|Examples of a whey concentrate & a pea/hemp plant based protein powder.|
By now, most people are likely aware of at least some of the benefits of protein, like building muscle and repairing tissue. The human body requires approximately 21 amino acids in order to synthesize proteins. Twelve of these amino acids are called “non-essential” because they are made in the body and not required to be consumed through diet. The 9 remaining amino acids can only be obtained through diet and are called “essential.”
Protein also makes up the enzymes that create many chemical reactions including making antibodies, forming hemoglobin, and creating RNA & DNA. Protein is also a vital part of the bodies endocrine system, helping produce hormones.
Some good sources of protein are free-range organic eggs, chicken, turkey, organic grass fed beef and wild caught fish because they contain all of the essential amino acids needed to perform the duties I listed previously.
It is important to eat as much organic sources as possible because conventionally raised animals and poultry contain a vast array of antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides that will wreak havoc on the endocrine system, metabolism and overall health.
Avoiding processed meats, like deli slices, is also important, since they contain harmful preservatives and fillers.
Vegetarians can find complete proteins from certain plant sources like spirulina, soy (fermented only!) and hemp, and certain grains like buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. Combining beans, grains and seeds will also form a complete protein.
If you find it difficult to consume enough protein in the form of whole food, protein supplementation is a great alternative.
Protein powders are great to supplement with. However, protein powders are not created equal. In fact, some powders on the market today are complete garbage because they use very cheap ingredients and inexpensive methods of isolating the protein. This in turn destroys its efficacy and will fill your nutritional profile with artificial flavors, sweeteners and fillers. So be sure to read the ingredients.
The most common protein powder on the market is whey protein powder. When choosing a whey protein, find a non-denatured whey concentrate coming from grass fed cows, as this type will likely contain higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid and a proper balance of essential fatty acids. Low temperature drying is the best. This protein also contains lactoferrin, immunoglobulin, growth factors, and other important compounds.
For vegetarians or those with milk allergies and cannot tolerate whey, a great alternative is pea protein. Pea protein contains a well balanced amino acid profile, close to that of whey, and includes high levels of BCAAs (branch chain amino acids). Pea protein is easily absorbed and easily digested. Find a pea protein that comes from non-genetically modified peas that have been extracted using high heats or chemical solvents.
Hemp protein is another great alternative to whey. It contains all of the essential amino acids and has great bio-availability and digestibility. Hemp has a perfect balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and has tremendous immune boosting properties. It's also rich in iron, zinc, magnesium, both soluble and insoluble fiber, and active enzymes.
PROTEIN POWDERS TO AVOID: Soy Protein & Casein
Contrary to some popular belief, soy protein isolate is one of the worst proteins available on the market. Most are processed using hexane and contain phytic acid, which prevents the absorption of minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium. In addition, most soy grown in the U.S. (the unfermented variety) is genetically modified, which can be contributed to poor metabolism, arthritis, cancer and allergies, and have a negative impact on the thyroid and the hormones it produces.
Casein was deemed a great protein source about a decade ago, mainly because it is very inexpensive to make and provides the manufacturers with higher profits. The casein, like whey, comes from cows milk and is generally extracted using chemicals typically found in fertilizers and cleaning products, along with acid heat processing.
THE POWER OF PROTEIN POWDER
Whether you choose to get your protein through food sources or supplementation, this is a vital macro-nutrient to include in your health habits in order to grow, repair and recover.