Everything You Need to Know About Protein
The words “high protein” seem to be everywhere these days. So, what’s all the fuss about this mighty macronutrient? If your goal is to build more muscle and ditch the love handles (whose isn’t?), then you’ll want to keep reading. We’ve got the ins and outs of why protein should be your new best bud.
WHO should consume protein?
In a word, everyone. We all need protein from the foods we eat to support our body’s everyday functions. If you lead an active lifestyle or regularly weight train, your need for protein is even greater. That’s because protein helps repair tired muscles after workouts and even supports bigger growth. And of course, there’s the fat-loss element. If you’re someone who’s looking to shed a few pounds or get your most ripped (abs, anyone?), protein is crucial to your success. We’ll go into that a bit later, but first …
WHAT is protein?
Protein is found in every cell of the body and is made up of long chains of amino acids. These amino acids are essential to all your body’s metabolic processes, and are an important building block of bones, muscles, skin, cartilage, and blood. While your body can make some amino acids on its own, it needs your help in covering the rest. Your job is to make sure you’re consuming enough protein-rich foods and supplements throughout your day – ideally at every meal – to prevent protein deficiency so you can perform at your best.
WHERE can protein be found?
You can find dietary protein in meat (such as lean cuts of beef and chicken), dairy products (like eggs, yogurt, and cottage cheese), nuts, and certain types of grains and beans. Protein from meat and other animal products are considered “complete” because they supply all the amino acids your body can’t make on its own. In comparison, most plant proteins are incomplete.
Protein can also be found in a variety of bars, Ready-to-Drink (RTD) shakes, and powders. These supplements make it easy to increase your daily protein intake, without the hassle of cooking. They’re also a no-brainer when you’re on the go. When shopping for supplements, note that there are different types of protein. Here are some names you’ll commonly see on various ingredient labels:
Whey Protein – Whey is a by-product of the cheese-making process; the liquid portion of the milk that separates from the curds. It can be processed to yield three different forms: whey concentrate, whey isolate, or whey hydrolysate. Whey protein is a favorite among fitness enthusiasts because of its strong amino acid profile and ease of absorption. Your body can break it down quickly, for faster results. It has also been shown to support muscle growth, boost fat loss, strengthen your immune system, and decrease appetite.
Compared to whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate contains a higher percentage of pure protein and is virtually lactose free, carbohydrate free, fat free, and cholesterol free. Just like its concentrated version, whey protein isolate is easily absorbed into the system and makes for great post-workout nutrition.
Lastly, there’s whey protein hydrolysate. Some consider it the best-quality protein on the market since it has the highest and quickest absorption rate out of all the proteins listed here. It’s extremely easy on the digestive system, has a great track record for building and repairing muscles, and is generally priced higher because of it.
Egg Albumin – Most of the protein found in an egg comes from the egg white. When it is used in powdered supplements, it is referred to as egg albumin. Egg albumin is a popular choice because of its high protein quality (especially when made from pure egg whites) and its completeness (containing all of the essential amino acids your body needs to thrive). Just one scoop yields approximately 24 grams of protein – which beats having to wolf back a bunch of eggs to get the same amount. What’s also great about egg albumin is that it’s lactose-free and low in fat, carbs, and cholesterol. While egg albumin isn’t the fastest digesting protein source on the planet, it makes a great addition to any protein blend to improve the overall amino acid profile.
Micellar Casein – Casein is a dairy protein/derivative of cow’s milk known for its slow release into your system. It can take your body hours to digest. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. When you consume casein, you tend to feel fuller for a longer period of time, which is an obvious plus if you’re trying to watch what you eat. Due to casein’s slow digestion and amino acid release, it is great for fighting muscle breakdown during the night or whenever you may be without food for long periods of time.
WHEN should you consume protein?
This really depends on your goals. As mentioned earlier, there are fast-digestion proteins (like whey) and slower-digesting proteins (like egg albumin and casein). The fast-acting proteins are highly soluble, so they enter your bloodstream quickly and are easily digested. A great time for a fast-acting protein is immediately following a workout, when your muscles are in dire need of replenishment. Alternatively, there are times – like before bed – when you want your body to slowly digest and benefit from your protein source. This is when you’ll consume egg albumin or casein.
With that said, protein is vital throughout your whole day. You should aim to consume protein at every meal, and opt for high-protein snacks in between.
WHY is protein so important to fat loss and muscle building?
Protein deserves all the praise it gets when it comes to helping you build a leaner, more muscular body. For starters, it helps curb your appetite and control your portions – both of which are crucial to getting ripped. Protein also helps stabilize your blood sugar levels, which keeps your food cravings in check so you won’t make poor snack choices you’ll later regret. From a muscle-building standpoint, protein is king. It truly is the building block of muscle, helping you not only build new muscle, but maintain the muscle you already have. Protein is also key after a workout to repair and restore tired muscle tissues. The better you treat your hard-working muscles, the better your next workout will be. For all these reasons and more, you’ll want to get protein on your side – pronto!
About the Author
Nicole Kepic is a fitness expert who specializes in health, wellness, and lifestyle writing. She has also had articles published in a variety of fitness and bodybuilding magazines. When she’s not busy writing for her clients, Nicole is either keeping active with her family, curling up with a great mystery novel, or dreaming of her next sunny vacation. www.nicolekepic.com