Saturday, March 13, 2010

Protein: How Much and From Where?

During the 9 months it took me to lose 55 pounds, I stuck to a high-protein diet.

It worked.

Why? There's lots of reasons.

- Protein satisfies hunger more than carbs or fats.

- Protein increases thermogenesis, meaning more calories are used to digest, absorb, and metabolize protein than for either carbohydrate or fat.

- Protein helps hold on to lean muscle mass that often shrinks while dieting.

- Eating more protein (while reducing carbohydrate and/or fat intake) improves insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, blood lipids (including cholesterol), and other cardiovascular risk factors.

- High-protein helps control blood pressure and protects against age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass.

But not all protein is created equal. Where your protein comes from is important.

I steer away from plant-source protein -- almost none of it has all of the essential amino acids.

Animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt are complete proteins since the proteins they contain are made of all the essential amino acids.

Fish and fowl are best in my opinion because they tend to be lower in saturated fat. Worst is marbled red meat. Fatty meats (especially processed ones like hot dogs, salami and bacon), poultry (like fried and/or skinned varieties), and full-fat (and even reduced-fat) versions of dairy products deliver lots of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Too many of these foods (especially in large portions) can mean too many calories — and elevated blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk.

I do eat dairy and quite a bit of it in the form of reduced or no-fat cottage cheese and yogurt and have had no adverse effects.

With due respect for other opinions, I find the government's Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein to be far below what I need to build and maintain muscle.

Their RDA's are:

Women ages 19 and older: 46 grams per day

Men ages 19 and older: 56 grams

I currently eat between 200 and 275 grams of protein a day which equates to 35-40% of my total daily calories. When I am in a cutting phase, that increases to 40-50% of my daily calories from protein.

Train hard; diet harder!


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