Monday, September 28, 2009

Protein -- What Should I Eat?

I get asked a lot by men and women about PROTEIN. More specifically, questions about type, importance, quantity and timing (as in: when should I eat). Before answering those questions, we should look at what protein is and why we need it.

What is Protein?
Generally speaking, the primary function of protein in the body is to build and repair body tissues and structures. It is also involved in the synthesis of hormones, enzymes and other regulatory bodies. Additionally, protein can be used for energy if fat calories or carbs are insufficient at the time.
Without going in to too much scientific detail, think of proteins asthe building blocks for the human body. Think of fat and carbohydrates as the fuel.

Why Protein?
When we run, lift weights, do stomach crunches, whatever it is, we are breaking down tissues in our body. Whether it's muscle, ligaments, tendons, or fascia, our body is under constant stress during periods of exercise. Via digestion the human body transforms the proteins we eat into the proteins we build upon. Keep in mind we don't store proteins in the body--if, at the time of ingestion, we don't require protein we will excrete it. But, it's better to have too much than not enough because without protein your body will eventually break down and you will get injured.

How Much Protein?
There is a lot of debate on this topic and has been for some time. Again, generally speaking, if you are an active individual (man or woman) you should be consuming roughly 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Remember, there is 2.2 lbs. in a kilogram; so, if you weighted 220 lbs. that would equal 100 lbs., or 100 grams of protein on a daily basis.

Where Do I Get Protein and What Type Should I Consume?
You can get protein from a variety of sources. I recommend lean animal proteins like chicken, tuna/fish, certain beef and pork products, and egg whites. To many people's surprise, green, leafy vegetables are also very high in protein (remember Popeye and his spinach???). Also certain grains and nuts like soy, peanuts, and almonds have protein.
Also available on the market are protein supplements. If you are utilizing a supplement I recommend a Non-Dairy-Whey product, hopefully "Pure-Isolate" (easier for the body to digest/absorb). When purchasing, look at the ingredients as many supplements have a lot of useless fillers that tack on extra calories. In general, you should be getting 15-20 grams of protein per scoop of protein out of your supplement. Some good brands include Myoplex, EAS, and GNC brand.

When Should I Eat?
I recommend protein throughout the day because of what I said earlier: if you don't need the protein at the time you eat it, you will excrete it. However, you would want to eat your heaviest-protein-based meals 40-60 minutes after a workout as that is when the damage was done to your body.

For more information or questions please don't hesitate to email me at


* Some information and details provided by National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM)

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