Protein is a nutrient that your body needs for growth and the overall maintenance of your health. Next to water, protein is the most abundant type of molecule in the human body, and is the major structural component of your muscles.
And speaking of muscles, according to our friends at Wikipedia, “Proteins are one of the key nutrients for success in terms of sports. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are used for building tissue, including muscle, as well as repairing damaged tissues. Proteins usually only provide a small source of fuel for the exercising muscles, being used as fuel typically only when carbohydrates and lipid resources are low.”
Here are some of the things I learned about Protein during my week at The Biggest Loser Resort at Fitness Ridge last November:
- Proteins take longer to digest, which means you’ll feel full longer! This is wonderful!
- Protein builds and repairs muscles. If you don’t eat enough food daily, your body will use muscle as fuel and then store fat. See, crash diets don’t work folks!!
- A diet with optimal protein and balanced carbs will help you become a fat burning machine! How great is that???
Optimal Choices for Carnivores:
- Free-range, Organic, grass fed (ideal):
- Beef, chicken, fish, lamb & turkey
Optimal Choices for Non-Meat Eaters:
- Dairy products, with Greek Yogurt being the crowning jewel in this category. Greek Yogurt is actually a fantastic non-meat protein, and considered one of those magic “Super Food”s that offers all around goodness.
- Protein powders (Whey or Soy)
- Beans & legumes
- Nuts & seeds, with Walnuts being the “super food” in this category. As with Greek Yogurt, just look to eat walnuts (in small quantities due to fat content) anytime, because of their inherant health benefits. So, when you grab that apple for a snack, have 6-7 walnuts with it!
- Eggs (free-range is optimal). Hard boiled eggs are great make-ahead items that you can have for convenient snacks before or after a workout, or anytime of day.
As far as my own personal takeaways on protein, On the dairy front, I am eating a lot of non-fat Greek Yogurt (and even use it in my at-home smoothies). I also try to drink 8 oz of Kefir (that thick cultured milk) once a day.
I’ve replaced cow’s milk with Almond Milk, which provides me with all the nutrients, and is dairy-free, and has less calories to boot! I use the non-fat vanilla flavour with cereal, in protein shakes, etc.
On the meat front, I have tried to incorporate a lot more fish into my diet. I have salmon once a week. Tuna and tilapia are also go-to favourites for at-home cooking. When I’m eating out, I try to stick to lean fish options as well.
The key for me has been trying to always be mindful of the timing and combination of the foods I’m eating. Remembing to grab a tablespoon of peanut butter when I’m eating a banana. Remembering to add spinach to my scrambled eggs. Remembering to add some walnuts to my steel-cut oatmeal.
On the one hand, you could say it’s a lot of work trying to keep all this in mind.
On the other, you could argue that being so mindful of what you’re putting in your body will serve to force you to make conscious choices. And that’s a wonderful and responsible way to approach eating.