Whether you’re starting a bodybuilding regimen or looking to enhance your current one, you’re eventually going to come into the same dilemma many of us face: protein supplements vs food? You might wonder, how to maximize protein best, how to best absorb it for optimal results and so forth. And how should you gauge just the right amount of protein consumption without teetering dangerously close to excess?
The dangers of excess protein can’t be understated. It’s been definitively linked to bone disease, kidney failure and an increased risk of heart disease. At the same time, protein deficiency doesn’t just minimize your bodybuilding routine. It can result in both malnutrition, organ failure and a severely compromised immune system.
We’ve all heard the results about eating too much fatty red meat. In fact, it’s prompted many of us to turn to supplemental sources for our protein. But are they necessarily better for you? Do they actually enhance your performance or are they simply a marketing ploy?
Protein is the fundamental building block (no pun intended) of any successful weightlifting routine. You don’t have to be a trainer to know that. But the recommended daily allowance of protein most people need is actually less than one gram per kilogram of your total body weight.
There’s a right way and a wrong way of optimizing your protein intake. And if you’re surprised it’s not always with fancy powders that promise instant results, read on and discover why certain foods may be more effective for you than protein supplements.
Protein : It’s The Quality, Not The Quantity
Let’s dispel the most common myth about protein and bodybuilding: it’s all about intake.
It’s not. It’s the biological value (BV) that measures how protein is absorbed from food and supplements, digested and converted into your body’s own protein that matters, not the actual amount of protein you consume, And the higher the amount of protein you retain, the higher your BV is going to be.
BV is measured on a percentage scale. And it doesn’t take a mathematician to tell you that you cannot convert more than 100 percent. When a powder proclaims “Maximum Efficiency at 125 Percent”? That’s not hyperbole. That’s blatantly false advertising. And to make matters worse, those claims actually aren’t regulated by the FDA.
What they should be referring to when making those claims is the amino acid pattern, which is an entirely different value. But it’s an important distinction. Amino acids are stored at a faster rate than protein. And while there’s evidence that amino acid supplements can assist in recovery after an injury, strain or even day to day soreness after a workout, there’s no hard proof that they can actually assist in converting the BV of ingested protein faster. The reason? Amino acids are simply predigested protein. They’re meant to be taken as a supplement to assist in your body’s endurance. They have nothing to do with your metabolism, much less actually building mass.
Protein Supplements vs Food : Truth Vs. Hype
So why do protein supplements make exaggerated claims?
Because there’s actually long standing scientific evidence which indicates that certain minerals and vitamins can assist in metabolism. Particularly in individuals over the age of 40. But they’re naturally occurring minerals and vitamins, and not necessarily amino acid complexes.
And certainly not in chemically synthesized compounds. The best protein supplements—particularly those that use whey powder as a base—are all natural, organic compounds as opposed to the quick fix supplements you might see advertised. At best, the latter is simply empty calories which don’t have any effect on BV conversion or your performance whatsoever. But unfortunately, the worst case scenario is far more common.
You are what you metabolize, not just what you eat. Read the ingredients on just about any mass produced protein powder. Artificial sweeteners. Vegetable oil. Maltodextrin. Caseinate. A host of fillers and additives which are practically unpronounceable. This is where manufacturers cut costs. By diluting beneficial proteins and minerals with cheaper, synthetic blends in the hope that consumers will pay more attention to their marketing scheme to actually notice what they’re putting into their bodies.
Don’t be fooled. You can consume the right amount of protein in your diet and help boost your metabolism with all natural supplements. Here’s five of the best, including vegan friendly options.
1. Lean Red Meat
Protein: 23 grams per 3 oz. serving.
Look for top or bottom round steak in particular. Not only are they much easier on your wallet, there’s roughly one gram of protein for every seven calories.The downside is that they dry out much more quickly when cooking, so sear over a higher heat to your desired temperature in order to avoid toughness.
Protein: 20 grams per cup.
Beans are probably the ideal choice for a high protein plant based food. They’re inexpensive, low in cholesterol, high fiber and help regulate insulin levels. If you’re buying canned beans, make sure they’re all natural since the more commonly available mass brands tend to have all sorts of unhealthy and unnecessary additives.
3. Whey Powder
Protein: 24 grams per serving.
Despite our warnings earlier about powder supplements, whey powder is generally safe. So safe, it’s essentially one of the few powders that any reputable trainer would recommend. Avoid high concentrate whey powders or unnatural additives like artificial sweeteners. On its own, whey isn’t particularly pleasant tasting, but if flavoring is added ensure that it’s all natural.
Protein: 8 grams per cup.
Quinoa may be a great gluten-free alternative to other high fiber grains, but that’s not the only reason to incorporate it into your diet. It also provides 30 percent of your RDA for magnesium and over 10 percent for Vitamins B1, B2 and B6 making it an ideal choice for high metabolism protein.
Protein: 6 grams per egg.
Eggs are about as close to a protein superfood as you can get when it comes to bodybuilding. Not only are they cheap, they’re low carb and go with just about everything. Avoid fried eggs and opt for a more cholesterol friendly dish. As an added bonus, mineral fortified eggs are available at just about any supermarket.