Eat this, Skip that: How to Pick your Proteins
Posted by BEAST Sports on
In your quest to become a leaner and healthier you, optimal protein intake is essential. Recommendations will vary, with 1 gram per pound of bodyweight being conservative as well as popular. However, those type of recommendations are not what we are here to talk about. Today is about how to pick your protein choices; a compilation of good, better, bests of muscle-building macronutrients if you will. When you bring your journey to your local grocer, what are the most advantageous choices for cut abs and healthy cholesterol? I'm just the guy to help. As a rule, it is important to remember that what we consume becomes part of us. Thus, the diet and environment of that food becomes a part of us as well. When it comes to selecting meats, dairy, eggs, etc., the living conditions of these animals and their byproducts are important to the nutrition they provide. In general, the more natural state the animal lived in the more advantageous it's, and subsequently your, nutrition will be. Beef: It's what's for dinner, if.... The questions you ask here are, "Do I want my beef to have ate grass or grains," and "do I want my beef to have been caged up, been given hormones, and treated with antibiotics?" I will answer for you, grass fed, and none of the latter question. Grass-fed cows, being able to roam free, contain significantly higher amounts of Vitamins A and E (both antioxidants), up too 400 times more Conjugated Linoliec Acid or CLA (an anti-cancer, fat-burning fat), and more anti-inflammatory Omega-3's than grain-fed, caged cows! Talk about two different burgers!! So when you reach for beef, look for these key phrases on the package: "100% Grass-Fed, Organic, No Hormones, No Antibiotics, No Nitrates." You may see them all, or you may just see some of the phrases. If possible, go for the one with them all, or the one that fits your budget. Think the more key phrases the better. Refer to the "Eat This, Skip That" picture post. Chicken & Turkey (Poultry): Here is what you look for if it has feathers... You will see a lot of similarities here as with beef, so I'll save you some of my ranting. Again, free range chickens are going to be your best bet versus a caged, grain-fed chicken (100% vegetarian fed is what it is typically termed, which usually means corn-fed). Free of cages and able to roam, free range chickens eat worms, insects, crickets, and other critters (their natural diet!) and their unintended sun bathing renders them plenty of Vitamin D. All this, plus they skip the infections and subsequent antibiotics, and a diet that sometimes contain beef fat, corn, and even sometimes poultry feathers (chicken aren't meant to be cannibals!), and scary enough, exposure to arsenic. Remember me mentioning your food's diet is also your diet? Yikes! In general, organic free range chickens contain more vitamins and minerals, boast more omega-3's, and don't contain all the aforementioned nastiness. When shopping, look for these terms, with the first two being the most important: "Organic, Free Range, No Hormones, No Antibiotics." Again, the more of these phrases the better, with "Organic" and "Free Range" being the real deal makers. Eggs: How to pick a better breakfast.. You're going to want this much beloved breakfast food to have the same attributes of its mother bird. Organic Free-Range, or pastured eggs, are going to sport enough Omega-3's to score an N-6 Ratio of between 1:1 and 1:4, versus a commercial egg being between 16-30:1... Ouch. So what the heck is an N-6 Ratio? Essentially it looks at the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids, with a lower ratio being more anti-inflammatory; we want this. Also remember with eggs, chickens are not herbivores, they shouldn't be "100% vegetarian fed." Same phrases apply for eggs:"Organic, Free-Range, Pastured, No Hormones, No Antibiotics." Salmon (Fish/Seafood): Does it come from the ocean? Does our seafood swim wild in the ocean or are they raised on a farm? These two different environments render two very different fish. Farm raised are exposed to antibiotics and the occasional pesticide runoff. Farm raised salmon don't boast the same deep pink color as wild caught salmon... Oh wait, yes they do! They just have been dyed with something called "Salmofoam" to make them pink. Wild salmon contain high amounts of an antioxidant called Astaxanthin, which is deficient in farm raised salmon. The kicker here, we see that wild fish are going to contain far greater amounts of Omega-3's (seeing a pattern?!) Key phrases on that package to look for are: "Wild Caught, Pesticide Free, No Antibiotics," a lot of the same, with the main message... Pick wild over farm raised every time. What about Protein Powders? I will keep this short and sweet. Protein powders provide a myriad of benefits including convenience, ease of travel, and optimal nutrient digestibility. However, there are some considerations when picking them. Different proteins will have different attributes. The two most popular proteins are Whey and Casein. The former boasting a faster rate of absorption, and the latter a slower, giving them merit for different nutrient timing strategies (e.g.: Whey for post-workout and Casein for before bed). Other protein powders have also taken a rise, such as beef and egg. For those who inclined to the vegetarian, or vegan lifestyle, pea, rice, and hemp proteins provide much needed protein content to their diets. There are, however, some possible cons to using protein powders. Ready-to-Drink proteins, or RTD's, will (most of the time) have a good deal of preservatives, and as you may find below, heavy metals. A good deal of the protein powders on the market will contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium. While the consumption of these sweeteners hasn't finitely been linked to adverse health in HUMANS, it does not hurt to avoid them (sucralose being the safest). **A side note for those who are lactose intolerant: stick to more refined/high grade powders such as isolates, and hydolysates. These will contain little to no lactose. So if you're picking a protein go with a powder, try a naturally sweetened form (e.g.: sweetened with Stevia), and check out the consumers reports list below to see if it has a high amount of heavy metals. If it does, pass on it! http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/july/food/protein-drinks/whats-in-your-protein-drink/index.htm Don't forget about the vegetarians! There are plenty of valid reasons to be vegetarian or vegan, but you guys and gals need your protein too. The scope of this post only goes so far, and I would need to work with most vegetarians on a one-on-one situation. The various types of Pecto, Ovo, Pollo, etc., vegetarian lifestyles bring about different food choices. Vegans will have to supplement with the aforementioned protein powders, and/or utilize complementary proteins (a whole 'nother article) to meet their needs. So when making the decision to follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it is important to consult with a professional on how to adequately incorporate protein into your diet to ensure optimal nutrition. A Writers Disclaimer! Now that I have fed you all this mumbo jumbo about the healthiest options for protein I am going to burst your bubble... I am not perfect and do not eat all of these foods!! Before you dismiss me for hypocrisy, know that it is okay. I aim for the best choices that fit my budget and my lifestyle. Heck, most of my protein powders contain sucralose, but I don't stress (again that's a whole 'nother article). We are human, but the idea is to be informed. Take this information for what it is; sound information as to how to better your diet, and subsequently, your health. If you do, your body, and in time, the mirror, will thank you! Peace...
Adam Bisek is a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Coach practicing in Minneapolis, MN. Certified through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) he brings a high level of intensity and passion to early morning bootcamps and a dedication to results with his personal training and weight loss coaching clientele. Adam qualified for national competition in Men's Physique with a 3rd Place finish at the NPC Badger State (Oct 2011), and will be competing this fall for his pro card.