There is a lot of information out there about protein, some good and some bad. There are a lot of different sources of protein out there as well, some good and some bad. Hopefully this article will help clear up some fallacies you may have acquired from all over the internet.
Complete vs. Incomplete Protein.
One of the main reasons that animals are the best source of protein is because of the amino acid profiles compared to the amino acid profile of a plant. Only animal protein is a complete protein. Although by combining different plant sources you can create a complete protein. Some examples of this are peanut butter and bread or black beans and rice. Together those will give you a complete protein but separate they will not and you do not have to eat them in the same meal to get the benefits.
What does “complete” mean?
There are 20 amino acids in the body. Nine of the 20 are essential and 11 are not. Essential means your body cannot make them on its own. You must ingest these amino acids so that you body has them to use as building blocks in the body and since your body does not store these you must continue to ingest them for when they are needed. The 11 non-essential amino acids your body can make for itself.
How much protein do I need?
For the average adult about 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day is needed. If you are more active you may need a higher amount. Athletes can need up to 1.4 g/kg/day of protein or more because with all the energy they are expending they may be using some of the protein as energy to get them through strength training and all the conditioning they do.
Another way to look at this is a percentage of the total calories you take in per day. On average most people need about 10 to 15% of their diet from protein, although athletes can need up to 25 to 30% of their diet from protein.(1)
Sources of Protein
The obvious choice for best source of proteins is animal meat. As with other nutrient we eat, the best choice will always be whole food. As a society we depend too much on faux sources of nutrients and the bad part if a lot of what we take in doesn’t get absorbed by the body. The bioavailability of real food is much higher than that of supplements. You body will always get more from whole food. Remember they are called supplements for a reason, they are there to supplement you diet not be the diet. (So stop drinking shakes all the time for your meals)
If you find you are having a hard time getting adequate protein from whole foods then it is time to look at supplements. And since most people these days live on carbohydrates, this may be their only choice to make sure to get what they need.
Types of Protein Powders
These days there are so many types of protein powders out there. Some of these include whey, casein, soy, egg, pea, hemp, and much more.
Whey can be broken down into 3 main forms. Concentrate, Isolate, and Hydrolyzed.(7)
If you have a milk allergy this may be the one you need to stay away from the most. The reason some use this is that the digestion of this protein takes longer than others. Some will tell you to drink it before bed so that you body is getting a steady stream of protein while you sleep. This is only truly important for the bodybuilders out there.(2)
When you start getting into the realm of plant protein sources they can have some great benefits besides just the protein itself. Pea protein may help reduce cholesterol levels and may help lower blood pressure. The only down part of this protein is that it is not a complete protein, although some of the pea protein powders out there will make the powder complete by adding a brown rice protein to the mix. Make sure you read the label to find out if you will be missing some of the essential amino acids when taking this so that you can make up for the missing ones.(4)
Like pea protein, hemp protein has been shown to help with cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It may also help with kidney disease. Also like pea protein it is not a complete protein so make sure you are watching the labels when you purchase this product. One issue with hemp protein is the levels of protein concentration found within it. Hemp protein only has about 35-50% protein because of a higher concentration of fiber. But this is still a great option if you are a vegan or have a milk allergy.(3)
I saved this one for last on purpose. Soy is another plant based protein, so it is not a complete protein. It also has a lot of the same effects as hemp and pea proteins. But I put this protein on the naughty list for men. Soy can act similar to estrogen in a males body. Ingesting 25 grams per day of soy protein can wreak havoc on the male hormonal system. This means your testosterone levels may go the wrong way. And here’s the real issue, soy is touted as “healthy” in our society. And it is for women. A man consuming this product regularly can even develop a loss in libido and may have issues like growing breasts (gynecomastia). My suggestion here is watch labels. Protein powders out there may have whey protein in them but will be blended with soy. Or those “protein bars” you see on the shelves will actually be soy based. Soy is cheaper to produce, so which do you think those big corporations will use?(5)
Want to know more about how soy can affect a man? Click Here
Other Notes on Protein
Taking in higher levels of protein has been shown to help fight obesity. This is due to a higher thermal effect of food, meaning your body has to work harder to digest protein than it does to digest carbohydrates. As well as protein can help to satisfy your appetite.
Taking in too much protein can be bad. It can cause issues with your kidneys and can even, in extreme cases, cause kidney failure.
I hope this quick guide can help you understand more about protein and point you in a better direction.
If you are looking for some good protein powders out there, click here!