Traditional nutrition guidance commonly prescribes consumption of about one gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. In strength training circles and among those looking to build significant muscle mass, the recommendation is often bumped up to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. Unfortunately, both suggestions limit their effectiveness by viewing protein as a macronutrient beneficial only for the support of muscle mass and other bodily tissues. In fact, protein has many useful properties beyond simply supplying the raw materials used for muscular maintenance and development. As such, it should play a larger role in the design of a healthy diet than it does in many traditional nutrition plans.
In addition to supplying amino acids to the body as food proteins are broken down, protein also enhances the feeling satiety following a meal. In layman’s terms, “protein keeps you feeling full.” When planning a dietary schedule, utilizing protein-dense foods for their satiating properties can bring a whole new level of satisfaction to the user. One common complaint of those undertaking a fat loss plan is that they feel hungry all day. With the judicious use of protein, along with healthy levels of fat and fiber, calories can be reduced while maintaining a comfortable feeling of fullness throughout the day.
Protein can also help decrease the glycemic load of a meal as well as the volume of insulin released following the meal. Both of these effects can aid in preventing fat gain during a period of increased caloric intake, which is necessary in many cases to induce significant muscle growth. Increasing satiety on a consistent basis, even without a prescribed diet plan, has been shown to lower overall energy (calorie) intake. In addition, evidence points to an increase in energy expenditure when following a high-protein diet. Put together an increase in energy output and a decrease in energy input and you get an easy way to provide healthy long-term, relatively low-effort fat loss.
Incorporating protein into a diet plan is rarely difficult if the client has a preference for animal products and especially meat. However, not everyone leans to the carnivorous side. Luckily, with some work everyone can find ways to inject protein into their daily schedule. Along with land animal meat products, fish is one of the best sources of protein. Not only do many fish products have a protein content rivaling chicken and other lean meats, but the healthy fats found in many cold water fish offer numerous health benefits. Even among the “meat and potatoes” crowd, I encourage fish consumption on a regular basis.
While fish may be a healthy source of protein, many vegetarians consider fish products to be equal to meat and cannot consume them. However, some vegetarians still incorporate milk and egg products into their diets. There are many concentrated sources of protein that are sourced from eggs and dairy. The most obvious high protein product is the egg itself. One large egg contains about 70 calories and provides about six grams of protein. If the egg white is separated from the yolk, it contains only about 15 calories but still yields about 3.5 grams of protein. In addition, egg-based protein supplements are widely available and offer excellent complete protein in an extremely concentrated form. High protein milk products include cottage cheese, low fat hard cheeses, and casein and whey protein supplements.
Finally, for those who consume exclusively plant-based foods, soy is the king of protein. Tofu, made from soybeans, can provide over 50% of its calories through protein. Tempeh is also another soy-based option that is around 40% protein, by calories. Textured vegetable protein (TVP), often used as a meat-replacement in many commercial soy products, is about 60% protein, by calories. On the food supplement side of soy, protein isolates are also available in powdered form, much like whey and egg proteins. Besides soy, there are also commercially available concentrated protein powders made from grain products. While not as nutritionally useful as most other protein sources, they may be appropriate for those vegetarians and vegans who also have an allergy to soy.
When you think of protein, remember that it is a multi-use nutritional tool. It supplies amino acids, the building blocks of muscle. It provides satiety and can ease the stress of a low-calorie diet. It also can be a powerful weapon against high glycemic loads and strong insulin releases following meals. Be aware of the many uses of protein and make plenty of room for it in your daily diet.
It's no secret that many traditional American breakfast foods rank low on the "healthy" scale. The majority of popular commercial breakfast foods can be broken down into two main categories: those consisting primarily of refined white flour and those made of high fat, processed meat products. While neither category alone is a picture of excellent nutrition, when you combine the two you create a truly horrific nutritional insult. Staples of the American breakfast, like pancakes, waffles, sugary cereals, bacon, and sausage links are not good ingredients for fat loss or optimal health.
Strangely, many people who otherwise make sound nutritional decisions regularly consume entirely counterproductive breakfasts. But why? The reason, in the majority of cases in my experience, comes down to simple conditioning. People often get "stuck" on a preconceived notion of what foods can be included on a breakfast menu. They eat what they've eaten since childhood. Unfortunately, their inability to consider other breakfast options starts them off each morning on the wrong nutritional foot, hindering their efforts towards fat loss or sports performance improvement. There are better methods to construct a satisfying breakfast than to rely on fatty meats and processed carbohydrates. It just takes a little bit of critical and creative thinking.
Think of breakfast as you think of any other meal or snack. Structure your breakfast like a lunch or dinner and you will begin to see positive results in both your energy level throughout the day and your success at fat loss and muscle growth. Both goals, while requiring different levels of caloric intake, are achieved through the application of similar fundamental principles. Breakfast should contain a significant portion of protein, low glycemic carbohydrates, some healthy fats, as well as fruits and/or vegetables.
If you are willing to experiment a bit, you will find options that fit both your palate and your nutritional goals. While the inclusion of a meat product in your breakfast is a great way to get your protein consumption up, bacon and sausage are not the best choices. Instead, choose lean meats like turkey, chicken, or even lean beef. Slicing your meat thin and making sure that it's tender will make it much more pleasant to eat early in the morning. After all, few people want to chomp into a two inch thick steak at 7am.
For those who prefer a vegetarian breakfast, cottage cheese is a great high-protein selection for your first meal. 1% milk fat cottage cheese can supply over 70% of its calories from protein. In addition, cottage cheese is a perfect base to which you can add either savory or sweet flavors. On the savory side, course ground black pepper or a flavorful pasta sauce can be great additions to the cheese. Chopped walnuts or almonds can also add some healthy fats to your meal and supply the "crunch" that so many people crave. If you lean towards sweet flavors, ripe berries or other chopped fruits are a perfect complement to the mild cheese. In addition, brightly colored berries and fruits are often packed with phytochemicals including antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Last but not least on the protein front, always remember the good old egg. With about 70 calories and six grams of protein per large egg, it can be a protein powerhouse. Mix egg whites with a yolk or two and you have an even healthier omelet. Although the yolk contains B vitamins, lecithin, and other beneficial compounds, it is also high in calories. Make sure to balance your calories and protein properly when deciding on your white to yolk ratio. Fresh or sautéed vegetables along with low-fat cheeses can add flavor and further nutrition to your egg creations. Finally, eggs go wonderfully with the flavors of many spices. Get creative in your pantry and try new combinations until you discover some that work for you.
Carbohydrates can be an excellent source of energy and nutrition, so don't exclude them from your breakfast. However, make sure you choose the right kind of carbohydrate-based foods. Cereals such as Special K Protein Plus and Kashi GoLean are my picks due to their high protein and fiber contents. Protein and fiber are two of the best nutrients for satiety, or feeling full. 100% whole wheat breads are also a good choice. When shopping, make sure to pick breads with 100% whole grain flour and a high fiber content. Products that include any sort of "enriched" flour are not what you are looking for. Finally, feel free to choose carbohydrates that are generally associated with lunch or dinner. Brown rice and quinoa are two grain products that may pair well with your breakfast meat selection while supplying B vitamins and fiber.
When planning your next breakfast, remember that you are not stuck with a limited selection of breakfast ingredients. Feel free to eat anything you'd like, as long as it fits in with your nutritional goals. Include products that are high in protein and fiber for a stable energy level and a feeling of fullness that will last you until lunch. Add fruits and vegetables to get a jump-start on your vitamin and mineral intake. Experiment with breakfast and find out what works best for you!
Performance Nutrition is the name of the game at Nutrition Perfected. But what is it? What does it offer beyond the information you can get from any other nutrition website or magazine?
One aspect that separates Performance Nutrition from general nutrition recommendations is the fact that it's customized to specifically meet your needs. What works for one person's lifestyle doesn't always work for everyone. In addition, each person has a set of goals and priorities that must be taken into account when designing a nutrition and exercise plan. It's like buying a suit off the rack vs. having one custom fit and sewn for you. You can buy a suit that will look quite nice by simply going to a Men's Warehouse and getting one that is approximately the right size for you. However, put that suit next to one that was built to your body from the ground up and it's no comparison. You will look and feel better in the suit that is optimized for your exact measurements. Make it priority to have a nutrition and exercise plan tailored to your needs and your lifestyle. Then you will really see some incredible, sustainable results.
The other facet of Performance Nutrition that puts it ahead of your run-of-the-mill nutrition paradigms is that its validity relies entirely upon real-world, measurable, objective results. Theory and self-righteous rhetoric only go so far. In the world of body composition (body fat pecentage, muscle mass, etc.) management and sports performance, the only meaningful metric by which you can evaluate your plan is the quality of the final output. Did you actually lose body fat while maintaining or even increasing your muscle mass? Did you actually increase your squat, overhead press, or power clean poundage? Did you actually place higher in this year's competition than the last?
Constant objective assessment and analysis of your nutrition and exercise plan is key to producing marked, long-term benefits. When a plan stops working or becomes inefficient, it's no reason to panic. In fact, it's an opportunity. Each time something goes wrong, you have the chance to learn how to make it right. With each challenge, you become more skillful and capable.
Performance Nutrition is about smart adaptation and rational thinking. We start by creating a nutrition and exercise plan optimized for each individual's needs and goals. Then, we measure the results and continue refining our protocols to produce maximal improvement over time. Don't settle for anything less than the best and remember to always maintain an open and eager mind. -Rob
Thanks for coming by to check out the latest developments at Nutrition Perfected. With this blog, I hope to educate you on not only effective nutrition and exercise techniques, but also on mental strategies that will help you progress towards your goals. Please feel free to post responses and ask questions in the Comments section. Feedback and dialogue are essential to continual development in all fields, and applied nutrition and exercise science is no exception. So read, think, consider, and always strive to better yourself a bit each day! -Rob