Do you really eat protein?

Macronutrients are often defined as the 3 major classes of chemical compounds that humans consume in large quantities; carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Unfortunately, we have been led to believe that some foods provide a much greater level of macronutrient than is realistic, especially when it comes to protein. For example, when you eat yogurt, the carbohydrates from added sugar and fruit grossly outweighs the protein content. Even milk, which does a body good, is predominantly lactose, which is just a fancy chemical name for sugar. Peanut butter, or the healthier alternative, almond butter, generally has almost twice the amount of fat as protein, making it a good source of fat rather than a true provider of protein.

The previous recommended food pyramid (see SpartaPoint 10/7/09) emphasized breads and grains as the major source of food, leaving less room in our daily intake for the vital macronutrient, protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues, making it an important building block for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply, unless you are eager to break down your muscle.

Some major examples of foods that are predominantly protein are eggs, fish, poultry, and meats. The difficulty in consuming protein in large quantities often occurs due to the major myth about how much protein can be digested and or absorbed in one sitting. The most important aspect to remember is that these digestion and absorption characteristics depend most on the individual and on the quality of protein you are ingesting, focusing on high quality sources such as wild salmon (see Sparta Point 4/29/09) and grass fed beef.

Anaerobic athletes have higher requirements of protein, once you ensure that your food is from quality protein sources, the major goal of every meal should be to maximize the amount consumed. Focusing on eating around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight will ensure you have a positive nitrogen balance, an anabolic environment that maximizes muscle gain and fat loss. Around 90% of this protein will be digested and utilized as building blocks, but also for a variety of other processes, even being converted to sugar for fuel in ensuing exercise.

You can imagine that our ancestral hunters did not just eat small portion sizes after their kill, so keep your dietary focus on high quality protein, and lots of it.