We’re back for part two of protein! In part one, I dived into what protein actually IS, what it’s made up of, and how it contributes to the body’s functions. In part two, let’s talk about the differences between animal and plant proteins, how to increase protein in your diet (it’s easy!), and how protein can benefit your cutting cycle. Grab that shaker cup, and let’s begin.
Classic Meathead Misconception #1: I guess I should start eating more chicken and steak. While that will definitely increase your protein, it’s not the end-all be-all of protein intake. There ARE other options. This is music to the ears of vegetarians, I’m sure, because plants contribute protein too. In part one I identified several sources of complete proteins that are vegetarian and vegan friendly. Try to stick with foods that provide the complete amino acid profile...it’s essential. (Get it?) But you want to be sure you’re consuming complementary foods if you’re eating a lot of the incomplete plant based proteins (lentils, beans and nuts). We’re aiming for complete proteins in the diet.
Here are the benefits of animal protein:
It’s a complete protein (no need for pairing)
It’s high in vitamin B12, vitamin D, DHA, Iron, and Zinc
Some studies suggest that people who consume high levels of red meat (especially when it’s processed) are at increased risks of heart disease and stroke. Bummer.
Processed meats (hot dogs, sausage, brats, deli meats), although they may taste delicious, are not so nutrient dense and should not be eaten regularly.
On the flip-side, plant protein has its benefits:
It’s linked to health benefits such as lower blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight.
Some studies suggest that it may be linked to decreases in Type II Diabetes and heart disease
It’s lower calorie
Here are some downsides of plant protein:
Due to its overall lower quality (incomplete), this type of protein needs to be paired with a food that provides a complete amino acid.
It’s higher carb in nature, so you may need to adjust other parts of your diet.
So... which type is better?
Neither. Your body will take protein how it gets it—you just need to supply the right amount. A diet that consists of minimal processed meat and high intakes of both plant and animal protein is optimal for health. For vegetarians, you’ve got more work cut out for you. Be sure to structure your meal plan to thoughtfully balance your carbohydrate intake, especially if your goal is weight loss.
Although the research is definatly not complete, it is suggested that a protein intake of 1.8- 2.7grams per kilogram (found by dividing body weight in lbs/2.2) of body weight is the standard for both decreasing body fat and increasing lean muscle mass.
Finally, if you’re cutting, then adding more protein might be the sweet spot (without adding actual sweets, of course). In a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research titled Effect of Whey Protein in Conjunction With a Caloric-Restricted Diet and Resistance Training, we learn that increasing protein intake via two 28g whey protein shakes, one before and one after a workout, leads to both an increase in lean body mass AND bench press strength (hell yeah, Brah). Although the research is decidedly not complete, it suggests that more protein equals more weight loss. Take our word for it.
At the end of the day, no matter your goal, increasing your protein intake is beneficial. Begin by logging your daily food intake, and evaluate how much you need to increase that protein. Remember, to calculate how much you should be eating everyday, first find your bodyweight in kilograms, by dividing your weight in lbs by 2.2. It is suggested that an intake of 1.8-2.7g/Kg is optimal.
For example, if you’re a 150lb female, you should be eating AT LEAST 100g of protein per day, aiming more towards the 115-125g range. But you can’t figure out where you’re deficient unless you log it, evaluate it, adjust it, and stay consistent.
Now throw that extra scoop of protein and shake it up, you know you want too.