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Protein Powders Explained

As I promised in my last blog, (http://173.247.253.167/~heelstolaces/protein-questions-answered) below is a description of the most common types of protein powders on the market. Protein powders have grown in popularity and are no longer just for elite body builders. They are a way to ensure you are getting enough daily protein, serve as a quick meal substitute or provide a post-workout recovery. I like to add mine to smoothies, make a shake after a workout or add a scoop to my oatmeal or pancake batter for a protein filled breakfast. It’s important to remember, protein powders are supplements and are best used to supplement a healthy diet of nutritious whole foods.

The Basics First:

‘Concentrated’ or ‘Isolated’. In order to make the powder, the non-protein parts are removed from the food source. ‘Concentrated’ powders are about  70-85% pure protein (with the remaining 15-30% consisting mostly of carbohydrates and fat). Powders that are ‘isolated’ take the process one step further, and remove even more of the non-protein content resulting in a protein powder that is up to 95% pure.

Complete vs. Incomplete Protein: Amino acids that cannot be produced by the body are known as essential amino acids. Complete proteins contain all 10 essential amino acids, whereas incomplete proteins contain some, but not all, of the essential amino acids.

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WHEY PROTEIN

Whey is the most popular protein supplement on the market. It is the by-product in the process of turning milk into cheese and is a complete protein that is quickly absorbed into the body.  Whey has been shown to promote lean muscle growth and fat loss. It can also help repair and rebuild muscle especially when consumed within 60 minutes of a workout. Look for whey protein isolate—not concentrate—as it contains the highest protein concentration and very little fat.

Cautions: Because it is a by-product of milk (aka lactose), people with allergies to lactose may find it hard to digest. Additionally, be wary of the artificial sweeteners and chemicals added to many of the different flavors available. Be sure to read the label.

CASEIN PROTEIN

This protein is also derived from milk, but uses a separation process that isolates the milk protein from the carbs and fat. Because casein digests over a long period of time, it is a good choice for a meal replacement, as it helps you feel fuller longer. It is can also be taken right before bed to prevent muscle breakdown and promote muscle growth while you sleep.

Cautions: As a by-product of milk, casein can also be difficult to digest for those with lactose allergies. Look for “calcium caseinate” on the label to be sure that you are getting the purest form of this protein. And, again check for artificial ingredients, which are often used to improve the taste of casein as it doesn’t mix as easily with liquids. Lastly, expect casein to be more expensive than whey.

SOY PROTEIN

Soybeans are one of the few plant protein sources that are a complete protein. The protein is concentrated or isolated after the soybeans have been hulled and dried into soy flour. Soy can be a good option for vegetarians and those with milk intolerances. Soy has been shown to improve immune function and bone health.

Cautions: In recent years, soy has come under heavy scrutiny because it is often genetically modified to produce greater crop yields at a very low cost. Many foods are already full of soy and, depending on your current diet, it may not be wise to add yet another source of soy. Additionally, some studies have linked soy consumption to health concerns. If you do choose soy, consume it in moderation, and be sure to look for labels that read soy protein isolate, which contains more protein and isoflavones, and less cholesterol and fat as compared to soy protein concentrate.

EGG PROTEIN

Egg protein is just that – protein from eggs. It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites. These powders also contain valuable vitamins and minerals found in whole eggs.

Cautions: Egg protein is also one of the most expensive protein supplements available and can be a problem for anyone with egg allergies.

BROWN RICE PROTEIN

Yes, there is small amount of protein in rice! It is extracted from the rice to make the powder. Brown rice protein is hypo-allergic and easily digested, making it an excellent alternative for anyone with a sensitive stomach or allergies to soy or dairy.

Cautions: Brown rice protein is not a complete protein and is best when paired with other plant-based options like hemp or pea powder to ensure that you are getting all the essential amino acids.

PEA PROTEIN

This plant-based protein, derived from the yellow split pea, is highly digestible and has a fluffy texture (no mushy peas here!). Pea protein is high in glutamic acid, which helps convert carbs into energy so they won’t be stored as fat. It is considered a highly satiating protein, which may help promote weight loss. And if those reasons aren’t enough, it often has few additives or artificial ingredients, and is closest to its whole-food source.

Cautions: Isolated pea protein is often labeled as complete because it can contain many of the essential amino acids, but it is still deficient in certain amino acids. So, like rice protein, pair it with other vegan sources of protein, such as brown rice or hemp.

HEMP PROTEIN

Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the cannabis plant. A complete plant-based protein, hemp also offers the inflammation-fighting power of omega-6 essential fatty acids and is high in fiber. It is hypoallergenic and excellent choice for those following a vegan diet. Some studies have also suggested hemp protein may be more helpful in weight loss than other protein powders, due to its high fiber content.

Cautions: Since hemp is only harvested in select countries due to its association with cannabis, it is often the most expensive protein powder available.

There are lots of choices out there to fit all different nutritional needs. Don’t be afraid to try different blends and options to see what works best for you. And lastly, be wary of very low cost powders as they often use inexpensive protein blends that are hard to digest and may contain many artificial ingredients.

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Protein – Your Questions Answered

Most of us are aware that protein is an important part of a healthy diet. But understanding what protein is needed for, and determining if you are getting enough, are often the harder questions. We tried to answer many of your questions below, as well as provide you with a list of some of the best sources of protein.

High-Protein-FoodsWhy do you need protein?

Protein is the building block of life. Every cell in the human body contains protein. Protein’s main function is to build and repair the body’s tissues, including muscles. However, protein also plays a key role in circulatory health, enzyme and hormone synthesis and the development of a robust immune system.

Since protein is constantly broken down, it is crucial to consume this macronutrient every day, especially after a strenuous workout.

Protein sources can be classified as complete or incomplete. Complete protein sources contain all the nine essential amino acids that your body needs and cannot produce on its own. All animal sources of protein, as well as eggs, dairy, soy and quinoa, are complete proteins. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of the nine essential amino acids and include beans, rice and nuts. By combining different protein sources, you can ensure that you get all essential amino acids into your diet.

How much do you need?

The Recommended Daily Allowance is 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the average woman. That translates into about 53 grams of protein for an 140-pound woman. However, if you are more active, even a recreational athlete, than you should consume between 64 to 127 grams of protein daily.

What if you don’t get enough?

When there is a lack of protein, the body will start to use its own muscle for fuel.

Can protein help you lose weight?

Yes, higher protein foods require more work as your body breaks them down for fuel, so you naturally burn more calories to digest them. Additionally, high protein foods help you feel fuller, longer. A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher protein intake (30 – 40% of the diet) helps to boost levels of leptin (the hormone that makes you feel satiated) and reduces the levels of the hunger producing hormone, ghrelin.

Can you have too much protein?

Yes. Your body can only absorb about 30 grams of protein (4-5 ounces) at a time. If you take in more than that, and your daily calorie intake is sufficient to meet your energy needs, then it can be stored as fat. There is also some controversy as to whether excess protein over an extended period of time can place a strain on the kidneys.

Where to get your protein?372ec064272dcd9e71fb918360aeee15

  • Lean Grass-fed Beef: 4-5 ounce has 25 grams of protein.
  • Grilled Chicken Breast: 4 ounces has 36 grams of protein.
  • Fish: Most 3 ounce servings contain at least 20 grams of protein.
  • Eggs: One whole egg contains 7 grams of protein.
  • Greek Yogurt: One 8-ounce container has 20 grams of protein.
  • Cottage Cheese: One cup has 28 grams of protein.
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup has 20 grams of protein.
  • Black Beans: ½ cup has 7 grams of protein.
  • Lentils: 1 cup has approximately 18 grams of protein.
  • Edamame: ½ cup has 8 grams of protein.
  • Quinoa: 1 cup has about 8 grams of protein.
  • Walnuts: ½ cup has about 9 grams of protein.
  • Tofu: 3 ounces has almost 8 grams of protein.
  • Peanut Butter: 2 tablespoons has 8 grams of protein
  • Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese: 1 ounce has 7 grams of protein.
  • Broccoli:  1 cup has 6 grams of protein.
  • Protein Powders: When you are in a rush and can’t get what you need from food alone, these powders are an easy way to ensure that you are getting enough protein. Some options include whey, soy, brown rice, pea and casein powders. (Look for a blog post soon to explain these different options.)

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The Rise of the Egg

The egg’s fall from grace began over two decades ago and corresponded to the rise in concern over cholesterol levels.  A single large egg contains 185 grams of cholesterol and the American Heart Association only recommends 300 mg of cholesterol per day – so 2 eggs puts you over their recommendation. However, these simple numbers don’t paint the whole picture because studies have shown that the cholesterol you eat, has very little impact on the amount of cholesterol in your blood.  Why?

First:  There are two types of cholesterol: dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol.  Both are important.  Dietary cholesterol is found in certain foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and diary products. The second type (blood cholesterol, also called serum cholesterol) is produced in the liver and floats around in our bloodstream. Blood cholesterol is divided into two sub-categories: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). LDL cholesterol is considered bad because it sticks to artery walls.

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Many scientists are now discovering that consuming food rich in dietary cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol, but instead foods high in saturated fats may be to blame. Again – back to eggs.  They contain primarily unsaturated fat.

Second:  Cholesterol happens to be one of the most important nutrients in your body.  It is a fat like substance found in every living cell in the body.  It’s a requirement for growth (in infants and adults). And it’s required for the production of many hormones.

Results: Researchers have looked at the diets of hundreds of thousands of people and they have found that consuming eggs every day is not associated with cholesterol problems or heart disease.  In controlled trials — the best kind of research — people were instructed to eat up to three eggs per day while on a weight loss diet.  These people lost weight, had decreased inflammation and either maintained or improved their blood cholesterol levels.

So the end result is, unless you have diabetes or a rare genetic disorder, eating eggs is not only not bad for you, but good for you.

What’s in an egg.

  • One large egg has 6 grams of high-quality protein which means it is highly digestible and may provide better satiety (keeping you fuller for longer), which helps weight management.
  • Eggs are a complete protein which means they contain all the essential amino acids
  • Eggs “biological value” — a measurement used to determine how efficiently a protein is used for growth — is 93.7. Milk, fish, beef, and rice respectively have a bio value of 84.5, 76, 74.3, and 64.
  • Good source of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Eggs contain over 11 essential vitamins and minerals
  • Egg yolk is one of a few foods that contain Vitamin D
  • One egg contains between 66 an 84 calories depending on the size
  • Eggs also contain biotin (a B-vitamin), calcium, cephalin and lecithin (both help brain function)
  • Each egg has 5 grams of fat of which about 3 grams are from healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.

Buying Eggs.  As you may have noticed, there are a dizzying number of choices when buying eggs.  Use the chart below to help you understand the differences..

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