What Are The Best Sources of Protein
We’ve all heard that protein is important in our diet, and for the longest time, many people have viewed it as an essential part of health. After all, protein is the macronutrient that helps to sustain growth – growth in tissue, bones, muscle and many other organs.
Without a complete spectrum of protein, and their respective amino acids you could be forfeiting your best ability to grow stronger.
For those that are new to the health and fitness game, you may not know the complete in’s and out’s of protein and that’s why in this article we are going to break down what protein is, the best sources of protein and touch on how much you should have in a day.
What is Protein
Without getting too much into the huge details of protein consumption we should first understand – on a very basic level, what it actually is.
Protein, by definition, is a simple block of various amino acids. These amino acids come together to create a nutrient of protein – which you then ingest in your diet, your body breaks it down and metabolizes it as amino acids.
These amino acids then go to work doing their respective jobs. While some amino acids like Leucine have been shown to support more muscle growth through better rates of protein synthesis, others like Theanine (found in tea leaves) has been shown to be very effective for aiding in sleep and relaxation.
This is the most important idea to understand. All sources of food that contain protein will have amino acids – that’s just how they are built. Whether you eat soy or beef – both will contain a wide spectrum of amino acids to help support growth – but the question does arise – what’s best?
What’s The Best Source of Protein
We now know that protein is defined by its amino acids. Generally, the wider the spectrum of amino acids, the more complete the source of protein.
For example, spinach has a good source of protein per gram, but the spectrum of amino acids is not as good as say fish. For this reason, if you were looking for a complete source of protein between fish and spinach, it might make more sense to go with fish.
Of course, spinach contains many more other important nutrients that fish does not have, but when we look solely at the amino acid spectrum fish is our winner.
Let’s go through some of the top sources of protein.
Whey and casein powders are both by-products of milk. They are highly dense in amino acids and provide a pretty high bioavailability – especially if you’re used to supplementing with milk products already. For those that are lactose, this should be avoided.
Perhaps the most popular source of protein among the general population. Eating foods like chicken, beef, pork – they will all contain a very good source of protein. It is important to remember that you will also be getting a high dose of fat with your meats – unless you go for the very lean (and sometimes expensive) cuts of meat.
Nevertheless, meats do contain some of the best spectrums of amino acids – especially when we look objectively at the content of leucine – which is important for muscle growth.
Soy / Tofu
Over the years soy has been given a pretty bad reputation – but we’re not really sure why – I mean, this stuff virtually raised the eastern world. Along with rice and vegetables, soy, beans and lentil have been the mass populations source of protein.
Not only do most beans provide a very good source of protein, but they are also very easy to digest and quite high in fibre. This makes them a very welcoming addition to your diet if you are looking to lose or maintain weight.
With that said, they do lack some of the content of high amino acid spectrum for muscle growth. This should be considered for bodybuilders or strength athletes – as you may need to eat more beans or a very wide spectrum of beans to get the right amino acids.
Nuts / Seeds
Perhaps the most underrated source of amino acids in our diet. Not only will nuts and seeds provide a very good source of vitamins and minerals, but nuts/seeds also contain a great source of protein and their respective amino acids.
Some nuts like brazil nuts and pistachios have even been shown to lower blood pressure by opening up the arteries and limiting blockages. Pretty amazing for a nut, right?
The last source of protein that many people forget about. Most traditional grains like wheat and corn has been overfarmed for generations and lacks some of its nutritious punch, but those who are willing to pay a little extra for some ancient grains like bulgur, amaranth and oats will find a very good protein spectrum that is paired with complex carbohydrates for unlimited energy and massive strength.
What are we getting at here? You may have noticed a trend among all of these protein sources.
All of them have good and bad aspects to them. The most important part of your diet is that you influence variability. You should never focus on just one food – always emphasize eating from various sources to ensure you are making the most of all different types of protein and their amino acids.
How Much Do I Need?
This is a question that is highly dependant on your bodies overall need for protein – duh, right?
Well, generally those who are more active will need more protein. Those who are less active and older, generally need less. Here is a simple chart to help you find your protein requirements.
|100 kg (220 lbs)||High (4-5x/week)||1.5-1.8||160g Protein/day|
|80 kg (180 lbs)||Moderate (3-4x/week)||1.2-1.4||105g Protein/day|
|60 kg (130 lbs)||Low (1-2x/week)||0.8-1.1||55g Protein/day|
When it comes to creating an environment that is perfect for growth in all respects there is nothing that beats eating food from a wide spectrum of sources.
By this, we mean eating soy, beans, nuts, grains and meats. Again, you should never try to focus solely on one source of protein – instead, try to keep your dietary intake rich in all foods.
Every once in a while take an objective look at your plate and ask yourself if that plate displays the type of variance you want.
Eat protein rich and enjoy a vital life.