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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pro Athletes.. Pro gress.. Pro tein

Plain and simple...
Especially when trying to lose weight, Protein plays a vital role. Proteins and their simpler components (amino acids) are the building blocks of many functions in our bodies including hormone synthesis, neurotransmitters (involved with nerves), and Muscle development... to name only a few.

Although protein yields the same amount of calories per gram as carbohydrates (4 cal/g), digestion time differs.  Proteins digest over a longer period of time and can actually keep you fuller, longer for the same caloric cost of a carbohydrate (and a lower caloric cost than a Fat- 9cal/ g). So when trying to lose weight, eating a diet rich in both complex carbs and lean proteins will help keep hunger at bay as well as keep your blood sugar stable(aka no more hunger pangs and ravenous eating).  When you aren't starving for food, you are more likely to choose foods that will benefit your weight and overall health.
So what is a lean Protein?

When looking for smart Protein choices choose low fat or fat free dairy products- ALWAYS! Regardless of your weight, reduced fat dairy products are always the best choice because of the significant reduction in saturated fats and high levels of calcium. Calcium is beneficial for structure and development of teeth and bones as well as weight loss.
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Ice Cream

When looking at meats, choose those with low fat ratios (93/7 or 99% fat free). We do this for the same reason as reduced fat dairy. Because dairy and meats are both produced from animals, we must always pay attention to fat ratios in animal products. Aside from cholesterol, when we eat full fat animal products, susceptibility of acid indigestion and fullness are often associated. So why feel uncomfortable after a meal? Instead look for labels that read "LEAN" or "EXTRA LEAN."
  • Turkey Breast
  • Chicken Breast
  • Egg Whites (separate by hand or by already separated)
  • Seafood (Tilapia, Cod, Tuna, etc.)
  • Lean cuts of beef and pork (Sirloin, Top Round, Shoulder, Tenderloin)
  • Bison (great hamburger meat alternative! only 2gFat vs 9gFat in beef)
  • Ostrich (great alternative to the classic Hamburger) 97% Fat Free
Most health minded individuals may choose a Turkey burger or a classic Hamburger while dining. BUT more often than not, turkey burgers served in restaurants are HIGHER IN SATURATED FAT AND CALORIES than a Hamburger! If you are seriously craving that Burger, get the hamburger and try to eat half, rather than the entire meal. Better yet, ask to replace the french fries with healthier alternatives such as vegetables, fruit, or baked potato.
Beans/ Legumes
Beans and Legumes are alternatives to meat proteins and actually are packed with enough fiber to potentially lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. These power-packed choices will keep you full and taste great in many recipes! There are many varieties of these plant based proteins and they should be paired with whole grains for optimal nutrition.
  • Black beans ( great substitute for your TWICE fried "Re-fried" beans)
  • Garbanzo beans/ Chick Peas (used in hummus, great in salads or dips)
  • Lentils
  • Soybeans/ Edamame (this tasty bean makes Tofu and can be used to replace cheese and dairy in many recipes)

*Use Soy sparingly. Although this plant is potentially beneficial for lowering cholesterol and increasing health, too much of anything is not a good thing. Remember it is never the poison, it is the DOSE.
Soy is found in many products today so make sure to READ YOUR INGREDIENTS and have 1/2-1 serving daily or 4 servings per week. (1 serving is 8oz Soy Milk, 1/2 tofu, or 1/2 edamame, 1 tbsp soy sauce)

Now that you know the Protein basics here is a bit more information on different types of Proteins...

Whey: Quick absorbing protein, best used post workout for muscle regrowth. (most readily absorbed in powder form mixed with water, also found in dairy)
Casein: Slow digesting protein best eaten with last meal. This will slowly digest while you sleep to help sustain muscle. (found largely in dairy products)
Egg Protein: Protein in eggs are found in the white. This is the most natural form of protein and will digest slowly and keep you full for hours. The egg yolk contains fat and very beneficial vitamins such as choline, iron, vit D & E, and many B vitamins. (by the way.. there is no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs)
Soy Protein:Plant based protein useful in lowering cholesterol and arterial plaque but not useful in muscle growth and repair.
One last little tidbit...
Some people, women especially, get nervous when they hear the word MUSCLE. The truth is, muscle burns fat.  The more muscle we have, the more fat we burn. It is physically impossible to eat an all-natural diet and gain muscle mass similar to a man's body. So when I say protein builds muscle, what I am saying is that Protein will in turn, help your body metabolize fat quicker. (that means eating normal size meals and not starving yourself to lose weight) YAY!

The maroon bit is 1 lb of MUSCLE. The yellow bit is 1 lb of FAT. Both are the exact same weight. Which would you rather have on your body frame? It is that simple. Muscle is tighter and takes up less space.

 What did we learn?
  • Plant based proteins (soy, quinoa, beans, legumes) are good for lowering arterial plaque and bad cholesterol ans should be eaten with whole grains for optimal nutrition benefits (i.e. rice and beans)
  • Lean Animal proteins will digest slowly aiding in feeling satisfied for longer periods of time, hence eating less and losing weight(turkey, egg whites, dairy).
  • Muscle burns fat! To build muscle, exercise properly, have whey protein post workout to repair and rebuild muscle, and eat slow digesting proteins with every meal. 

Questions? Leave a Comment! 

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