Protein. Protein. Protein. These days it’s allllll about protein. Want to lose weight? Eat protein + buy protein shakes. Want to train for a marathon? Eat even more protein + get those protein shakes in. Want to look shredded? Eat a ridiculous amount of protein + supplement with protein powder. Want to visit your grandma more? Eat protein all day and bring her 3 protein shakes!
Wait, slow your roll, buddy! While protein is very important in your diet, it should be balanced and come from the best nutritious sources: food. Your ticket to the gun show doesn’t need to cost you a fortune in protein supplements. Let me tell you why:
The average person needs about 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight. The average endurance athlete needs about 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight. If you are a strength athlete trying to increase skeletal muscle mass, your goal would be around 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight. Not only does this protein level range with specific activities, but it also varies greatly with weight. If you are a female endurance runner weighing 120 lbs, your protein goal will be about 65 g. However, if you are a male football player training for the upcoming season weighing 240 lbs, you may need 185 g of protein.
Let’s convert these gram numbers to real food. In order for our 120 lb runner to get adequate protein for the day, she could eat a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 1 cup Greek yogurt (14 g), and ½ cup of black beans (20) = 66 grams of protein.
Our football player could eat 1 cup of quinoa (24 g), 6 oz chicken (42), a four egg omelet (24 g), 1 cup almonds (20), 1 cup lentils (18 g), a 6 oz fish filet (32 g), 3 glasses of milk (24 g), and 2 cups broccoli (6 g) = 190 grams of protein.
The recommended range is 10-35% of calories from protein. It is important to provide your training and healing body with the necessary amount of protein. However, exceeding this range may be detrimental to health. There are few studies done on long-term protein intake and therefore we can only forecast that constant high protein intake could be harmful to your kidneys.
I hope I didn’t distract you with too many numbers and ranges. My main point was to show you that sufficient protein intake can be achieved through food. No supplements required. I don’t think protein supplements are the devil; I just think more often than not, they are unnecessary for the average athlete or individual at the gym.*
When you are determining your protein choices, it is important to choose proteins that are easily digested and rich in essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. These foods include fish, lean meats, eggs, and milk. Other healthy sources of protein are found in legumes and other plant proteins like spinach, nuts, and seeds.
Remember, your ticket to your very own gun show can be earned by eating some deliciously nutritious plant and animal protein sources. And if it gets you to visit grandma more, maybe you can bring a couple protein shakes to enjoy together.
*Note: Vegetarian, vegan, and extreme intensity athletes may need to supplement. It is best to seek professional attention or a sports dietitian to go over specific dietary needs as well as the added caloric demands of exercising.
I’m sitting here eating an olive oil and spice crusted salmon fillet with a side of roasted asparagus, trying to decide if my topic is thought provoking enough for my first blog post. To tell you the truth, I chose the topic “memory enhancing foods and supplements” not just because it’s a popular topic, but also to research for my own benefit. Folks, I’m losing my mind. Seriously. While my sisters can remember things from our childhood, down to the very location a certain conversation was had, I can’t seem to remember entire months out of that same year!
I’ve researched all the memory foods: blueberries, cruciferous veggies and leafy greens, walnuts, flaxseed, coconut oil, green tea, coffee, rosemary, cold water and oily fish like salmon… wait—salmon?! That’s what I’m eating right now! And come to think of it, I eat ALL of those memory foods quite frequently. They are staples in my diet. Although it seems I have the food aspect covered, I want to do more.
We hear so much about supplements that improve cognitive function like ginkgo biloba, Vitamin B12, and choline, to name a few. In fact, ginkgo biloba has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years! I did some research to try to connect these notions with science. I knocked on science’s hopeful, shiny door and was discouraged to find a somewhat muddy answer.
Turns out most studies look at the effects of B12 in the elderly rather than in all adult age ranges, which makes sense as B12 absorption decreases while dementia increases with age. But still, that’s not very useful to me. Studies of choline, the essential micronutrient found in eggs, mainly focus on memory development in human infants and animal pregnancy. Again, not quite what I’m looking for. I was excited to see a meta-analysis by Laws et. al. look across a wide spectrum of adult ages and include over 2,000 subjects. My excitement for a strong study faded when I realized they found no impact of ginkgo biloba on a range of cognitive functions like memory, executive function, and attention.
These studies are essential for moving forward, but really, we don’t know all the answers yet. I trust scientific studies, but I also trust thousands of years of traditional, holistic medicine. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 left at least 90,000 people dead, yet 6 trees within the site remained standing when the smoke cleared and still stand today. Those hardy tenacious trees are none other than Ginkgo biloba trees. They stand the test of time as well as radiation and destruction. Something must be said for this observance, too. I truly believe science is making great progress but really, more research is needed to fully understand the use of traditional medicines and herbs.
So where do we go from here? How can we take this knowledge and increase our brainpower?? Well the first step is to focus on getting your nutrients from your diet! Improve your diet by including a wide variety of whole, clean, unprocessed, nutritious foods, especially those listed above. Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food (thanks, Hippocrates).
Looking at it in an individualistic approach, specific people could benefit from a supplement while others may not. Different bodies respond differently to different stimuli. Therefore, it is important to speak with a professional before taking an herbal or supplement since they are not regulated by the FDA. A professional will be able to help identify drug interactions and recommend safe amounts to take. And even at safe limits, while a supplement may not harm your body, it may harm your wallet if you continue to take it without any noticeable benefits!
I, personally, think I might try an herbal supplement and see if I notice any benefits like quicker processing speed and better long-term memory. Hey, I have a $20 coupon for a nutrition store that I received for completing a marathon last year; why not use it? Maybe my memory will dig up some good, juicy, 10-year-old conversations I had with my sisters years ago, maybe it won’t.
Hmm…now if I could only remember where I put that coupon…