don’t eat anything that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
No one should ever consider compromising his or her health for the sake of saving a few dollars. If you have to, avoid eating processed foods or limit it to an occasional indulgence during festivities.
- Aim for a dietary protein intake of 4g/kg of bodyweight.
- Eat only (if not, mostly) fresh, lean meat (white and red), eggs. If you have a history of cardiovascular disease, try eating white meats (fish, chicken or turkey instead)
- Avoid frying your meat. If you must, stir fry it over a low to medium heat. Grilling is a good option but do not eat the charred bits.
- Barbecuing is advised against owing to the tendency for meat to stay slightly uncooked and the dubious preparation methods, as well as the chances for meat to char.
- Avoid marinating your meat with any sweet and caloric-dense sauce. Usually, a black pepper and garlic would go very well with it.
- If you are not allergic to dairy, consume fresh organic milk (Try the brand: Organic Valley), butter and cheese
- If your intake of animal protein is high, ensure you are eating a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits as well.
- Every meal you eat should have protein in it.
- Never ever eat a double cheeseburger when you can have a New Zealand steak instead.
In the upcoming posts, I will talk about how different people require different dietary protein intake and how one can eat more protein to burn more fat. Stay tuned.
Till then, stay healthy