Archive for the tag - protein

Myth: Extra Protein Builds Muscles.

JedHillbyRickDay02

A body like this wasn’t build by protein alone.

Think eating extra protein is enough to make your body big and buff? Think again.

It’s a common misconception that increasing one’s protein intake is enough to cause muscle development. In reality, the following three conditions must ALL be met for muscle growth:

  1. Effective strength training program
  2. Adequate calorie intake
  3. Sufficient protein intake

Yes, protein is a part of it. But all three conditions must be met together.

Drinking a protein shake is easy. Training for increases in muscle size – a process called hypertrophy – requires some real work. Our bodies are very efficient machines and muscle mass takes a lot of calories to maintain. Therefore, your body won’t build extra muscle unless it’s absolutely required. The first step in bulking up is employing an effective strength training workout – thereby signaling to your body that it’s time to add muscle.

In order to gain any sort of mass, you need to consume more calories than you burn. Thus, the second step in adding muscle consuming a surplus of calories. It’s simple math, but it’s something that many aspiring muscle guys and gals overlook.

Last but not least, is protein. The truth is, most people already get more than enough protein. And, often times, any additional required protein can come from food. First, calculate your protein requirements. Then, if there is a gap, figure out the best way to close it. Only avid exercisers require protein supplementation through protein shakes or powders.

The bottom line: Drinking protein shakes isn’t enough to buff you up. Without an effective strength training routine and enough calories, you’ll be spinning your wheels and wasting your money.

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MYTH: Meat is the Only Protein Source.

PBIf you spend a lot of time lifting weights, you know the importance of fueling your body. But most exercise enthusiasts don’t know that eating hoards of meat isn’t necessary to reach your daily protein targets.

It’s true that meat is rich in protein. A chicken breast, for example, contains about 36 grams of protein. A hamburger patty has 28 grams. A serving of tuna can have up to 40 grams. The numbers are certainly impressive, but meat products aren’t the only source of protein. And the truth is, most of us could improve our health and longevity by reducing red meat consumption.

So let’s explore some other protein sources.

Not to be outdone, a cup of roasted peanuts has 35 grams of protein. A cup of cottage cheese has 26 grams. Eggs have 6 grams of protein each. Lentils have 18 grams of protein per cup. And a cup of oatmeal mixed with peanut butter and hemp seeds has 25 grams.

And that’s just getting started.

In actuality, a diet that includes beans, nuts, whole grains and even vegetables is rich in protein. Sure, a chicken breast for dinner or a serving of fish can help – but it’s certainly not necessary (or advisable) to consume a massive steak or 10 cheeseburgers a day.

Keep your diet lean, colorful and balanced!

Chocolate Milk After Workout: Ultimate Recovery Drink?

chocolate-milkYour post-workout recovery snack is arguably the most important meal of the day. So what do you consume? A protein shake? Water? A sports drink?

According to new research, you may want to start opting for fat-free chocolate milk.

In a study presented to the American College of Sports Medicine, researchers enlisted the help of eight male runners. Following a series of runs, the participants either consumed fat-free chocolate milk or a carbohydrate beverage (like Gatorade) with the same amount of calories.

During recovery, researchers found that runners who drank fat-free chocolate milk had better muscle protein repair when compared to the carbohydrate beverage. A second study found that muscle glycogen levels were also higher for the chocolate milk group. Since glycogen is used for fuel during exercise, replenishing these stores is crucial.

But why?

After exercise, it’s important to consume both protein and carbohydrates; many exercisers make the mistake of consuming one but not the other. Sports drinks usually only have carbs. Powdered protein mixes usually only have protein. Since chocolate milk has a mix of both protein and carbs, it can be a wise choice. Moreover, it’s also inexpensive – and tastier – when compared to many pre-mixed recovery drinks.

There are a few things to keep in mind. First, you’d only want to use fat-free chocolate milk because fat content can slow digestion – and your body needs the protein and carbohydrates quickly. Second, just because chocolate milk is good for workout recovery doesn’t make it a healthy choice during other times of the day. Because quick absorption is crucial after a workout, it’s the only time when ingesting simple carbohydrates – like those found in chocolate milk – is healthy.

Personally, I usually opt for a whey protein powder mixed with simple carbohydrates. It’s not as tasty, but it’s quick, easy and effective. Nonetheless, it’s great to know that chocolate milk is an inexpensive alternative to traditional recovery drinks.

What do you drink after a workout? Let me know in the comments below.

Why Do We Drink Cow’s Milk?

cow

Maybe we should just cut out the middleman and go right to the source!

A year ago, I took a trip to Thailand. It was a beautiful country full of amazing sights, friendly people and delicious but interesting food. From chicken feet to red ants with their eggs to duck mouths, much of the Thai food we encountered seemed quite adventurous.

So when I asked for a glass of milk, I was surprised by the response. Many of the Thai waiters and waitresses seemed repulsed by my request. This caused a good deal of introspection on my part, and – after careful consideration – I realized that it’s actually really strange that we drink the breast milk of cows. And moreover, why don’t we drink the mammary gland secretions from other animals like horses or even humans?

Milk is weird. Of course, just because milk is weird, it doesn’t mean that it’s unhealthy or that we shouldn’t drink it. So let’s dig deeper.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Harvard professor David Ludwig questions the role of milk in our diets. Indeed, the government recommends three servings of milk per day to promote a healthy lifestyle – but is that really necessary, wise or even true?

It’s true that milk is rich in calcium, vitamin D and has some protein. But that’s not all you’re getting. Most people are surprised by the amount of sugar in milk. A cup of 1% milk, for example, has 13 grams of sugar. It’s not added sugar, but still sugar nonetheless. Most guidelines recommend no more than 40 – 50 grams of sugar per day, and three servings of skim milk would almost reach that limit. And we’ve all seen the link between sugary drinks and obesity demonstrated time and time again.

Ludwig also cites a lack of evidence that reduced fat milks are any less likely to result in weight gain or other health outcomes when compared to whole milk. In fact, Ludwig speculates that when individuals drink reduced fat milk, they feel less full – and then consume more calories in other food. For example, if you’re drinking a glass of whole milk, one cookie may be sufficient. But if you’re drinking a glass of reduced fat milk, you feel less satisfied and may reach for a second cookie.

Yes, milk has some important nutrients – but it’s also entirely possible to get those nutrients from other foods and without all that sugar. And there are plenty of delicious and rich non-dairy alternatives that can serve as healthier replacements to dairy milk.

Questioning what we eat is a good thing and it’s important to occasionally take a few steps back from our diet for examination. While milk may not be as unhealthy as cake, candy or a glass of Coca Cola, it’s also not necessarily the wisest nutritional choice.

Are Protein Bars Good for Building Muscle?

pure-protein-barsYou’ve probably seen countless rows, boxes and packages of protein bars at your neighborhood gym or health food store. They’re convenient, easy and loaded with as much as 50 grams of protein. As such, they’re a popular choice for gym-goers and exercise enthusiasts – especially after a hard workout. But are they really healthy? Are they good for building muscle? And is there a better alternative?

First things first, it’s important not to paint all protein bars with the same broad brush. Indeed, there’s a full spectrum of options available – and the nutritional content varies greatly from product to product. BUT, for the most part, protein bars are highly processed and loaded with added sugar, unhealthy fats and several hundred calories. Whether stuffed with nougat or dipped in chocolate, eating a protein bar isn’t that unlike consuming a high-protein candy bar. It’s like a Snickers bar on steroids. Which is probably why they taste so good.

Though most Americans get more than enough protein, additional protein supplementation is sometimes necessary for individuals that lift often and hard. Especially after a good workout, ingesting protein is important so that your body can rebuild and repair the damaged muscles. In fact, it is by this process that our muscles grow larger. The quicker this post-workout protein is absorbed into your body, the better. Added ingredients – and fats, in particular – can really slow down the body’s absorption of protein. Because many protein bars are rich in fats and thus slow to absorb, they’re not the best post-workout protein option.

So what’s a better alternative?

Most exercisers opt for a shake made of powdered whey protein mixed with water. Pure whey protein, especially in the absence of other nutrients, gets absorbed quickly and gives the body exactly what it needs. Though a whey protein shake isn’t as delicious as a chewy, gooey protein bar, it’s a definite nutritional upgrade—and has less than half the calories. And from a cost perspective, protein powders are significantly cheaper.

The bottom line: Save those protein bars for the occasional treat—and resist the temptation to make them a regular part of your diet.

High Protein Breakfast Prevents Unhealthy Snacking.

slide05-healthy-eggsIf you’re looking to upgrade your diet, one of the easiest ways to start is with a protein-rich breakfast – at least, according to the latest study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. And yet, up to 60% of young Americans skip what is arguably the most important meal of the day.

For the study, a group of women ages 18 – 20 either skipped breakfast, ate breakfast cereal or consumed a protein-rich breakfast of eggs and meat. Regardless of the food type, all the breakfasts were matched for calories, fat, fiber, sugar and energy density. Only protein varied – with the high-protein breakfast containing some 35 grams.

Throughout the course of the study, participants completed questionnaires, provided blood samples and underwent an evening brain scan. After reviewing the data, researchers found that eating a high-protein breakfast led to increased fullness and a decrease in brain activity associated with food cravings. In addition, eating a high-protein breakfast was associated with reduced evening snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods – as compared to skipping breakfast or eating a cereal.

According to researchers:

These data suggest that eating a protein-rich breakfast is one potential strategy to prevent overeating and improve diet quality by replacing unhealthy snacks with high quality breakfast foods.

If you’re looking for a high-protein breakfast, eggs, protein shakes, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are all protein-rich choices to upgrade your early morning meal.

What do you usually eat for breakfast? Let me know in the comments below.

Does Whey Protein Make You Lose Weight?

picking-protein-scoopAfter you’ve finished a grueling workout, your body needs protein – and it needs it fast. When it comes to speed, nothing beats whey protein. Because it’s absorbed so quickly into your system, it has become a popular post-workout snack.

Other types of protein like soy or casein can also be effective, but they’re absorbed slowly over time. As such, they’re better choices for general protein supplementation or take before going to bed.

But a study by the USDA takes things a step further. For the study, overweight and obese individuals were divided into various groups. One of the groups was given 56 grams of whey protein per day while another group was given 56 grams of soy protein. The proteins were ingested through smoothies given twice daily.

Beyond the protein supplementation, the participants were given no nutrition advice and were allowed to eat whatever else they wanted.

Approximately six months later, researchers found that the whey protein group had lost both weight and body fat relative to other groups – and that their waist was nearly an inch smaller compared to the soy protein group. Participants in the whey group also showed lower levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin.

Because participants had lower levels of ghrelin, researchers speculate that whey protein may lead to increased satiety. In other words, including whey protein as part of your diet – in addition to fueling your muscles – may help curb your appetite.

While more research is needed to further understand the connection between whey, hunger and weight loss, it seems that whey protein could play an important role in weight management.

Protein Blueberry Muffins.

For those of us who spend a lot of time lifting weights and engaged in strength training, it’s not always easy to get your recommended daily protein intake.

I, for example, aim for about 140 grams of protein per day – and, short of eating a half dozen chicken breasts, it’s not always easy to reach my quota. (Find out how much protein you should be eating each day.) Even after drinking a protein shake or two, it becomes necessary to find creative ways to sneak in a little extra protein.

I’ve always heard that adding protein powder to baked goods is an easy trick. The other day, I decided to give it a try with a healthy, butter-free blueberry muffin recipe that I’ve always enjoyed. (For my healthier muffins, I mix one bag of frozen blueberries into a package of Dr. Oetker’s organic oatmeal muffin mix.)

Turns out, it takes a little practice to get the proper ratio of protein powder to muffin mix. Too much protein powder and your muffins will taste dry and chalky. Too little protein powder, and it’s not really worth your effort. For me, the magic ratio was one scoop or protein per every three muffins – which works out to about 10 grams of extra protein per muffin.

The best part is, the muffins taste great!

If you’ve ever tried a protein shake, then you know that, unless they’re loaded with lots of unhealthy fat and sugar, they rarely taste good. In fact, the unpleasant taste of protein supplements is a common complaint about which folks email me. Though I often remind people that protein supplementation is about function more than taste, I’ve discovered that protein muffins are a great way to combine a little of both.

If you are challenged to reach your daily protein intake and balk at the taste of protein powder, I’d encourage you to give this tip a try. And if you have any other creative ways to get some extra protein (keep it clean!), let me know in the comments below!

Best Protein Shake Alternatives.

Dear Davey,

What is a good alternative to protein powder shakes? I can drink them, but I’d rather walk on hot coals. If they’re isn’t a good alternative how do you make them less disgusting?

From,
Jordan

Hey Jordan,

It’s true: Protein powder and protein shakes almost never taste good. And when they do, it’s usually because they’re loaded with unhealthy ingredients to mask their chalky taste.

When people consume protein drinks, it’s not for flavor. It’s to fuel results.

For example, a post-workout shake of whey protein is specifically formulated to deliver protein to your muscles quickly – which is exactly what your muscles need. If, on the other hand, you consume protein through an actual food (i.e., chicken, eggs, fish, etc.), the protein won’t be absorbed as quickly.

If people can’t consume whey because of dietary restrictions or allergies, there are some alternatives like hemp, soy, rice, etc. Though these proteins aren’t absorbed as quickly, they can still be effective supplements.

Beyond using protein as a post-workout recovery drink, many people use protein powders as a general supplement to help them meet their daily protein requirements. For these individuals, absorption speed isn’t important – and so it’s totally possible to swap out protein shakes for actual food. Cottage cheese, yogurt, nuts, meat, fish, beans and many other foods are all high in protein.

You can also mix protein powder into other foods like smoothies, milk, peanut butter, oatmeal, cereal, pancakes, dessert mixes, pudding, juices, yogurt, pasta sauce (seriously!), bars, eggs and many more. Doing so disguises the less-than-desirable taste of the powder. Get creative!

But for people like myself who lift frequently and have high protein requirements, it’s hard to get one’s daily protein requirement through food alone. I’d be eating constantly, consuming too many calories and gaining weight. So, for me, supplementing my meals with protein powder makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t taste good, but it works!

Love,
Davey

When is the Best Time to Take Protein Supplements?

Last week, I wrote about the best type of protein to take before going to sleep for the night. After posting the article, I received a number of emails from exercise enthusiasts who didn’t realize the importance of consuming protein before bed. With that in mind, today’s post will cover the four times (including before bed) when protein consumption is most often recommended.

Obviously, protein requirements vary greatly from person to person. So, first things first, it’s important to calculate your daily protein requirements. For some people with high protein diets or lower protein needs, protein supplementation in the form of powders and shakes may be less important. For others, it can be crucial for success.

1. First Thing in the Morning

When you wake up, your body is in a catabolic state and hasn’t received proper nutrition for a good eight hours. It needs protein, and it needs protein quickly. I usually opt for a whey protein shake because the protein is absorbed quickly by the body. Just like brushing my teeth and flossing, protein consumption is part of my morning routine.

2. Before Your Workout

Some trainers recommend protein consumption 30 minutes before exercise. This will set up your “anabolic window” to help repair and rebuild the damage done during lifting. Again, a fast-acting whey protein works well here.

3. After Your Workout

After exercise is the most important time to consume protein. If you only take one protein supplement a day, this is the time to take it. Research has shown that sooner is better, so you may even want to take your protein powder or shake to the gym. Whey protein, due to its fast absorption, is the best choice.

4. Before Bed

Because your body will essentially be fasting during sleep, it’s important to consume a protein that’s slow to absorb. Before going to bed, I recommend casein protein because it takes 5 – 8 hours to fully breakdown.

Obviously, protein supplements are really just that – they supplement the protein that we get through a proper diet. The extent to which you’ll need to supplement depends on your fitness regime and diet, so just use this advice as a general guideline.

And, keep in mind that more protein isn’t always better! Too much protein can result in weight gain, kidney problems and even heart disease. So don’t overdo it!