The Importance of Protein in an Active Lifestyle

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I think by this stage almost everyone knows that they ‘need’ protein, but in my lectures and workshops I still get questions like, “but won’t protein make me bulky?”, or, “won’t eating too much protein give me big muscles?”. And while most of us know that we do need to be eating ‘enough’ protein, less know how much ‘enough’ is and why it’s important!

What is it?
Protein quite simply is the building block of most of the structures in the body. ‘Protein’ is the name given to groupings of amino acids. Protein is broken down to these amino acids which are then used to create enzymes, muscle tissue, bone matrix and many other structural components of the body. All cells require protein.Quick Fact: Over 98% of ALL the cells in your body are replaced every year!  

Why do we need it?
It helps us to become and remain lean! Protein has a higher ‘thermic effect of feeding’ (TEF) rating than either carbohydrates or fat. This means that when a higher proportion of your diet is protein your metabolic rate (and consequently fat loss) is going to be higher.

Improved lean body mass
An optimal protein intake will allow us to maintain a higher lean body mass. This helps to give us the lean, fit looking physique that many desire (but not ‘bulky’!) whilst also improving metabolic rate further and helping to decrease fat stores and maintain leanness.

Improved alertness and focus
Amino acids supply the raw material for the excitatory neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, nor-epinephrine and dopamine. When we do not have enough of these amino acids we are more likely to suffer mental fatigue and physical fatigue.

Bone structure and health
Protein provides the matrix for bone and connective tissue. Ample protein helps to provide the structure for healthy bones!

How much do we need?
The recommended daily intake (RDA) for protein is based on the activity level of sedentary individuals and is measured by looking at the amount of protein taken in and compared with the amount excreted. It is approximately 0.8 grams per kilo of bodyweight.

What the RDA doesn’t take into account
RDA and DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes) are ‘necessary’ amounts for baseline health. In other words – survival. But the optimal amounts we need in order to thrive may be much different!

As long ago as 1975 Gontzea et al have shown that a level of 1.5grams per day per kilo of bodyweight were insufficient when exercise was undertaken and other studies have shown that Tour de France athletes were only able to maintain a positive nitrogen balance at an intake of 1.8g per kilo per day.

Levels up to 3g per kg bodyweight per day (over 3 x the RDA) have been demonstrated to increase lean body mass, reduce fat mass and improve performance.

Most people will do well to get at least the RDA level with additional protein if and when able but overall quantity should be less important though, than eating good quality protein consistently.

The key ‘take home’ point is to eat quality protein at every meal.

Examples of good clean green plant based sources would be:

  • Sprouted lentils, chick peas or mung beans
  • Nuts or seeds (almonds, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds)
  • Tempeh or other fermented protein foods.

One 25g serve of Clean Lean Protein provides 22g of high quality protein.

The Demand for Additional Nutrients Due to Stress

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Good nutrition is the key to vitality, longevity and defence against illness. Although drugs may help keep us living longer, it is a lifetime habit of good nutrition that will help make it enjoyable. Just because you do not show any symptoms of illness now does not necessarily mean that you are healthy. These things manifest over a period of time – years. They creep up and take you by surprise. By taking care of yourself now, you are insuring yourself for the future.

Today’s lifestyle and environment mean that we need to do a little extra to cover the nutritional gaps caused by missed meals, fast food, soil depletion and modern harvesting methods. Did you know…..???
– Studies have shown that the average loss of Calcium and Iron in some fruits and vegetables due to soil depletion is 30%.
– That for storage and transport reasons, many commercial farms harvest produce green; before the real nutrition can naturally form in the plant?
– A cooked carrot loses nearly all of its vitamin A and vitamin E activity?
– That when cooking spinach you lose nearly all the zinc, vitamin K, vitamin B6 and folate?
– That in processing of many foods there is a significant loss of saccharides and sterols? This does not mean that you cannot get all the nutrition you need from your food; it simply means you need a lot more of it; that in turn means accepting the additional calories ….and financial cost!!

Then there is the problem of stress.

Psychological Stress
We live in a fast paced world with unprecedented levels of social and work-related pressures. Scientific studies have clearly shown that psychological stress lowers immune function. The more stress, the greater the demand for nutrients.

Physical Stress
As the body creates energy to move our muscles we release free radicals which require antioxidants to prevent them doing damage. People who exercise intensely are going to require more antioxidants than average. However, even the exercise from standing and walking generates free radicals. If your diet is deficient you may be accumulating oxidative damage that may adversely affect your immune system and ultimately may contribute significantly to serious disease. At best you may experience fatigue, or lethargy.The more stress, the greater the demand for nutrients.

Dietary Stress
We have already mentioned the nutritional gaps caused by soil depletion, poor eating habits, modern harvesting methods and processed food. Nor was the human body designed to function with white bread, biscuits, french fries and overcooked food; it was designed to eat fresh, raw, natural food. Heated food loses nutritional value and some become nothing but empty calories. However, there are very few of us who will not indulge in the modern way of life but how many of us will compensate for it. And even if we try, do the extra fruits and vegetables we eat really contain the nutrients they should, or that are needed? The more stress, the greater the demand for nutrients.

Environmental Stress
We believe that the most serious threat to human health is the oxidative stress caused by toxins in the environment. In the last 70 years over 75,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced into our environment and only a fraction of them have been tested for safety in humans. They are in our water supplies, in our soil, in the air we breathe, the products we use and the materials we build, furnish and decorate our homes with. There is no getting away from it. Pesticides have been found in the snow at the North Pole and in the tissue of Penguins at the South Pole. Just because a food is certified organic does not mean that it is toxin free. The more stress, the greater the demand for nutrients.

You can try to compensate for this extra demand by simply eating more and eating extremely well; grazing all day on raw broccoli, freshly juiced raw vegetables, more broccoli and more raw vegetables…….you get the picture! And even then you cannot be sure. That’s why we advocate supplementation and it is also why we advocate that supplementation be largely superfood based like Nuzest’s Good Green Stuff; raw, concentrated, nutrient-rich greens, fruits vegetables and berries …..with an added dose of extra vitamins and minerals …. just in case!

Acid-Alkaline Balance and Diet

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Your body needs to remain ever so slightly alkaline (the opposite to acidic) to survive. One of the simplest ways to stay in perfect pH balance is through diet and alkaline-forming foods. Naturopath Cliff Harvey explains the importance of acid/alkaline balance in your diet.
Whatever we eat is digested and broken down into much smaller compounds: proteins into their constituent amino acids, long chain carbs into simple sugars such as fructose, glucose and galactose and fats into glycerides and fatty acids. There are also many non-caloric (not energy providing) components of the food we digest and these also exhibit effects on the body.An area that has garnered some interest recently, especially in complementary medicine and holistic nutrition fields is that of the acid-base (or acid-alkaline) balance of the foods that we eat. The various compounds that result from digestion and end up circulating through our bodies for eventual utilisation and/or excretion will be either acidic or alkaline. If we eat a lot of foods that are (net) acid forming in the body and few that are alkaline we will create a level of what has been called ‘low grade metabolic acidosis’.It is not technically correct to say that the blood ‘will become overly acidic’ as many claim, because blood pH, and cellular pH is one of the most tightly controlled mechanisms in the body, however there are significant general health effects from having a diet that is too acidic and many of these stem from our need to ‘buffer’ blood and cells that are potentially too acidic (bring them back to normal range).

Some of the ways the body seeks to maintain normal pH:

    • Breaking down bone tissue to supply calcium (a highly basic compound), potentially weakening bones.
    • Breaking down muscle to free up glutamine a highly basic amino acid and the most abundant amino in muscle tissue. This may result in lower levels of muscle mass, impaired recovery and reduce glutamine stores that may also play a role in immunity and gut health.

When blood pH is elevated, even fractionally, there may be additional effects of greater inflammation and increased insulin resistance, both of which are co-factors in the development of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other metabolic disorders.

Food can be analysed for its net effect on the body’s acid-alkaline balance using a measure known as Potential Renal Acid Load or in short it’s PRAL score.

Food ItemPRAL value>
Cheeses (more than 15g protein/100g serving)23.6
Meat and meat products9.5
Cheeses (less than 15g protein/100g serving)8
Fish7.9
White Flour7
Pasta6.7
White Bread3.5
Milk and other (non-cheese) dairy products1
Fats and Oils0
Vegetables-2.8
Fresh fruit and juices-3.1
Potatoes-4

*PRAL values provided in mEq per 100g edible portion

Good Green Stuff is a highly alkaline supplement that can help the body to redress its acid-alkaline imbalance.

Golden pea protein isolate is the world’s ONLY alkaline protein. Clean Lean Protein – the alkaline advantage, has a pH reading of 7.8!