What is protein?
Protein’s job is to repair muscle tissues, to help you grow, and to make essential hormones and enzymes in your body. Proteins make up everything in and on your body. That's right, everything: Fingernails, hair, skin, brain, internal organs, teeth, and of course, muscle.
Why do we need protein?
Besides water, protein is the most abundant material in our body. Protein makes up about 20 per cent of our body weight. If we are not getting enough protein in our diet, we may be making it hard for our bodies to run efficiently.
Did you know that over 98 per cent of the molecules in your body are replaced every year? Because of this you need protein as a building block. If you don't get enough protein, or if you are eating poor-quality protein, your body will not grow strong muscles, bones, blood, teeth, etc.
Protein makes sure that vital components get around by making hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carry oxygen to every part of your body. Protein makes antibodies, the cells that fight off infection and disease.
Therefore, when you fall off your bike and scrape your knee, your brain calls for protein to come to the rescue. Protein helps make your cuts and scrapes heal. Remember, during any strength training or weightlifting workout, your muscles are getting broken down. To rebuild and repair your muscles you need high quantities of protein.
If you do not eat enough protein, your body will cannibalize itself to get the protein it needs from existing muscle tissue. This will result in less muscle, less fat burning, and a slower metabolism.
Why is protein critical for fat loss?
Protein is used for building and repairing muscle tissue. Most people who want to lose weight and lose fat reduce their calorie intake. Unfortunately, your body views fat stores as more precious than your muscle tissue.
Your body will tend to eat up muscle tissue before it goes to fat for energy. This is very unfortunate because muscle tissue is a great calorie-burner. Remember, the bigger the muscles the more you burn fat. Even when you’re doing absolutely nothing!
How much protein do I need?
The standard recommendation for athletes is to have between 0.5 and 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight per day, although some research indicates a ratio as high as 0.9 grams per pound is beneficial.
This means that if you weigh 150 pounds, you should try to eat between 75 to 105 grams and even up to around 135 grams of protein per day. Divide the number by four or five and you will find out how much protein you need to eat in each meal.
When is the best time to eat protein?
Protein controls appetite. It’s better to eat some protein first before other foods. Protein slows down the spikes of insulin production.
First thing in the morning:
Remember that your body has been sleeping for six to eight hours and needs to be fed good nutrients. I love to drink a protein shake as soon as I wake up because a protein shake is more quickly assimilated than regular food and goes to the muscles faster. Be sure to follow this with a good breakfast, of course, including carbohydrates.
Immediately after a workout:
If you only take protein once per day, this is the absolute best time to take it. Every time you workout and use your muscles, you damage the muscle fiber, which needs to be repaired by protein.
The best time of the day to take your protein is immediately after you finish your workout. Consume protein (20 to 30 grams or so) within minutes after exercise. This will provide your body with the raw materials it needs to recover without breaking down its own muscle tissue.
Last thing at night:
Before you go to sleep feed your body some protein. Remember, when you are asleep you are not adding protein to your system. Whey protein powder is the best. Try mixing your whey protein powder with milk. This is because whey protein during sleep is digested by your body quickly. Milk protein is digested slowly. During sleep, you want your protein to be metabolized slowly so that your body gets a more even supply over the course of the night. By mixing ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ proteins, you get the benefits of the higher-quality whey with the slower digestion time of the milk.
A quick protein shake can be a great snack in-between meals. It helps keep your body supplied with protein all day long. Remember, the main point of eating protein is to give your body the protein it needs all day long. This is why it would be a good idea to eat a meal once every three hours or so to ensure your body will always have what it needs.
Where can I find protein?
Red meat is an excellent source of protein. However, this means LEAN red meat (try not to eat more than two times per week). Also, avoid red meat at night as it’s hard for the stomach to digest.
- Poultry, chicken and turkey is another good source. However, avoid eating the skin because it is full of fat.
- Egg whites contain protein, but avoid the yolk as it is too fattening.
- Fish, ie tuna, is an excellent choice for high protein. Tuna is a low-fat protein source if packed in water, not oil.
- Soy protein is a good source for vegetarians. As is cottage cheese and protein powders.
Whey protein: Quickly digested and absorbed. Best time to take this is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, also before and after a workout.
Casein: Slow digesting protein. Excellent as a meal replacement and also before bedtime.
Egg: One of the highest quality proteins. Good for those who are on a diet or allergic to milk proteins.
Soy: Enhances thyroid hormone, which increases metabolic rate to support fat loss.