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Which Protein and When?

A few months I wrote an article about the best ratio's of Protein, Fat, Carbs and Fibre to eat to grow muscle, lose fat and for general health. As mentioned in that article, depending on what your goal, there are certain types of foods within each macro nutrient group that are better suited to achieving that goal. This month I will cover the best types of PROTEIN to eat for muscle gain, fat loss and general health.

General Health

Ratio Reminder
(35 - 40) : (30 - 35) : (20 - 25) : (5 - 8) carbs : protein : fat : fibre

When it comes to general health, moderation and good balance is often the key. It is beneficial to gain your protein from a variety of sources, including fresh flesh protein (red meat, chicken or fish), protein powders/drinks and non-flesh or non-animal sources. This allows you to meet your protein target while gaining the individual and unique benefits that different types of proteins offer.

Fresh, whole food proteins should make up 50% - 60% of your protein intake for good health. Red Meat is an excellent source of key minerals iron and zinc, and provides significant amounts of selenium and Vitamin D. Fish like Tuna provides significant amounts of essential Omega 3 fats. Legumes like soybeans, kidney beans and chickpeas provide significant folate, phosphorus, magnesium and phytonutrients. Supplementing with vitamins and minerals is never as good as obtaining them naturally from whole foods, which is why it is so important to continue to derive protein from these sources.

Some people might think that for general health there is no need to supplement the diet with protein powders. Not true! Aside from being highly convenient, protein powders provide many wonderful health promoting benefits.

  • Whey Proteins, particularly concentrates enhance production of glutathione, one of the body's most powerful anti-oxidants.
  • Whey Protein Isolates contain about 10% immunoglobulin proteins which helps support the body's immune system.
  • Soy Protein Isolates contain isoflavones which may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancers and lower cholesterol levels.
  • Caseinates contains high levels of tyrosine, the 'pick me up' amino acid, compared to tryptophan, the 'sleep inducing' amino acid, so eating casein may give you a 'boost'.
  • Egg Albumen is a high quality 'whole food' protein source which has undergone minimal processing

For general health, a 1:1:1 mix of soy, whey and casein is ideal for providing the remaining 40% - 50% of protein in the diet. This blend has an overall excellent balance of amino acids, has the strengths of all the proteins while the nutritional short comings are eliminated.

Fat Loss

Ratio Reminder
(35 - 40) : (30 - 35) : (15 - 20) : (10 - 12) carbs : protein : fat : fibre

As with general health, when trying to lose fat it is still very important to eat whole food, including flesh protein, sources. Try to derive around 35%-40% of your protein intake from foods like fish (tuna and white fish), lean red meat (kangaroo is a great option, it's very lean and contains CLA, which may help with fat loss) and chicken/turkey.

When trying to lose fat, calorie (energy intake) is critical and this makes protein supplements very popular. Their concentrated protein content for relatively small energy contribution (provided you mix them in water) makes it easy to get the protein you need and still keep overall energy intake low.

  • Caseinate slows the transit time of amino acids through the gut which helps increase their absorption.
  • Calcium Caseinate and Whey Protein Isolate both have an extremely high protein content and extremely low fat content.
  • High GMP Whey Protein Isolate may help reduce appetite.
  • Soy Protein Isolate has high levels of BCAA's, glutamine and arginine, the 'critical cluster' amino acids which help spare muscle during a diet phase.
  • Soy Protein can also help reduce nitrogen loss and enhances fat loss during low-calorie dieting.

Try 2:1:1 of whey protein isolate, calcium caseinate and soy as a starting point protein supplement blend for healthy fat loss. If soy isn't to your taste, a 3:1 blend of whey and caseinate is also a good option.

Muscle Gain

Ratio Reminder
(35 - 40) : (35 - 40) : (22 - 27) : (3 - 5) carbs : protein : fat : fibre

Muscle gain is all about good getting good quality protein and maintaining a healthy status to allow your body to build lean tissue. Again, whole foods as protein sources are extremely important, especially red meat. Strength levels are improved with the increased iron and other important minerals and nutritional co-factors derived from red meat. Aim to get 40% - 50% of your protein from flesh proteins.

Protein supplements help provide the extra protein without a lot of bulk. This is important as often people trying to gain muscle can struggle to consume the required volume of protein and calories.

  • Whey Proteins contain the highest concentration (24-25%) of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's) of any protein source.
  • Whey Protein Isolate contains a compound which has been shown to have pain killing properties which may decrease muscle soreness after intense weight training.
  • Casein contains very high (20%) glutamine content which can help spare muscle during training.
  • Casein has high levels of threonine, glutamine, and arginine, the 'glucogenic' amino acids which lend themselves to glucose production during exercise and may prevent muscle breakdown.
  • Egg Albumen has an excellent amino acid profile.

A great protein mix for gaining muscle is 1:1 whey and casein, with perhaps a little egg albumen if you aren't eating fresh eggs in your diet.

Protein Sources to Avoid

Proteins that come packed with high levels of saturated fat, salt or preservatives or never a good option. Always use lean cuts of meat and think carefully about your cooking method. Over cooking red meat on the barbeque isn't a good idea. Burnt (charcoaled) meat has been shown to be carcinogenic. Sausages, processed meats, bacons, hams, salted or brined meats aren't good options either.

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