The 4-1-1 on Protein

Hello everyone!  Long time no blog.  I hope your weekend was as great as mine.  In the midst of yard work, getting my “back-to-school” hair do, attending a wedding and a birthday party, Shea and I took a little field trip to Decatur to do our farmer’s market run and finally try out Farm Burger.  If you live in the Atlanta area, you gotta get over there and try this place.  They use all grass-fed, antibiotic and hormone free beef, and all the produce comes from local farms.  It was a super yummy Saturday night date spot!

Speaking of quality protein, it’s time I do a post about it.  I’ve already covered  carbs and fats, so now I need to talk about proteins, what they are and why we need them.  Also, I’ve received several questions about how to combine all these macro-nutrients together to make balanced meals, so I’ll address that too.  So here goes nothing!

What are proteins?

Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies.  We use and assemble approximately 50,000 different proteins to form our organs, nerves, muscle and flesh.

What are the roles of proteins in the body?

  • Hormones are proteins that regulate our metabolism and almost every function in the body.
  • Antibodies are proteins that help fight infection.
  • Enzymes are proteins that initiate and manage all biochemical processes.
  • Hemoglobin is protein in the form of red blood cells that carry oxygen.
  • Proteins consist of amino acids that make up our sex hormones and 95% of our muscles, including our hearts.  RNA and DNA also require amino acids, so we need proteins for our genes to function properly.

So what does all this mean for us?  It means we should be consuming high-quality, complete proteins on a daily basis to maintain a healthy system!  Approximately 30% of our daily caloric intake should come from protein.  This is especially important for endurance athletes and others that demand a lot from their bodies!

What kind of protein should I be eating?

  • Poultry and eggs – go for free-range, organic varieties with no hormones or antibiotics.  They cost more than the regular brand, but it’s worth it!
  • Grass-fed beef – also more expensive, but it’s more humane and so much better for us.
  • Whole, raw or cultured dairy products
  • Low-toxicity seafood – go for lower mercury fish such as tilapia or Alaskan salmon.  Farm-raised salmon and tuna can be very high in mercury!  This is a great resource on the dirty dozen of seafood!
  • Beans – soak them to reduce the “musical fruit” effect!

How do I balance proteins with fats and carbs?

Fats should also make up 30% of our diet, and carbs make up the other 40% (Remember to stick to low glycemic fruits and veggies!  Keep starchy carbs to a minimum (10-15%) and try to always go for whole grain options!).  Cut down on sugar intake, saving it for special occasions rather than everyday use!

Keep it balanced! We need carbs for quick energy and fuel for the brain, fats for long-burning fuel and proteins for healthy muscles and tissues!

So how can we be sure that we’re following this 40/30/30 model at every meal?  Well, it’s pretty dang hard!  Unless you want to carry around a book of food counts and make sure everything you eat fits into this model, I think it’s easier to just ballpark it.  Also, remember that this is just a range and some people need a bit more or less of certain macro-nutrients.  Be aware of your body and how you feel after meals and adjust accordingly.  Your body will let you know what it really needs!

Look at this well-balanced meal: Plenty of low glycemic carbs in the form of fruits and veggies, high-quality protein in the form of grilled chicken and kidney beans, and fats in the form of dressing and avocado.

Since the price (and quality) of beef and pork has gone way down in recent years, many Americans are getting way too much protein in the form of red meat.  In addition to selecting the high-quality grass-fed variety, try to cut back to 1-2 servings a week and also incorporate a variety of other proteins into your diet.  This guy agrees!

How can I tell if I’m combining fats, carbs and proteins in the right ratio?

When you’re eating well-balanced meals that are properly prepared and nutrient dense, you feel like this:

  • Full and satisfied, no desire for more food and don’t get hungry soon after eating
  • No sweet cravings
  • Energized by food, strong sense of energy and well-being
  • Strong clarity of mind
  • Uplift in emotions after eating

Here are some signs that you might not be combining your foods well, or that you’re eating poor-quality fats, carbs and proteins:

  • Feel physically full after meals, but still hungry
  • Don’t feel satisfied, like something was missing from the meal
  • Sweet cravings
  • Feel hungry soon after meals, constant need to snack
  • Too much or too little energy
  • Become hyper or jittery
  • Energy drops, fatigue, exhaustion after meals
  • Feel mentally sluggish or spacey
  • Inability to think clearly and quickly
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

As you can see, not only will eating nourishing, balanced meals keep your blood sugar stabilized, but it will help you feel and look better, be more satisfied with your meals and live your best life!

As always, I welcome your questions about proteins or the 40/30/30 model, as well as your suggestions for well-balanced meals that use high quality fats, proteins and carbs.

Here’s to a new week and a fresh start to our nutritional health!

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Filed under Healthy Tips, Rants and Cravings

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