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All About Protein - Sources of Protein, Biological Value


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All About Protein

Selling a bodybuilder on protein is like selling an Eskimo on ice cream. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. So I think I can cut out a lot of the crap that I use to expand your minds in other articles and this probably won't be a very long article. Then again, that's what I thought about my feature on creatine and that one ended up being 7 pages. For those of you just tuning in to our fair sport, here is the short state of affairs so far: Protein is the single most important nutrient to a bodybuilder. You can afford to slack off on any other nutrient for a period of time and still minimize the damage, but a bodybuilder without protein is like a bar without beer. It's a ship sinking faster than the Titanic in a heavily mined area amidst falling comets and two heavily armed hostile battle-ships. Protein is what makes up and maintains most of the stuff in our bodies. Proteins are differently arranged strands of amino acids, and where I can be fairly short about protein, aminos are a different ball-game all together. It's also a different article all together.

At one point the FDA calculated that you needed 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per kilo of bodyweight. As with most of the FDA's calculations they were for a 2000 calorie diet and grossly underestimated. Lately the recommendation the experts are issuing for athletes is 1 gram per pound (2.2 lbs to a kilo) of lean bodyweight. As far as I'm concerned you shouldn't underestimate protein and what it can do, and it will do little harm to shoot a little bit upward of that number. I've never been one for keeping records of exact numbers, so figure out your bodyweight in pounds and aim at the most convenient number above that, or even a bit more. Say you weigh in at 175 or 185, aim for 200 grams of protein.

Those of you who know me best understand that I've started a bit of a crusade against misinformation and overpriced supps. In light of that I have to warn you that there is no way you need more than 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, provided you get enough diversity. Too much protein can have side effects. If they take up too large a part of your diet it can cause gastro-intestinal disorders the likes of which you have never seen. Chances of you consuming that much is unlikely, but if not for you, at least consider those who live around you. Unused protein in the intestines can lead to some really foul-smelling gas. Protein in your gut attracts bacteria that transform its smell to something between a cadaver and 3-month old eggwhites.

Protein Nutrition

Don't let anyone ever tell you that protein isn't the most important nutrient to a bodybuilder. Carbs do the actual building, fats make hormones. But what do you suppose these things would do in the body without enough building blocks to make new tissue or maintain it? The standard recommendation for carbs for instance is 60 percent of your diet, but for those of us consuming 250 grams or more of protein, this is often impossible to accommodate and stay within our calorie limit. So 50 percent will do you just fine. It's important to maintain a positive nitrogen balance throughout the day, so it's essential to spread your protein intake over the entire day. The standard equation is easy: take your weight in pounds and multiply it with 1 or 1.5, so that's 200-300 grams of protein daily for a 200 pound bodybuilder. Now divide this by the number of meals you take in a day. If you eat 5 meals, that comes down to 40-60 grams of protein per meal. If you eat 8 meals that's 25-37 grams per meal.

Protein has been shown to have more effect when combined with Carbohydrates. This is why weight gainers are often more anabolic than pure protein powders. You need at least 200 grams of carbs daily to adequately accommodate your protein intake, but obviously for a 200 pound bodybuilder it will be closer to 300 grams. Slightly more carbs than protein per meal is always a good idea. It facilitates the absorption of protein.

Sources of Protein

The sources of protein are many, and each has its values depending on the aminos they're made up of and the length of the chains of aminos. The ones you should be considering are soy, milk, egg, meat, casein and whey protein. One of the most frequent questions I get is 'What kind of protein should I get?' That's a question you wouldn't pose if you understood protein. Diversity is important: To get a good spectrum of essential amino acids, which in turn produce non-essential amino acids. By making sure you get enough protein, you in turn make sure you have more than your share of essential aminos and that alone is enough to make your body function properly and recuperate better from all the strain you subject it to.

Biological Value

Proteins are ranked according to Biological Values (BV), arbitrary numbers given to protein to show comparisons in their availability within the body. At the time the system was introduced eggs were given the highest BV of 100 because they are the most bio-available natural protein. Afterwards whey was isolated from milk and shown to have a higher BV, and depending on the process used can yield percentage from 104 to 154 on the scale. BV scales are a useful tool in putting together a complete protein, but it pisses me off that it's being used as a sales-pitch by companies promoting their whey products. Obviously a high BV brings with it certain downsides. The easier it absorbs the faster it absorbs. The faster it absorbs the faster it's rendered useless within the body, which makes taking it in large amounts at once impossible. Some would have you take 50 grams of whey in one sitting, and I guarantee you 25 to 50 percent of that is being wasted. At the price of a decent whey protein Isolate that is plain insanity. So in this article I present you with your fast-track guide to protein consumption.

Whey Protein Isolate (max BV of 157)

The highest yield of protein currently available, it's a derivative of milk protein. Its short chains and peptides make it available for absorption within ten minutes of ingestion sometimes. It's kind of a protein booster. If you asked which protein is best to invest in WPI would be it. No sane nutritionist would tell you otherwise. But caution is the key. Taking in more than 30 grams at once is not advisable because of its short-lived half-life. The best way to counter this effect a bit is to mix it in milk and not water. As I explained in my last article the casein in milk protein slows down the digestion of the whey protein, which may give it more time to absorb. It's a bit of a time-release mechanism. Whey is the best investment because of its capacity as a post-workout recovery supplement. That critical time after severe physical stress when the cells will act like a sponge and take in almost anything. The extreme hunger of the cells and the fast-acting properties of whey will make sure you use the best window for recovery to the fullest. If not, the body will hunt the stored reserves of nutrients and when on a diet for example that will cause them to rob other muscle-tissue of glutamine. So whey is the best protein, especially on a diet. It also supplies the most aminos bodybuilders use. Its unfortunate high cost however makes me advise you to use it sparingly. Whey protein is the only choice when on a diet however. When on low-carb diets whey can function as an alternate source of energy, sparing hard-earned muscle protein and glutamine stores within the body.

Whey Protein Concentrate (Max BV of 104)

This Protein was the first isolated whey, but with the emergence of Isolates, it has become perfectly useless. At only 4 points more on the BV scale it may be wiser to supplement with egg-protein, the preferred protein source of bodybuilders as early as the 30's. Whey concentrate has taken on a life of its own in the industry because most companies are too cheap to use all whey isolates, and it's used as sort of stuffing of protein, just so they can say they use only whey protein. The actual uses are slim. It's basically of a similar make-up as the Isolate version but less bio-available. If you find WPI too expensive though and you already eat a dozen eggs a day, it's better than nothing and its often a good buy in pure form, but those of you looking for professional gains should probably pass up on WPC.

Eggs (max BV of 100)

This is a whole egg we're talking about. If you were to take only the egg-white it would have a BV of 91. Eggs are versatile sources of very useful protein. As far as uses go, this may be even better than milk protein. You can eat fried eggs in the morning with breakfast, eat hardboiled eggs throughout the day (like fruit, all you do is peel them and eat them) and its liquid in a raw form so you can mix it in plenty of things. I'm not a big fan of consuming extreme amounts of eggs like some people because they fill you up and after the umpteenth hardboiled egg anyone feels like barfing. Though I think you are a fool if you throw away all your yolks (they contain more protein, B-vitamins and trace minerals) it wouldn't be prudent to eat twelve a day. The yolks have a very taxing effect on your liver. Extremely toxic. So out of precaution, limit your egg yolks to three a day and take a couple of weeks break once in a while. But eggs should make up at least a percentage of your weekly protein intake.

Milk Protein (max BV of 91)

I already gave you my rant on milk protein, so I'll spare you. Suffice it to mention it is a perfect blend of casein and whey that may yield great results and because of its convenience should make up a large portion of your protein intake. The combination of casein and whey has been found to be the best protein source in meals. This is why almost all MRP's use the blend as the base for their mix of protein.

Meat Proteins (max BV of 80)

Though chicken seems to hold some kind of god-like status in bodybuilding circles, it's actually red meat that yields better results. Several studies have shown that people consuming red meat gained more mass than those consuming the two favorites in the sport: chicken and tuna. That doesn't mean you need to dismiss the other two, but personally I'm sick of chicken and I'm not a big fan of tuna. Nonetheless both sources are prime nutrition when dieting. Tuna and the white part of chicken are low-fat and high-protein. Plus they are more easily transformed into tasty snacks you can carry around anywhere. But that big juicy steak will still give you better gains.

A hot topic in this new-age, biologically concerned, overly worried about nothing kind of generation the question of whether or not vegetarians can be bodybuilders is often heard. The answer is yes. I've already named a number of vegetarian proteins and I'll name one more after this, but chances you'll be Mr. Olympia are slim. In fact winning local contests isn't for tomorrow. You'll have to work twice as hard and recuperate smarter. For the vegans there is no hope. I'm sorry. I have to swallow a lot from health-conscious people about my diet and I take it like a man, but I do not take that shit from vegans. If there is one diet that is sure to land you in a hospital in the long-term, rob you of energy and diminish the quality of life its a vegan diet. For these people there is no hope. You're doomed to be small. Moreover if plants are all you eat, 80 percent or more of your diet is water. So don't judge me and mine , if you can't even take care of yourself. Meat contains all kinds essential aminos, not to mention creatine and other useful elements that most protein sources cannot supply. The only bad thing is that you are eating a lot, but have a low yield of nutrients. Most of the ingested material ends up in your stool because it doesn't contain nutrients. So obviously you shouldn't bet all your money on meat proteins.


Casein is the other protein that is isolated from milk. Casein is the perfect complement to whey, which is why I'm such a big advocate of milk protein which combines the two. Both stimulate protein synthesis in the muscle, naturally not both quite as strong. But the benefit is that the protein synthesized from casein is used more directly in muscle-building than that synthesized from whey, which is more readily used as an alternate source of energy (that's the reason you have to use enough carbs when supplementing with whey for bulking). The less chance you have of a protein being used as energy, the more carbs you use as energy. The more carbs you use, the less carbs stored as fat. So casein may prevent you getting fat too fast one of the reasons casein may be better than whey.

Soy Protein

Lately the unhealthy lifestyles are taking on all kinds of shapes and forms and there seems to be dome bad blood between carnivores and herbivores. Having said my bit about vegans, I have to point out that the other extreme could be unhealthy too. Too many bodybuilders, myself included, have almost sworn off vegetables. This is of course only possible provided you get your daily vitamins and minerals from other sources. Soy protein however, may be one reason to eat your vegetables. Soy alone is practically useless, but as an addition to an already rich protein spectrum it may serve a thousand uses. Its main use is protecting the cardiovascular system by lowering LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol. Bad cholesterol as you know is one of the leading causes in arterial diseases. In this aspect the vegetarian bodybuilder has a plus over the meat-eating bodybuilder because meat , and especially that all-important red meat, could increase LDL cholesterol. Of course I'm not letting vegans off the hook that easily. I'm sure everyone that gets around in bodybuilding has come across some article or some account that speaks of recent studies that say a high amount of soy in your diet may lead to breast cancer, brain damage and infertility in boys. The result of a high amount of flavonoids within the protein strands that may mimic the actions of strong estrogens. Then again other compounds are considered safe that exert similar effects. So don't worry about soy being bad, just don't go overboard and don't make soy your main source of protein. As with the other proteins it has its merits, but as with anything, moderation is the key.

I'm making an effort to eat some vegetables now, mainly for health reasons. I'm young, I can afford to eat less vegetables, but living unhealthily, for whatever reason, for too long will have its consequences down the road. The reason to limit vegetables however is clear and obvious: Vegetables are 80 percent or more water, and it doesn't make sense to load up on something that fills you up without result, if you could be filling up on more calorie-dense foods. I don't condone the use of one protein over another. If you want mass and health, you need to vary your proteins.

Post-Workout Protein

This is one of the most important moments to provide your body with protein. Post-workout nutrition should also consist of a percentage of simple carbs to better the total uptake of protein and replete lost glycogen. I realize that this article has rendered little useful information so I won't leave you like this. I'm going to give you the Big Cats own personal Protein Booster formula. This is the effective way to post-workout protein. After a long, hard, drug out workout your body will be crying for this. If you are a HIT fan , you should probably wait a little before consuming this and maybe not use as much, but for those who train the hard way this recipe will assure you a complete an full recovery.

Big Cat's Protein Booster

1 liter of milk, 25 grams of whey protein Isolate, 2 small scoops of ice-cream, 4 egg whites and 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

You understand that you need that much milk if you plan to mix in 4 egg whites and olive oil. If you use less I assure you, it's coming back out the same way it went in. But this tastes great, it goes down easy and it fills you up. It supplies you with at least 60 grams of protein that will be absorbed at different rates over the span of 3 to 4 hours. Together with a workout drink that is sipped during the workout providing a certain amount of simple carbs, this will cover all your recovery needs. I recommend it to all my athletes. Either this or high-caloric weight gainer. The merit of this is that it's actually a lot less fattening, despite its appearance. I have to warn against using raw eggs though. I practice that regularly, but there is a risk involved. In a small percentage of cases using raw eggs (especially if they have been laying around a while) could lead to salmonella poisoning and in pregnant women and children, as well as HIV-patients could even cause toxo-plamoses. For healthy people consuming fresh eggs this problem is non-existent, but a warning was in order I believe.

No bodybuilder is without protein, and there is choice enough. But unlike with other supps the choice needn't be difficult. Mix it up, get as many proteins as you can depending on the situation. Milk and eggs should form the base, but meat, vegetable and whey powder have their merits too. Protein shouldn't be thought of as supplementation. Protein-dense foods should be your core nutrition. When you think of food, when you get hungry, you should think of protein. That's the trademark of a true bodybuilder.

Next time we get down to business and talk amino acids. Unlike this article it won't be as easily digestible. So be sure to check in next time if you want the facts about the truth about glutamine, carnitine as a fat-loss supplement and the use of HMB. That and a whole host of other aminos will pass the revue.

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