We always read about protein diet plans, high protein diets and shakes rich in protein. Why is the protein important for our look and how does it work? Which are the best natural protein sources?
More than half of Americans are trying to put more protein daily to accomplish a better look. They are sprinkling protein powder into oatmeal, yogurt, smoothies and they even buy snack bars with extra protein. To some people, this way of eating may work miracles, but to other, it is just wrong as it can be.
There are four main groups of people that should get more proteins with their meals and aside from the meals, in the form of protein shakes, or protein bars. If you don’t belong to either group, you don’t need to get into too much protein because only 10%- 35% of your daily calories should come from proteins. The main four groups are:
- Bodybuilders- If you are an active bodybuilder doing a lot of resistance training, it will result in tearing down the muscle tissue. To repair it or rebuild it, you need to intake large doses of protein for protein is the great source of amino acids that are building the blocks of the body’s own proteins. So, it is as simple as that- if you want to build muscle cells, you need amino acids, and for amino acids, you need to intake proteins.
- People that are prone to overweight need to intake more proteins so they can keep low on other (worse) ways to get the daily value of calories. To prevent hunger and to maintain longer the feeling of fullness, you need to intake more proteins. And the best sources for proteins when trying to lose weight can be found in egg whites, flounder, hemp seeds, sliced extra lean ham, pork tenderloin, pumpkin seeds, canned sardines, black beans, cod, egg, shrimp, tofu, skinless turkey breast, wild salmon, canned tuna, filet mignon.
- People that are on a “bad” diet, like the typical American diet (pasta, pizza, snack packs, bread…) will benefit from some natural high-quality proteins that can be found in eggs, lean meat, fish etc. Exchanging some carbohydrates for proteins will help you in maintaining a lower blood pressure and lower levels of LDL cholesterol which is harmful.
- People in middle age are facing muscle loss, so a little extra protein may be helpful. Because of the critical age and previous medical conditions, the right way for protein intake at this age is from nuts, fish, whole grains, beans, seeds and other natural food sources that are low in saturated fats.
As we mentioned before, protein is described as essential in a large proportion of the bodybuilding community, because protein provides the muscles with the required amino acids for repairing the damage done by the anaerobic exercises. On the other hand, high protein intake leads to increased levels of IGF- 1 hormone, which increases the muscle protein synthesis. Some bodybuilders recommend protein supplements after the workouts because they provide quick and easily consumable protein source. The natural source would include meat, beans or other high protein foods, that we will tell you about, later.
Is it possible to maintain a high protein diet if you are a vegan?
It is certainly possible. But you will need to add some larger volume of plant- based food for they are with lower protein density. The best source of protein is soy and legumes. However, to obtain a complete mix of amino acids, vegans may engage in protein combining.
Besides eggs and meat, are there any other good and natural sources of protein?
Yes, there are. Searching the web we found out about many different natural food sources of protein. Here is the list:
- Quinoa- It contains a full arsenal of amino acids, essential for muscle building.
- Wheat germ- It contains notable amounts of plant- based protein and can be a good protein booster on your pancakes, oatmeal or shakes.
- Green peas- Maybe one of those foods that contain proteins and fiber. When it comes to the protein, it has about 7 g in 1 cup.
- Tofu- Keep it as the last line of “defense”- when all the other sources are limited.
- Bean chips- they are a crunchy and delicious protein snacks.
- Peanut butter- It is the leader of proteins when it comes to nut butter.
- Roasted turkey breasts- When you eat them, you eat pure muscle- making protein.
- Chorizo- a Spanish pork sausage for a great protein meal.
- Roast beef- choose roast beef as one of the leaner protein choices of all.
- Navy beans- 20 g of protein per cup serving and 13 g of dietary fiber- an excellent choice.
- Chicken- Chicken meat adds a high-quality protein on your plate.
- Corned beef- Salt- cured beef will do miracles for your muscle mass.
- Tilapia- If you want to keep your muscles well fed, tilapia is the right choice.
- Octopus- Especially frozen octopus is a great seafood choice for proteins.
- Yellow tuna- Besides selenium and vitamin B, this fish will give you premium quality proteins.
- Chicken breasts- Eat them skinless and boneless for a maximum effect.
- 95% lean beef- Besides protein, this meat is a great source of natural creatine.
- Steak- As one of the most economic cuts, this is a high protein food with 1 g of protein in every 7 calories.
- Whey protein- Either you are on a fat loss or muscle gain diet, whey protein is a must.
- Eggs- Natural, small and easy to eat and digest, eggs are a great source of protein.
- Milk is another great source of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
- Pork chops- Easy to prepare and they give you more than enough proteins.
How can you know when you have had enough proteins in one day?
Well, that is a tough question especially if you are not certain about your goal. But this is what you should always have in mind. Extreme protein intake can cause a form of metabolic disturbance or death, known as rabbit starvation, especially if the protein intake is coupled with inadequate intakes of other calorie sources, like fats or carbohydrates. But even when consuming other calorie sources, consuming more than 285 g of protein daily may lead to an unhealthy balance in your body.
If you don’t want to consult a professional or you just don’t have the time or the money, the healthy border of protein intake can be calculated by the protein calculator . Here you can fill in the parameters about your personal information, your goal, and workout habits and get an estimated amount of protein you will need in each day. You can also read about different types of proteins and amounts of proteins in common food.
As we mentioned before, taking enough proteins doesn’t always mean “chemistry”.
If you are able to satisfy you protein hunger by intake of 1 g or protein per pound, then you don’t need to add any artificial proteins in your diet. But, these “fast” times we live in, usually don’t give us the “pleasure” of calculating our calories or to estimate the calories intake during the day.
In those times, protein supplements can be your best friend.
Either you choose to consume whey, hemp, soy, beans or any other type of proteins, the heart of all protein powders is the same- proteins! So, when searching for the right protein powder for you, don’t always go for the expensive ones, for very often, they are not that better than the cheaper ones. Instead, search for the reputable company with good manufacturing practice. Also, make sure the product you chose is certified by a third- party certifying brands.
Then, investigate the nutritional facts.
Don’t get confused, go to the shop prepared. If you can’t decide right away, “google it”. Or simply ask for protein powders that are low in carbohydrates, fats, and sugars.
Let’s go through the best protein sources on the market.
- Whey protein- Maybe the best protein there is. Derived from the cow’s milk, it is a complete protein which contains all 9 essential amino acids, those that your body has a hard time producing.
- Casein protein- Although it is not as fast as the whey protein in building muscles, it has the ability to make you feel full longer. So, if you are on a weight loss diet, this protein might be the right choice for you.
- Egg white protein- All the good protein, fat- free parts from the egg, dried and compressed to a powder. This protein powder is a good post- workout supplement.
- Soy protein- The best and most complete plant- derived source of protein, especially used by the vegetarian bodybuilding population.
- Pea protein- It contains only 2 amino acids, so you better combine it with another (not- complete) protein source, like rice or hemp for better results.
- Hemp protein- This source is very low in protein (when compared to previous) but it is a good source of fiber and omega 3 acids. Combined with another protein source, it could do miracles for you.
Ok, since you found the right protein powder for you, do you know how and when to use it?
There are different opinions about the right usage of protein powder. So, we recommend using protein powder as (1.) a meal replacement. In all those days you are running late for somewhere, and you just don’t have the time to prepare a good, healthy plate, go for a protein shake. You can also add some fruits and veggies, and make it a “super shake”, full with healthy ingredients. You can add lemon, milk, spinach, nut butter…
If you are a beginner in the world of bodybuilding, don’t take more than 2 doses of protein a day.
If you already took one protein dose, use wisely your second one, (2.) after the workout.
Post- workout fast protein intake in the form of protein powder has been shown and proven to be beneficial especially in the recovery of the muscles and in gaining muscle mass. Most people have a harder time taking in whole food directly after a workout, so a shake is a proper substitution to get a quick dose of protein.
But, don’t forget to have whole foods as often as you can because they are the best way for getting vital nutrients. Use a protein powder as a supplement when it is healthy and convenient and build your diet on a solid- food- base.
For those individuals that are on a more advanced muscle- gaining- diet, protein powder has another meaning.
So, the first certain rule is to take a protein shake right after the workout. In that time, your muscles are lacking nutrients for fast recovery and growth.
Right- before- bad is the next approved timing for protein intake. Imagine your day without food for 6-8 hours. Well, although you are resting during your night time sleep, your body keeps re- building your tissues and it needs some help. So, a good healthy, low- fat protein shake should help you build muscles even when you are resting. This leads us to the next right- time- for protein intake, right after you wake up. Because during the night your body used all the extra proteins, it needs some help to keep on working on your muscles, so take a good shake of protein powder and mix it with some extra fruits or veggies to intake even more good nutrients.
But what about during the workout? Well, half an hour before your training should be the right time to add some extra help and “fuel up” your muscles for a better performance. Combine your protein powder with other supplements (like creatine) and feel the difference.