Protein is used to build and repair muscle and tissues, red blood cells, hair, fingernails and producing hormones.
Eating extra protein contributes to building more muscle right? Since muscle is composed of mainly protein, it’s easy to understand why this belief is so common. Actually, it’s a misguided theory. If this theory were true, we all would become world-class bodybuilders just by eating huge amounts of protein.
Our body stores excess protein by converting it to glycogen (see Carbohydrate Basics) or fat. Our bodies do not store extra protein as muscle. What does contribute to building more muscle? It’s simple, proper weightlifting, resistance exercise and adequate nutrition.
Don’t get me wrong, protein is still important in your diet. It’s essential for growth and muscle development, and your needs are increased when involved in a weight-resistant exercise program.
How much protein is the right amount? Here are some basic adult protein needs per bodyweight guidelines. These are based on activity level. Get your calculator out!
- Sedentary: 0.4 g/lb
- Recreational exerciser: 0.5-0.7 g/lb bodyweight
- Endurance athlete: 0.6-0.8 g/lb bodyweight
- Building muscle mass: 0.7-0.8 g/lb bodyweight
Types of Protein
Complete proteins provide all nine essential amino acids needed to build and maintain muscle. Animal-based foods are considered high-quality proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs and cheese. Quinoa and soy are plant-based sources of complete proteins.
For vegetarians, quinoa and soy can be consumed for recovery from exercise. Quinoa actually has a better protein profile than soy. Though, quinoa has yet to be studied against animal proteins, and is not available in a supplement form.
Whey protein has become extremely popular in recent years as a protein supplement. It’s a high-quality protein that is digested rapidly and easily in our body.
Casein protein makes up 80% of the protein in milk. It’s less commonly used in sports drinks and bars as it is expensive and is digested slowly.
Protein Food Choices
All types of protein-rich foods will offer beneficial muscle-building amino acids, but here are suggestions for choosing the best foods for your diet
Pork – Recent research shows that the pork tenderloin is actually just as lean as the boneless, skinless chicken breast. Other lean cuts include the boneless top loin chop, top loin roast, sirloin roast and the rib chop. Cook to a safe minimum internal temperature of 145°F.
Beef – Lean beef not only provides an excellent source of high-quality protein, but it offers zinc (needed for muscle growth and development), iron (prevents anemia) and selenium. Aim for ground beef that is 90% or higher. When choosing cuts of beef, look for the words “round” or “loin” in the name of the cut such as top sirloin, tenderloin, top round roast and eye of round steak.
Best way to cook your poultry, meat and fish? Bake, broil, grill, boil, roast and stir-fry.
Eggs – An affordable, versatile and convenient source of protein. Eggs tend to get a bad rep for being high in cholesterol, but there are a lot of great benefits to eggs. A large egg only has 70 calories, 7 grams of protein and 13 different vitamins and minerals.
Dairy – Choose low-fat and fat-free dairy. Milk, cheese and yogurt are convenient and cost-effective ways to power up with protein. An 8-oz glass of fat-free milk only has 90 calories and 8 grams of protein, plus offers eight other essential nutrients. Great source of whey protein for rapid digestion, then continues to provide your body with protein with slowly digested casein.
Nuts, seeds and nut butters – Plant-based protein that is cholesterol free and a great source of heart-healthy fats. Consume in moderation, a serving of nuts and seeds is a small handful. Choose the all-natural nut butters. Yes, you will have to stir the oil that sits on top, but all you do is store it upside down in your refrigerator.
Beans and legumes – Plant-based protein that also provides an excellent source of carbohydrates. Some people avoid beans as they tend to cause the toots. If this is the case for you, try gradually increasing your bean intake over the course of a couple weeks and make sure to drink lots of water. This will allow your digestive tract to adjust to the fiber intake and potentially reduce gas.
Soy – Tofu is an easy way to add protein to your diet as it has a mild flavor and doesn’t require cooking. Firm tofu is great for slicing and dicing and adding to stir-fries, casseroles and pasta sauces. The silken or soft tofu is great for smoothies or dips. Edamame is the green soybean with a slight sweetness in flavor and a great crunch in texture. Roast edamame until crispy for a crunchy snack, add fresh edamame to salads, soups and casseroles or blend up into a hummus-type dip.
This Beef Chili Five Ways is amazing. I was skeptical at first because it seemed almost too simple. But, I ended up loving the simplicity of flavors, and then I starting trying the variations. WOW. My favorite is the Moroccan variety with the pumpkin pie spice and dates. Again, I was skeptical. Those two ingredients worked magic on my stove.
Well worth making at home for you and your family as chili is a great source of protein with the combination of the lean beef and beans. Plus, it offers a great source of iron for those who have trouble with anemia as the vitamin C in the tomatoes enhances the absorption of iron. Enjoy!
- 1 pound ground beef (93% lean of higher)
- 1 (15-1/2 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (14 – 14-1/2 oz) can reduced-sodium beef broth
- 1 can (14-1/2 oz) diced tomatoes with green chiles
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- Toppings: Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped fresh cilantro, minced green onion (optional)
- Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add Ground Beef; cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking into 3/4-inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Pour off drippings.
- Stir in beans, broth, tomatoes and chili powder; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 minutes to develop flavors, stirring occasionally. Garnish with Toppings, as desired.
Moroccan Variation: Prepare recipe as directed above, adding 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates or golden raisins with ingredients in step 2. Serve over hot cooked couscous. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds, chopped fresh mint and Greek yogurt, as desired.
Mexican Variation: Prepare recipe as directed above, adding 1 tablespoon cocoa powder with ingredients in step 2. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro, pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and corn tortilla chips, as desired. Serve with corn tortillas.
Italian Variation: Prepare recipe as directed above, adding 1-1/2 teaspoons fennel seed with ingredients in step 2. Before removing from heat, stir in 3 cups fresh baby spinach. Cover; turn off heat and let stand 3 to 5 minutes or until spinach is just wilted. Serve over hot cooked orecchiette or cavatappi, if desired. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and pine nuts, as desired.
Cincinnati Variation: Prepare recipe as directed above, adding 3 tablespoons white vinegar and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon with ingredients in step 2. Serve over hot cooked elbow macaroni. Garnish with chopped white onion, sour cream and shredded Cheddar cheese, as desired.
Nutrition information per serving: 256 calories; 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 4 g monounsaturated fat); 78 mg cholesterol; 524 mg sodium; 16 g carbohydrate; 5.6 g fiber; 30 g protein; 6.6 mg niacin; 0.5 mg vitamin B6; 2.3 mcg vitamin B12; 4.7 mg iron; 18.9 mcg selenium; 6.1 mg zinc; 81.4 mg choline.
Nutrition information per serving, Moroccan version: 286 calories; 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 4 g monounsaturated fat); 78 mg cholesterol; 524 mg sodium; 24 g carbohydrate; 6.4 g fiber; 30 g protein; 6.6 mg niacin; 0.5 mg vitamin B6; 2.3 mcg vitamin B12; 4.8 mg iron; 18.9 mcg selenium; 6.1 mg zinc; 81.4 mg choline.
Nutrition information per serving, Mexican version: 262 calories; 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 4 g monounsaturated fat); 78 mg cholesterol; 525 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 6.5 g fiber; 30 g protein; 6.8 mg niacin; 0.5 mg vitamin B6; 2.3 mcg vitamin B12; 5.1 mg iron; 19.2 mcg selenium; 6.3 mg zinc; 81.7 mg choline.
Nutrition information per serving, Italian version: 255 calories; 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 3 g monounsaturated fat); 78 mg cholesterol; 488 mg sodium; 16.5 g carbohydrate; 5.4 g fiber; 30 g protein; 6.1 mg niacin; 0.4 mg vitamin B6; 2.3 mcg vitamin B12; 4.7 mg iron; 18.0 mcg selenium; 6.0 mg zinc; 78.7 mg choline.
Nutrition information per serving, Cincinnati version: 246 calories; 8 g fat (3 g saturated fat; 3 g monounsaturated fat); 78 mg cholesterol; 458 mg sodium; 15 g carbohydrate; 4.6 g fiber; 29 g protein; 6.1 mg niacin; 0.4 mg vitamin B6; 2.3 mcg vitamin B12; 4.1 mg iron; 18.1 mcg selenium; 5.9 mg zinc; 78.7 mg choline.
Source: The Beef Checkoff – Beef It’s What For Dinner