Now it is time to examine the first of the three macronutrients that we will be discussing over the next few weeks- protein.
Protein is used primarily by the human body for structure. It is not a readily available energy source, (although it can be converted to energy in an emergency), but instead, is used as a building block to build our muscles, bones, skin, hair, and all kinds of other things inside our bodies. Protein is made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are some amino acids that your body can make on its own, hence they are called “non-essential”, meaning that your body can make them when needed. There are also other amino acids that you cannot make yourself. You must acquire them from your diet, making them “essential”. We like to use an analogy involving Legos when we explain this to our clients. Frankly, we just love Legos. Either way- imagine that you have a Lego car, but what your body really needs is a Lego boat. So your body will take the Lego car that you give it, disassemble it into its individual pieces, which are those amino acids, and it will reassemble them into a Lego boat, as needed! The benefits of consuming a high amount of protein in the diet are vast. Protein helps you retain muscle mass, which in turn can help keep your metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn every single day, running at a high level. Digesting protein also requires more energy, which can further boost your metabolic rate. Protein also provides satiety, which in our opinion, is quite different from bringing fullness. One could eat a kale salad until they got full, but in a few hours, they would be starving. Satiety means that you feel fully satisfied for many hours. At this point, we must state that there is a big difference in the quality and bioavailability of the protein choices that you make. There is absolutely no question that animal protein is more complete and absorbable than plant protein is, at least for humans. Regardless of what the latest Netflix documentary tells you, no, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is no replacement for a few eggs as far as the protein quality goes. Out of all of the amino acids, those building blocks of protein that we mentioned earlier, leucine seems to be one of the most important, especially when it comes to triggering muscle protein synthesis, or muscle growth. This is critical, especially as we age. Again, animal sources of protein are the champions here. You would have to eat double the amount of soy protein to achieve the same leucine levels that are available in just 25 g of whey protein. Our protein intake recommendations are the easiest for us to make, compared to the other macronutrients, and so we will do that here. The standard guidelines recommend a protein intake that we believe is well below optimal. Sure, we could use nutrition guidelines to get the minimum recommended dosage of certain nutrients, but at Boundless Body, we do not coach people to be minimal. We coach people to be optimal and create their best life. You do not create your best life by just getting by on minimal requirements for nutrients. We recommend that most of our clients get between .8 to 1.2 g of protein per day per every single pound of their “ideal” body weight. That simply means that if you are 500 pounds, you do not necessarily need to eat 500 g of protein per day. Think about the weight that you feel the best at and shoot for that as a target. If you are not strength training, or you have a weight loss goal, being on the lower end of our recommendations is it acceptable. If you are strength training, and want to support your muscle mass, especially as you get older, we would like you to be on the higher end of things. For us personally, we actually never count the amount of protein that we consume. We find tracking food to be tedious and cumbersome. Luckily, protein itself will let you know when you have had enough. Eat as much as you like, and when you feel fully satiated, stop eating. Recommend that you get a great majority of your protein from animal sources. And we recommend that you eat an adequate amount of protein to get the proper dosage of leucine to trigger muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Generally, 30 to 40 g of animal protein per meal should do the trick. Remember, protein is not in itself a primary energy source. Greater amounts of energy are found in the other two macro nutrients, carbohydrates and fat, which we will discuss in the coming weeks. If you are curious as to what happened 20 years ago when you tried the Atkin’s Diet, lost a bunch of weight, only to feel absolutely terrible and starving a few weeks later, that is probably why.
So go chow down on that steak (cooked medium rare with plenty of salt, please!). Add some bonus points if you are on strength training program (we can help you there as well!). And stay tuned until next week, where we will be discussing carbohydrates- the macronutrient that can provide quick energy for times of stress!