Written By: Lauren Davis
Most people, especially men, eat animal products and guess what? We really do become what we eat. Our skin, bones, hair, and nails are composed mostly of protein. Plus, animal products fuel the muscle-growing process called protein synthesis (The definition of protein synthesis is: a process that must be completed in order to create a protein). That’s why Rocky chugged eggs before his a.m. runs. So, we all know that we need protein in a functional diet, right?
How much protein do you actually need? Step on a scale and be honest with yourself about your workout regimen. According to Mark Tarnopolsky, M.D., Ph.D., who studies exercise and nutrition at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, highly trained athletes thrive on 0.77 gram of daily protein per pound of body weight.
But, not all protein is the same, many foods, including nuts and beans, can provide a good dose of protein. But the best sources are dairy products, eggs, meat, and fish, Layman says. Animal protein is complete—it contains the right proportions of the essential amino acids your body can’t synthesize on its own.
It’s possible to build complete protein from plant-based foods by combining legumes, nuts, and grains at one meal or over the course of a day. But you’ll need to consume 20 to 25 percent more plant-based protein to reap the benefits that animal-derived sources provide, says Dr. Tarnopolsky. And beans and legumes have carbs that make it harder to lose weight.
So if protein can help keep weight off, is a chicken wing dipped in blue-cheese dressing a diet secret? Not quite: Total calories still count. Scale down your fat and carbohydrate intake to make room for lean protein: eggs, low-carb protein powder, yogurt, lean meat, and fish.
But remember, if you’re struggling with your weight, fat itself is not the culprit; carbs are the likely problem. Fat will help keep you full, while carbs can put you on a blood-sugar roller coaster that leaves you hungry later.
Can’t stand your same old protein powder one minute longer? Try this easy recipe to spice it up:
Candy Cane Swirl Protein Shake:
1 C skim milk
2-3 drops peppermint extract, or to taste
1.5 scoops vanilla protein powder (I recommend Iso 100 by Dymatize)
(per serving: 250 calories, 0 g total fat, 13 g carbo., 12 g sugars, 45.5 g protein)