Why Lean Protein?

By: Nick Thomas

When it comes to meat, most of us truly love chicken thighs and wings, or maybe pork is your weakness. There is nothing quite like a grilled pork chop or some slow-smoked barbeque ribs, and we won’t even start on the amazingness of bacon. Beef is a popular choice among proteins for a lot of us as well, and nothing quite tops a good prime rib or ribeye steak. All of this tastes amazing, HOWEVER, unfortunately, that does not mean they are the protein choices which will help shed fat or fuel the body to function at a peak fitness level. These meats work well as a treat every now and again; but if consumed consistently, will slow you down and prevent you from reaching your health goals.

Protein is absolutely essential to good health. The word itself actually comes from the Greek word proteos which means primary or first place. Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for building muscle mass. It is commonly found in animal products, though it is also present in other sources, such as nuts and legumes. The body functions best with lean proteins. Turkey, chicken (white meat), and fish like salmon, halibut, and yellowfin tuna are excellent choices. Eggs, whole or just whites, also fall in this category along with very lean beef, such as filet mignon, both depending on your goals.

Turkey and chicken are positive choices because the fat content is low as opposed to dark meat. Lean white meat has a fat content of 10 percent or lower, and in some cases its even just 5 percent. This provides the nutrients needed by the body for energy and function without the extra unwanted fat for the body to store.

Protein is carried throughout the body with a glucose transport system. Protein cannot work alone once digested through the small intestine into the body. The amino acids the body needs from protein have to have this vehicle to reach their destination in order for the body to gain the nutrients which are used for multiple functions within the body.

Protein plays a vital roll in so many areas of the body. There are several functions which require protein, to be at prime performance. The body needs protein for growth and maintenance of tissues which can vary based on current health and activity level. Enzymes are proteins that allow key chemical reactions to take place within the body, such as energy production, digestion, blood clotting, and muscle contraction. The lack or improper function of these particular enzymes can even result in disease. Various amino acid chains form protein peptides which make up several of the body’s hormones and transmit information between your cells, tissues, and organs. There is even a class of proteins known as fibrous proteins which provide various parts of your body with structure, strength, and elasticity.

Although it may sound strange, proteins actually affect the fluid in the body. They act as a buffer system helping the body maintain proper pH values, specifically of the blood. Proteins in the blood stream actually maintain the fluid balance between the blood and the surrounding tissues. If enough protein is not consumed, the levels of albumin and globulin eventually decrease, which means the proteins cannot keep blood in the vessels and the fluid forced into the spaces between the cells. If this continues to build up in the spaces between the cells, swelling and edema occurs, particularly in the stomach region. Protein malnutrition to this level is rare but needs to be discussed.

Finally, some proteins transport nutrients through the entire body and store them for later use when it’s required. Another key roll proteins play is forming antibodies to protect the body from foreign invaders, such as disease-causing bacteria and viruses — something which we all need to keep in mind in today’s world.

Each of us is different; because of that, it is important to be well informed but also to make protein choices in your regular diet which best fit YOUR body, considering current goals, activity level, and any other underlying factors such as medications, etc. As always, I believe personalized nutrition is important so that decisions are not made with good knowledge but ultimately devastating effects due to lack of full understanding of your individual needs.
By: Nick Thomas
Owner of Prime Performance Training, and Certified Sports Nutritionist