Supplementation 101: Protein Power
Protein – derived from the Greek word ‘proteos’, meaning ‘the most important one’ – is essential for women, regardless of activity level. For those with busy schedules and fitness goals, protein intake becomes doubly important.
Planning for progress when it comes to gym training can be a little overwhelming at first. Many women today already have enough on their plates, which can make getting the right nutrition for that firm body a seemingly impossible task. Not to worry. Getting the right nutrients need not add to the daily stresses of life. In fact, by making a few key dietary changes you’ll not have to work too hard. Even better, with an improved diet you’ll have more energy than ever. Going back to your regular way of eating will be the furthest thing on your mind.
Women are often confronted with different kinds of information on the best ways to train, how many meals to eat per day, which supplements are most effective, and how long to recover between workouts. It comes as no surprise then that many well-meaning women taper their training (or quit!) when results take longer than planned. With no ‘firm’ direction, many feel it pointless to continue.
Protein for Health
When training and eating for health, well being and fitness it is worth remembering that real results take time. Progress is a gradual process; not something to be rushed. Sustainable fitness goals require a good understanding of training and nutrition and the desire to put new insights into practice. Once equipped with the right information and a willingness to work at a steady pace, the rewards will be many. Busy women with little time on their hands would do well to take it slow, enjoy their exercise, appreciate small improvements, and keep their larger fitness goals in mind. With such an outlook, progress will come faster than you may think.
One key to healthy living that many women tend to overlook is protein intake. Thinking that any caloric increase will layer them with excess adipose, women may cut calories in an indiscriminate manner – in an attempt to stave off any extra padding. Protein intake is one casualty of excessive calorie cutting. Protein is also negatively associated with fatty meats (marbled steak etc) and bodybuilders with 22-inch arms and exaggerated lat syndrome. It is for all of these reasons, and more, that women may not be getting enough of this critical nutrient. Unfortunately for them, of all the nutrients needed for muscle repair and weight management, protein ranks highest. To make sure your protein needs are met, read on.
Protein for Weight Loss
Protein is essential for weight loss. While carbs and fats (the other two macronutrients) can be lowered or increased to meet certain goals, women need to keep their protein intake consistent.
For women who believe that feasting mostly on salads, fruits and vegetables will help them shape up fast, protein levels may be as low as 10-15% of overall daily caloric intake (whereas 25 – 30% would be ideal). As will be discussed soon, protein builds muscle. Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue of the human body. In other words, muscle uses more energy at rest than any other tissue. Thus, the more muscular a woman is in relation to her height, weight and bone mass, the more calories (including fat calories) she is likely to burn at rest.
The good news continues. For every 1,000 calories of protein consumed (about three good-sized chicken breasts) 300 calories are used for digestion. Add to this the fact that a 5 – 10% increase in metabolic rate (the rate at which the body burns calories at rest) can be achieved within 15 minutes of a high protein meal and it becomes evident that protein is one powerful fat burner that must never be neglected.
Like most people, Women love their sweet treats. A busy schedule can prompt hunger pangs. The convenience of snack foods makes them desirable for hungry, busy women. It’s time to drive that appetite down so beneficial nutrients can be consumed at the right times. Protein is a powerful appetite suppressant. Compared to carbs or fats, protein has a beneficial effect on the hunger-controlling hormone ghrelin, reducing appetite whenever it is eaten. But not all proteins are created equal. The best protein for controlling appetite is whey protein. In fact, when on a calorie-restricted diet, as little as one 30-gram serving of whey protein per day can permanently reduce cravings for sugary, fatty foods, making it a go-to source of nourishment for all active women.
Repair and Recovery
Protein is essential for fuelling aerobic activity, rebuilding muscle, and maintaining general health. Even though cardiovascular activity mostly uses fat it also depletes the body of protein. Without enough dietary protein, cardio may leech protein from muscle tissue, thereby weakening the body and adversely affecting muscle tone. Without enough protein a woman can lose her firm figure pretty fast. Or find it difficult to build one in the first place.
High intensity or low, all exercise can place muscle in a catabolic state. When muscle is catabolic (broken down for energy) gym progress is impossible. To ensure muscle stays anabolic – the ideal state in which fat loss and muscle repair can occur and the opposite of catabolic – protein intake is a non-negotiable prerequisite for women of all activity levels.
Each time a nice piece of fish, chicken or steak is on the menu, the protein in these foods is digested and converted into a rich supply of amino acids (9 essential and 11 non-essential aminos). These aminos are then linked into specific sequences and reassembled into various proteins throughout the body. The body is made up of 20% proteins. Many of these proteins are found in muscle tissue. Aminos and their corresponding proteins are responsible for metabolic efficiency (how fast fat is burned), and the maintenance and growth of every system, tissue, and organ of the body. For the fitness-focused woman, protein is not just for building a better figure. Protein is essential to life.
Rapidly absorbed and of the highest quality, whey protein taken pre-workout and afterwards – along with an amino acid formula (taken during the workout and immediately after) – is the best way to keep the muscles and all other systems of the body anabolic and body in tip top shape.
Best Protein Sources
As mentioned, of all the quality protein sources suitable for muscle repair and fat loss, whey protein is best. With the highest biological value (absorption rate) of any protein at 104 (soy is 74) and with multiple benefits other than muscle rebuilding (immune boosting and appetite restriction being but two), whey is top of the list for fitness women and those simply wanting to improve their general health and wellbeing. And because the peptide (small protein) bonds in whey have been predigested, the body is able to absorb and use whey much more efficiently than other protein sources.
Other superior high protein foods include eggs, chicken, fish, low-fat cottage cheese, and lean red meat. Fitness nutrition can be rather bland; 5-6 small meals a day of 1-2 protein sources, a few green vegetables and a complex carb or two such as brown rice, oats, or sweet potato. Yes very healthy, but kind of boring. Mix things up with multiple protein sources: eggs and whey in the morning, fish mid-morning, chicken for lunch, whey mid-afternoon, lean red meat for dinner, and low-fat cottage cheese in the evening. And don’t forget that post-workout whey-shake.
Protein and amino acid requirements are different for each gender. While just enough protein produces incredible results for all women, too much can add the wrong kind of weight. Specifically formulated for women, a serving of ISOFEMME whey protein provides a perfect ratio of 20% high biological proteins and other factors of importance to them. Women are more susceptible to brittle bones; ISOFEMME provides double the calcium of regular whey and vitamins D3 and K2 for optimum calcium absorption. Excessive estrogen levels in women can result in menstrual irregularities, increased body weight, and headaches, not to mention placing them at risk of breast cancer; ISOFEMME is soy-free with zero estrogenic proteins.
How Much Protein is Best?
One gram per pound of body weight is frequently cited as the optimum amount for daily protein intake. Because the body more efficiently absorbs smaller protein meals it is best that fitness women divide their protein into 5-6 daily servings of between 20-25 grams, depending on body weight and activity levels.