An Important Note about Protein
Updated: Jul 19
A trend that I consistently see amongst my athletes is under-eating on protein. On protein in general, but more significantly under-eating on BIOAVAILABLE protein. BIG DIFFERENCE. This is a mistake not only for performance & recovery purposes, but for longterm health too.
Protein is not just “the building blocks of muscle,” it’s absolutely vital to health. We’re talking tissue maintenance, important component of DNA, RNA, insulin, hemoglobin, epinephrine, & serotonin, necessary for enzyme function, A/B balance, transportation, antibodies…
Baseline & at the VERY least, it’s necessary to get enough bioavailable protein (how much of a certain nutrient is actually absorbed and used by the body when consumed. For example, one protein source may saythat it contains 30 grams of protein when in reality, only 20 g of that protein is actually used in the body) to hit your biochemical correct ratio of all 9 essential amino acids (essential = not synthesized in the body, must get from food). They are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, histidine, lysine, & leucine It’s also important that we pay attention to conditionally essential amino acids. Conditionally essential amino acids are those that become essential in states of inflammation, trauma, injury, & illness. Given how metabolically unhealthy we are (a recent study found that "less than 7 percent of the U.S. adult population has good cardiometabolic health.") , these conditionally essential amino acids (arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, and proline) have basically become essential for most people. Meaning we must get them from our food. As the researchers of this study note, it's incredibly concerning "that in the United States, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, fewer than 1 in 15 adults have optimal cardiometabolic health."
When it comes to sourcing, animal-based proteins are superior to plant-based ones. A randomized crossover clinical study, found a significant difference in postprandial (response after eating) plasma amino acids between the animal meat sources and the plant-based burger. Specifically, they compared lamb, pasture-raised beef, grain-finished beef, and Beyond Burgers. Their primary objective was to determine the appearance of amino acids in the plasma after eating the different protein sources. This is important because the appearance of amino acids in plasma denotes how much of the protein consumed is actually absorbed and usable by the body. When the participants ate animal meat they absorbed more protein than when they ate the plant-based burger, even though the sources had similar protein levels. The researchers hypothesized that this was most likely the case because of anti-nutritional factors found in plants which are known to inhibit digestion of nutrients.
An important sidenote: as we age, we become less sensitive to protein’s influence vis a vis myofibrillar protein synthesis. Unfortunately what I typically see is older athletes (and older adults in general) eating less protein, when in fact the opposite needs to happen.
Between false marketing claims, poor research practices, & debunked yet still touted myths (elevated liver enzymes, renal dysfunction, chronic dehydration, problems with glomerular filtration, adrenal fatigue) surrounding a high protein diet (3kg/g/day) applying everything we read & hear to ourselves (for example, The Blue Zone Argument-not an accurate argument to begin with & also grossly misapplied to your average person or protein's effect on MTOR and cancer cell growth in the average person- this is very uniquely situational and environment dependent)…but that’s a whole other can of worms😜
If you have questions about what your optimal protein intake & sourcing looks like, please never hesitate to reach out to me :)
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