The most controversial macro nutrient is protein. In the fitness industry you hear a lot of purr and rustle on proteins.
Loads of protein shakes are sold as fat burners. Some say soy is good, others say whey is good, some others say red meat is the best. Let us suppose that all of them are good sources of proteins but are we sure that the form of soy, whey or red meat we are consuming is natural or unprocessed? Or is it mixed with some artificial flavours to make it taste better? Or is it mixed with some steroids to make it addictive?
To know that, first we will have to know what protein actually is.
What is Protein?
Combination of 20 different amino acids make different proteins. Just like combination of 26 different alphabets make different words. Some of these amino acids are IAA (Indispensable amino acids) and others are DAA( Dispensable amino acids ). DAA are produced in our body whereas IAA are to be furnished to our body through our diet. Needless to say that all of these amino acids are required by our body.
These proteins are the building block of our body. Heard this many times before? I will tell you with some examples. The collagen, which provides elasticity to our skin and ligaments is a protein. The keratin, which forms the outer layer of our hair and nail is a protein. The Tryptophan, which is responsible for sound sleep is a protein. The haem(blood) globin(protein) which is responsible for supplying oxygen to the various cells of our body is a protein. The methonine, which is responsible for fat burning is a protein.
So you see proteins are what we are build up of. Hence they are aptly called the building material.
Now why so much love for protein for weight loss?
Fat burning happens when the fat stored in our body is broken down, circulated and used to provide energy. But how does this fat budge? By exercising? Yes. And also with the proper intake of proteins. But you know proteins cannot function unless there is a balanced amount of carbs as well as fats. So fat burning is not just about ‘proteins’.
Who needs proteins?
All of us need to have proteins. We would need a lot of more if we are someone who travel a lot or who exercise regularly. Otherwise there will be rapid ageing. There will be no fat burning. Why? When we workout or we travel or we do any stressful activity then our muscles undergo wear and tear.
They need to be repaired and replenished. Repaired with proteins and replenished with energy (good carbs). For this repairing, they reach out to absorb all the proteins available.
If there is no enough protein available then soon the deficiency of proteins start showing up as skin problems, dark circles, hair loss, frustration, anger, mood swings, nail chipping. Lack of proper proteins also cause problems in conceiving.
This means that we can have loads of proteins?
Actually our body does not store any protein for future use. It deposits extra protein as fats by a process called deamination.
First take way: No more, no less. Protein intake have to be balanced.
How much protein to have?
Ideally it depends on your weight. For example, 60 kg person should have 60 gms of proteins per day. But that is the ideal figure. Protein intake depends a lot on your level of activity, your state of mind, your present state as in pregnant women or some one who has a sever depression or some illness or have simple symptoms of protein deficiencies like dark circles, hair fall, nail chipping needs more proteins that the ideal amount.
How to ensure adequate protein intake?
Well. I will be honest. I meet so many people, who tell that they eat egg whites, lean meats, protein shakes for their protein intake. All of this sound quite modern to me. The desi way is to go natural.
A non-vegetarian has better sources of proteins available both in quantity as well as quality. There is no doubt to it. But the only problem is with the saturated fat content that goes with the non-veg sources. For that they can chose lean meat, avoiding the skin and the fat part. Chose the lean cut. Fishes especially salmons are a very good option. They are far better than having chicken.
A vegetarian should eat from all the options available to accommodate all of the IAA’s from different sources – pulses, rajma, rice, chole, seeds, nuts, soy, milk, cottage cheese, curd, banana, sprouts, chapatis (different grains have different proteins), vegetables etc.
Whey or Soy?
Whey is an excellent source of protein. It can be easily absorbed. In fact, whey isolate is amazing for people with lactose intolerance. If you are someone who workout regularly, whey is the best thing to have post workout. But the problem is with the type of whey available in the market. I have been a victim of it many times. Whey is simple water left behind on curdling of cottage cheese. God knows why then they sell something as simple as whey with names like ‘performance booster’ or ‘max performance’ or ‘real fat burner’? My best guess is because it is not the natural whey. It has various other things added to it. May be this is the reason I get breakouts every time.
Whey is a natural residue which helps in repairing the body post workout or stressful situations and hence it helps in mobilizing the fat for providing energy for this repairing of the body. I liked the sun warrior version but it lasted for a small time. So now I have started making cottage cheese at home. I have cottage cheese with an apple or I knead my dough with whey or add whey to my apple or chocolate smoothie until I find my pack of natural whey.
As far as soya goes, it is good but once I discussed in the past that it increases the level of estrogen in the body which may cause certain health problems in the long run. So why take chances? Why depend on soya as the only source of proteins. Eat all good things that I mentioned above. Have soya also once in a while.
Also, keep in mind that just proteins post workout is not going to help. Remember replenish and repair. So have it with some carbs. Add whey to apple/fruit smoothie. Or have a glass of milk with honey or gur. Or have cottage cheese with kishmish/berries. Or the best is to plan your workout before your main meals (breakfast, lunch or dinner).