Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Power of Protein

I've spent a majority of my life turning my nose up at meat. I don't like the taste or the texture. I even spent a good chunk of my adolescence as a vegetarian. I always assumed that I got enough protein from milk, cheese, and peanut butter. Although these things do have protein in them, there is also a lot of fat as well. Fat is fine in moderation and healthy fats are actually essential to any diet, however, moderation is the key word. I put cheddar cheese, and lots of it, on everything I ate. I mentioned in my first post that I was known for how much food I could put away. Well, most of that was cheese-based. Grilled cheese sandwiches, nachos made with Nacho Cheese Doritos, scrambled cheese eggs, pizza, quesadillas, you name it. If it had cheese, I probably ate it on a daily basis. And let's not forget my other love, peanut butter. One of the best foods to eat as a runner are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I take that information to heart. Ha! I haven't been keeping bread in the house to steer me away from eating so many of these sandwiches. One time B and I were in Costco and I said I needed to get some more of the organic strawberry jam. He thought that we still had some in the fridge and I made the comment “We go through jam like crazy!” He then looked at me and said, “No, YOU go through PEANUT BUTTER like crazy. Jam is just an innocent bystander.” I laughed so hard because he was right.

Some of you know that I'm in the process of getting my personal trainer's license. Obviously, with that comes a lot more information about nutrition. This has caused a lot of evaluation of my own eating habits. What I have realized is that I haven't been putting enough protein into my body. The word “protein” is derived from the Greek word “protos” which in itself means “of prime importance.” According to ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) 12% of the diet should be from protein. Of a 1,500 calorie diet, that's only 180 calories. The Institute of Medicine has started recommending 10-35% of your calories be from protein. That is 150-525 calories from protein in a 1,500 calorie diet. Everyone has different needs. I feel that the more active I am, the more protein I need to help with lean muscle mass. Protein is used to build, maintain, and restore muscle in the body. It only makes sense that the more muscle I try to build, the more beneficial protein becomes to me.

Studies also show that protein can help you feel full for longer. Who doesn't want that? If you're someone who feels like you're constantly hungry, try eating more lean protein for a week and see if that helps with your satiety. In fact, I think I'm having an “aha moment”...Maybe the reason why I was constantly eating when I was younger (you know, my “Pork Chop” days) was because I wasn't actually eating pork chops or really any other source of lean protein. I would stuff myself with other food to feel full and satisfied when my body was needing the meat. AHA!

Other Sources of Protein

Now I realize I've been talking about protein in the animal meat variety. There are other ways to get protein in case you don't like meat or are a vegetarian. There are a variety of protein powders out there. One thing I would suggest if you want to take this route is to do your research. There are different kinds of protein powders like whey, soy, and even milk-based. Be aware of the ingredients in the powders. Going with the eating clean philosophy, a lot of protein powders don't jive. I'm currently using MRM Whey for after workouts. This was suggested to me by the bloggers of He & She Eat Clean. Again, do your research to see which are best for you. I know there are a lot of studies going on against soy so just be careful.

I did an earlier post on quinoa and how it has a lot of protein in it and it does!!! One thing that you need to know about other non-meat-based proteins is that they usually don't make a complete protein on their own and you need to pair it with another food that will complete the protein chain. Some examples of protein pairing that make up a complete protein are beans and rice, almonds and broccoli, and pumpkin seeds and asparagus. Look at my sources for more information about protein pairing.

Since making a conscious effort to eat more meat-based protein, I have noticed a different in my muscle mass.  I still don't crave meat, but I've gotten to a place where I accept it.  I know it is good for me and if I can live with the mantra "Eat to live, not live to eat" 80% of the time, I'm doing pretty good and it's helping me be healthier in the process.

As always, I hope to have helped! :)

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