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Protein Supplements Guide Part 2 - Introduction To Protein Supplements

We have taken a look at the role of proper protein intake with regards to good health. It has been established that athletes and bodybuilders need more protein to insure fast recovery and new muscle growth. With this information in hand, it’s time to take an in-depth look at proteinsupplements.

What are protein supplements?

Protein supplements are protein and nutrition sources, and food products, that are utilized to assist bodybuilders and athletes to achieve their desired daily protein intake requirements. Types of protein supplements include protein powdersprotein barsweight gainers and meal replacements.

Protein supplements generally contain more then 20 to 30 grams of protein per serving, and are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Protein supplements also come in numerous flavors, from fruit flavored protein powders, to cookie and cream flavored weight gainers, to peanut butter flavored protein bars.

Understanding common terminology (Isolate, blends, amino acids, etc.)

The following is a list of common terms associated with protein supplements:

Isolate. An isolated protein source is one that has been chemically purified to remove most everything other then the actual protein source. Generally isolates are 90%+ pure protein.

Concentrate. A concentrated protein source is not as pure as an isolate, and generally contains 70 to 85% of the protein source. Concentrates contain more fats, carbohydrates, and in the case ofwhey protein, more lactose.

Blends. A protein blend is a combination of various protein sources and purity levels. A blend can be more cost effective then a pure isolate, and can also offer the benefit of having both fast digesting and slow digesting protein sources.

Amino Acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. While there are over 100 total amino acids, only 20 amino acids are considered standard. These standard amino acids are separated into two categories: essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be created in the human body, and must be obtained from food. Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized, or created, in the human body.

BCAA. Branched chain amino acids, also called BCAA, is a term that refers to a chain  of the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. The combination of these 3 essential amino acids make up over one-third the skeletal muscle in the body, and play a vital role in protein synthesis.

Weight GainerWeight gainers are high calorie protein powders meant to assist bodybuilders and athletes who are in need of rapid weight gain. They can be used as meals on the go, or in between meals as a means of adding extra daily calories.

Meal Replacements. Meal replacement protein products are considered to be entire meals in and of themselves. They contain a formulated nutritional and macronutrient blend that provides not only enough protein, but also an appropriate amount of carbs, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals.

Recovery. A recovery blend is a protein supplement that contains any number of additional, non-protein supplement products meant to aid in post-workout recovery. These supplements range fromcreatine to multivitamin and minerals, and larger doses of glutamine and taurine.

Slow Digesting. A slow digesting protein source provides a long term stream of protein and amino acids, meant to assist in keeping a positive nitrogen balance for longer periods of times. A slow digesting protein is a great choice for in between meals.

Fast Digesting. A fast digesting protein source, such as whey protein, acts quickly to help regulate bodily nitrogen levels, especially after periods of fasting. A fast digesting protein is also beneficial as a post-workout protein source.

Energy BarEnergy bars provide a quick, healthy and sustained source of energy when you need a pick-me-up in between meals. While an energy bar does contain some protein, in general, it does not contain as much protein as a protein bar.

Benefits of using protein supplements

Most hardcore athletes make sure to eat anywhere between 5 to 8 small protein meals each day. Preparing the necessary food for these meals can be extremely time consuming. The primary benefit of using protein supplements is that they require very little “prep” time.

Protein supplements are generally “grab and go.” How many times has life intervened, and changed your plans for the day? For most of us, quite often. Protein supplements require no refrigeration, and are very portable. They can go where you go, with very little hassle.

You will also find that protein supplements can save you money. Beef, salmon and other popular protein food sources can be costly. Protein powders, on the other hand, generally cost less per 30 gram serving. This extra cash in hand can allow you to eat the more expensive protein foods. And if you’re eating to pack on weight, a weight gainer is very economical.

Proper protein timing is essential to maximizing muscle gains. Protein supplements provide you with the ability to have a fast digesting or slow digesting protein meal whenever you need it.

Who uses protein supplements?

Bodybuilders. For those looking to add muscle mass, protein supplementation isn’t an option…it’s a requirement. Whether you’re a whey protein addict, or just like to have a protein bar handy just in case, protein supplements are a bodybuilder’s safety net.

Athletes. Protein supplementation isn’t just for bodybuilders. Hard training athletes need extra protein for energy, to repair muscle, and to insure proper body functioning.

Dieters. Protein foods speed up the metabolism, and allow for the proper burning of stored fat. Protein also leaves your feeling more satisfied after a meal. Dieters use protein supplements and meal replacement products to help the fat burning process, and to fend off hunger.

Hardgainers. For those that are underweight, or for those with a fast metabolism, eating enough to normalize body weight can be difficult. Protein foods, especially weight gainers, cam add vital calories during times of the day when eating is difficult, but required.

Protein supplements versus real food

Advantages of protein supplements:

  • Fast digesting protein foods are best eaten early in the morning, and post-workout. The BV value of whey protein makes it the perfect protein source at these times.
  • Protein supplements can be cost effective. Some protein foods, such as beef and fish, can be quite costly per 30 gram serving.
  • Protein supplements are generally a more complete and balanced protein source.
  • Protein supplements are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them a multi-dimensional protein food.
  • Weight gainers offer high calorie foods that are easily broken down, and less filling.
  • Protein supplements come is a wide variety of flavors, and can take away some of the “blandness” that comes with a high protein diet.
  • Many protein foods can serve as a low-calorie means to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Protein supplements are more convenient, and require little to no cleanup.
  • Protein supplements are much less temperature sensitive, and generally require no refrigeration or heating.
  • Certain protein supplements have a higher biological value that real foods.
  • A protein shake can be easier on the stomach before bed.

Advantages of real food:

  • You know exactly what you’re eating and where it came from.
  • Protein foods such as eggs, string cheese, milk and tuna can be more cost effective then certain protein supplements.
  • Real food is more versatile. It can be used to in conjunction with other foods for just about any craving or occasion.
  • Certain protein supplements can have a greater variance of actual listed ingredients.
  • Shakes can cause stomach and digestive bloating for some individuals.
  • A variety of real foods can provide a nutritional depth that is hard to achieve with protein supplements.
  • Milk and eggs are nutritional grand slams.
  • Beef has been shown in studies to pack on more muscle mass then other forms of protein.

Protein Supplements Guide Part 1-Understanding Protein Basics

This 6 part daily guide contains information on every aspect of protein supplementation, including a look at the benefits of using protein supplements, protein supplement timing, and a look at various forms of protein foods used in supplementation.

What is protein and why is it important?

Protein is one of three macronutrients used by the body for energy. These macronutrients include protein, carbs and fats.

Scientifically, protein is a series of amino acids linked together like a chain. The links that hold these amino acids together are known as peptide links. Amino acids are the primary source for nitrogen in the body. Having a positive nitrogen balance is essential for proper muscle growth and repair.

In addition to its muscle building properties, protein is needed:

  • To keep a balanced PH level in the blood.
  • For muscle tissue preservation during dieting or cuts.
  • As an energy source when there are no carbohydrates available.
  • To build and maintain proper hormone levels.
  • For necessary chemical reactions to take place.
  • To keep the body’s immune system functioning properly.
  • For proper regulation of the body’s fluid balance.

Protein and muscle growth

Increasing your daily protein intake while on a resistance training program helps to increase lean muscle mass. The human body is in a constant state of “protein turnover.” Muscle tissue is continuously being repaired and replaced. To maximize this repair, you must maintain a protein positive nitrogen balance.

When you undereat protein, you confuse your body. It only has so many raw materials to work with, and can’t repair everything it needs to repair. In this scenario, muscle can be lost. In addition, other vital bodily functions are compromised, such as hormone regulation and blood PH balance.

When you are involved with an intense weight training regimen, more muscle tissue then normal is in need of repair. This is the reason why weightlifters and bodybuilders need more protein. Muscle growth is more taxing on the body’s nitrogen balance then muscle maintenance.

Frequent protein feedings insure a steady stream of amino acids, and help maintain a proper nitrogen balance.

Protein and fat loss

Protein foods are very thermogenic. Simply put, it requires more energy to digest protein. The human body has to work 30% harder to digest protein foods then it does to digest and process carbs and fats. For this reason, a high protein diet boosts your metabolism and aids in fat loss.

Proper protein intake is also required for the body to properly mobilize stored fat for energy. If you undereat protein, your body will have a harder time drawing on fat stores, and may cannibalize muscle tissue for energy. This is one of the reasons why low protein diets can make you feel weak and tired.

Protein and recovery

Protein plays a vital role in muscle recovery and workout “rebound.” When you workout, two things happen:

1.   Your muscles are depleted of glycogen.

2.   Your muscles are damaged, and are in need of repair.

A steady stream of protein insures a proper nitrogen balance. And a positive nitrogen balance allows your body to be in “muscle repair mode”. The faster your muscles repair, the faster you recover. Conversely, undereating protein foods creates a negative nitrogen balance. In this state, it will take longer to recover.

Extra protein is essential, especially for athletes who have frequent workouts, or for athletes who are cutting fat.

Protein food sources

Typical protein food sources include: eggs, cheese, milk, chicken, seafood, fish, poultry, beef, pork, lamb, veal, soy, nuts and legumes. Small amounts of protein can also be found in fatty and starchy foods. Because protein levels in these foods are minimal, they are generally “ignored” by bodybuilders and athletes when a protein diet is structured.

Protein food sources are divided into two categories: complete and incomplete protein foods.

A complete protein food contains all essential amino acids. Animal proteins (meat) are complete protein sources. Incomplete protein foods, such as vegetables, lack several essential amino acids. These lacking amino acids vary from food source to food source.

Protein supplement foods have grown in popularity over the last 30 years because of several factors. They are convenient, and require no cooking time. Protein supplements are also cost effective, and can provide an average serving cost far below that of beef, seafood and even chicken.

Benefits of protein (protein for good health)

Proper protein intake has numerous benefits for good health. They are:

Anabolism. Eating protein keeps your body in an anabolic state. In terms of muscle building, “anabolism” refers to the construction, and not destruction of muscle tissue. The opposite of an anabolic state is a catabolic state. Not eating enough protein can cause muscle tissue to be catabolized.

Growth Hormone Regulation. Proper growth hormones levels are essential for good health. Growth hormone contains 190 amino acids. Eating enough protein insures that your body has the necessary building blocks to construct growth hormone. Growth hormone deficiency slows the metabolism, and can lead to lower bone density, muscle loss, and numerous other health problems including and number of psychological issues.

IGF-1. IGF-1 allows muscle cells to properly respond to growth hormone. IGF-1 contains over 70 amino acids. Without proper protein intake, IGF-1 levels can be lowered, making it harder for your body to utilize available growth hormone.

Metabolism. As stated previously, protein requires more energy to process, so inherently it boosts your metabolism. Eating less then ideal amounts of protein also makes it difficult for the body to draw upon fat reserves.

Insulin. Protein helps lower insulin levels in the blood, which is a factor in proper energy regulation.

How much protein do I need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults in the USA is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This translates to approximately 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 200 pound individual, the minimum RDA requirement is 72 grams of protein per day. For a 150 pound individual, the minimum RDA requirement is 54 grams of protein per day.

Those involved with intense exercise, or individuals looking to add muscle mass, should consume at least twice the RDA’s recommended minimums. It is generally advised that bodybuilders eat 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Another good guideline is to make sure that 20 to 40% of your daily calories come from protein sources.

1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Bodyweight – Grams of Protein Required

  • 125 pounds – 125 to 188 grams of protein
  • 150 pounds – 150 to 225 grams of protein
  • 175 pounds – 175 to 263 grams of protein
  • 200 pounds – 200 to 300 grams of protein
  • 225 pounds – 225 to 338 grams of protein
  • 250 pounds – 250 to 375 grams of protein

20 to 40% of daily calories from protein.

Calories – Grams of Protein Required

  • 1500 calories – 75 to 150 grams of protein
  • 2000 calories – 100 to 200 grams of protein
  • 2500 calories – 125 to 250 grams of protein
  • 3000 calories – 150 to 300 grams of protein
  • 3500 calories – 175 to 350 grams of protein
  • 4000 calories – 200 to 400 grams of protein
  • 5000 calories – 250 to 500 grams of protein

Never forget the men, women and children who lost their lives; those brave people who gave their lives and the Heroes that responded to the emergency 9 years ago on September 11, 2001.

Tuesday, 07 September 2010 15:36

How To Do Pistols

By: Bret Contreras from Bret's Blog

Here are a few videos you might find useful when learning or for improving your Pistol Squats.


The Top 5 Ugly Lies About The Paleo Diet

Written By: Travis Schefcik, Uncommon Wellness Blog

The Paleo diet is the easiest, healthiest, and most delicious way to eat.

But when it comes to diet, people make excuses why they can’t switch to a Paleo diet. They say it would be too hard switching from their current diet. They complain their family won’t do it. They declare organic foods too expensive. Excuses run amok.

Let’s crush the top 5 ugly lies about the Paleo diet.

1. It is Just Another Low-Carb Fad Diet

It’s a far from a low-carb fad diet. The Paleo diet is a low, high-glycemic processed carbohydrate diet. You do strip out the transformed foods and all the sugar that is jammed into processed foods. The Paleo diet encourages you to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables, both of which are carbohydrates.

As for being a fad diet, I’m sure all the humans up until the agriculture era would beg to differ. It’s the same diet humans survived on until the agriculture era. I guess the Paleo diet could be renamed to the Human Survival Diet.

2. It is a Hard-to-Follow Diet

The Paleo Diet is the easiest diet to follow. There’s no guess work. I’m happily married with three children, and I work full time. I need an easy, no fuss, get-me-the-results-yesterday diet. In the past, I ate a Zone diet and even had my family eating in the Zone, but it was hard to feed an entire family their specified Zone diet blocks. I don’t want to do the math each time my wife and I prepare a meal for our family.

Eating a Paleo diet has removed all the guesswork, eyeballing, and I know I’m giving my family the most nutritious foods. And that feels good.

3. It is Too Expensive

Buying high quality and organic foods is a little more expensive than buying mass produced foods, but think about his for a minute. Would you rather pay a few cents more now, or pay with your health later? Think about it.

4. I will Be Hungry All The Time

When I changed to a Paleo diet my hunger levels dropped. I found myself intermittent fasting without feeling hungry. I went without the oh-my-god-I-can’t-miss-a-meal mind cramps that come with most diets.

One of the best elements of the Paleo diet is eating whenever you’re hungry. And you get away with it because you’re eating nutritious foods your body requires for energy.

5. It Makes You Fat

Not a chance. No way. No how. The Paleo diet strips body fat. I had been CrossFitting since 2008 before I moved to a Paleo diet, and when I did, people noticed changes in my body within two weeks. It definitely takes the “look good naked” concept to the next level. And it was easy.

So there you have it, 5 ugly lies about the Paleo diet debunked. What are you waiting for? Go Paleo!

Thursday, 02 September 2010 15:28

Overtraining and Adrenal Fatigue

There’s no shortage of writing on overtraining as it relates to weight training, bodybuilding and even newer pursuits like CrossFit and kettlebells. Anyone who has spent time training hard in any form of athletics is going to be aware of overtraining and likely the symptoms of overtraining.

Currently, there’s a lot of talk about “Adrenal Fatigue” as well. A lot of the adrenal fatigue information is outside of the training world and it’s a pretty big deal in the “Alternative Health” industry. In fact, sometimes I think it’s just a catch-all diagnosis a lot of Naturopaths give when they don’t know what else to say.  But, there is also starting to be some good and real information and awareness of Adrenal Fatigue in the CrossFit community. This is mainly due to guys like Robb Wolf and OPT.

I’ve been thinking more and more about Adrenal Fatigue and find it interesting that 10 years ago no one had ever heard of it. At least I hadn’t and certainly the bodybuilding training community wasn’t talking about it. What’s interesting is I certainly HAD adrenal fatigue at a few other times in my life and guys like Stuart McRobert WERE talking about it. They just weren’t calling it Adrenal Fatigue – they were calling it overtraining. Once you change the term and understand the symptoms, you’ll find stuff about Adrenal Fatigue everywhere in good, complete and responsible training related writing.

Is Adrenal Fatigue really just another name for Overtraining?

I originally approached Robb Wolf about nutrition coaching. We’ve done a bunch of phone sessions at this point and the results have been great. What I didn’t expect is all the training advice he gave me. The basic deal is, I’m supposed to be doing power lifter and strongman stuff at a relatively low intensity and my CrossFit Met Cons are no more than 1-2 a week and always less than 75% perceived effort. Somewhat of a difficult prescription to take, but definitely needed. In fact, when I do over do it with the training I can really feel the fatigue the day after. The point, according to Robb, is to train and stimulate the body – and have fun – without dipping too deeply into my reserves. No “seeing the White Buffalo in the sky” after a Met Con as Robb would say.

Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. If you constantly crush yourself in your training you won’t really be able to progress. This brings in the concept of Periodization as it relates to training as well. Periodization of training and effort is a whole other topic – and an art and science – in and of itself…

Finding some classic and definitive work on Overtraining

I’ve recently been reading some of Stuart McRobert’s outstanding older stuff. Notably Beyond Brawn and Further Brawn. There is so much great stuff in there! Stuart is huge on avoiding overtraining. Rightly so. If you are over trained you simply WILL NOT progress in your chosen endeavor – whether that’s power lifting or weight training where the goal is more weight or reps or CrossFit where the goal is (usually) a faster time with the weight held constant. Overtraining will pretty much kill your progress in whatever you’re trying to excel in.

Here’s Stuart’s take on the relationship between training, gaining and resting from Beyond Brawn:

“As long as you’re truly training hard and seriously, and really are eating, resting and sleeping well, if you’re not gaining well, then you’re almost certainly overtraining. You need to find the amount and frequency of training that does the job of stimulating increases in strength and muscular size, but without exceeding your ability to recuperate. Some people need to abbreviate their training more than do others.”

Stuart makes a great point that is profound on a number of levels:

1.    His statement really makes you look at your program. If you actually ARE eating and resting as you should and training hard, then not gaining means only one thing – you’re overtraining. Could it be any simpler?

2.    Since most CrossFit types are probably training “hard and seriously,” Stuart’s statement pretty much leaves you with eating, resting and sleeping as the places where you’re messing up.

3.    There is some implied “individuality” in here when he says “Some people need to abbreviate their training more than do others.” As a side note, guys like Robb Wolf and James “OPT” Fitzgerald have elevated individualizing program and diet to an art form. This kind of stuff is what’s been missing from athletic training since day one.

For Stuart and in the “bodybuilding world” in general, the most common variable to work with is training frequency. I can remember in my peak bodybuilding days (Is bodybuilding even relevant anymore?) that taking an extra day off from training was enough to ensure a great workout when I went to the gym next. In fact, when I got into the Dorian Yates and Mike Mentzer “Heavy Duty” style training I made my best progress ever. And that was with a MANDATORY 1 day off completely between workouts and sometimes 2 days.

But bodybuilding doesn’t live here anymore

What I want to add to all of this is that there’s more to adjusting your training than just frequency – particularly within the context of CrossFit style training and training in multiple disciplines (CrossFit, Mixed Martial Arts, Kettlebells and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in my case). When all you do is “weights and cardio” 3-4 times a week, regulating frequency makes sense and can be pretty easy to do. But what happens when you train more days than not. What about multiple sessions per day? I’m not talking about typical gym obsession or that weird reverse anorexia some would-be bodybuilders get. I’m talking about when you have several disciplines you’re training in, multiple training goals and need to keep regularity and consistency in your training schedule.

Today was a scheduled training day but I was very over trained from the previous week. Rather than skipping training today (regulating frequency) I opted to leave frequency constant and train lighter and easier instead (regulating intensity). At first this might seem to be antithetical to most training doctrines. Power and weightlifters will tell me I’m wasting recovery on sub-maximal poundage’s when I could wait a day or two and hit a more intense workout. CrossFitters would say similar because, well, every second counts and why come in and train with the intention of taking it “easy?”

I think this method – regulating training load rather than frequency – has some distinct advantages:

  • It keeps you in the groove. Particularly in martial arts, kettlebells and CrossFit, there is A LOT of stuff to learn and perfect. Too much time off can really get you out of your groove and feeling like you’re rusty and clunky on everything that requires any technique. Pavel calls lower intensity practice-style training “greasing the groove.” There’s so much technique to learn and perfect, these lower intensity “practice” sessions can keep technique progressing while your body gets a rest from higher intensity training. Robb Wolf talked about this very same concept in his Paleolithic Solution Episode #33 podcast and I’ve blogged about the topic of becoming more efficient in response.
  • For me there is also a big mental and adrenal health component to all of this. Mentally I feel better if I train every day or close to it. I also feel energetically better throughout the day on training days. And therein lies the problem. You can’t train intensely every day and, if you tried to, any mood or energy benefits would quickly evaporate as you fatigued and fell into overtraining and adrenal fatigue. So, very often, the “technique” or efficiency work can have a place in getting the body some work without digging into reserves.

A non-weightlifting version of the “hard all the time” mistake would be something dumb I did last year. I love to run. I’m not particularly good at it, but I really enjoy running outside when the weather is nice. I don’t run more than a few miles at a time and I like to do hills and somewhat challenging routes. It’s a “brief and intense” version of running as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, last spring I was running about 4-5 times a week and was progressively going further and doing more difficult runs. I did one great run of about 40min with a bunch of hills – probably the hardest one I’ve done in a long time. The mistake I made what that I tried to make my new personal best my regular route. DUMB, DUMB, DUMB! I should have taken a day or two off from running and then done SHORTER and LESS CHALLENGING runs while I recovered and consolidated those gains.

Stuart McRobert also talks a lot about cycling of training intensity and a “gaining momentum” within weightlifting. I reread that chapter in BRAWN and had the realization that the “gaining momentum” period he’s talking about is very likely brought about by a period adrenal rest and recuperation from the lower training intensity as well as the adrenal stimulation from the lower intensity exercise. Most of the Adrenal Fatigue books I’ve read recommend “light to moderate” exercise to stimulate and heal the adrenals. If you look at the lower intensity “gaining momentum” part of a workout cycle you can pretty easily correlate that with a high degree of adrenal recovery and gentle, healthy stimulation from exercise. This sets up a healthy hormonal environment that supports the very hard work to come in the later stages of the cycle.

So now what?

I’m still working with this concept a lot and I’m not sure I can give any really firm recommendations. What I will say is to start looking at how you have your training intensity cycled – no matter what type of training you do – and begin thinking about how you can cycle your intensity, periodize your training and get some lighter skill-based work into your training.

It’s a hard thing – to back your training off – when you want to progress. But in many cases, the way forward is a few steps back.

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