Strategize Your Diet - Part 2
Protein, along with carbohydrates, contain 4 calories per gram. The difference is, carbohydrates yield nearly all of those calories as energy (or stored as fat), whereas the simple act of digesting protein burns calories. Not to mention the fact that protein is needed for countless processes in the body including muscle and tissue building, hormone production, etc.
Many people feel like they only need protein in their diet on days when they are exercising. This couldn't be further from the truth. Think of your body as a construction site. Virtually all of your tissues in your body are constantly being "torn down" and replaced by newer, more efficient cells. This is part of your body's defense mechanisms against diseases like cancer. The longer a cell sticks around, the better chance it has at goofing up and making a mistake causing a mutation, but that discussion can wait for another day.
Everyone should have plenty of protein in their diets for all of your body's natural processes, as well as tissue building. Now, exercise - especially resistance training - causes micro tears and damages in your muscle tissue which needs to be repaired and replaced. This is the entire basis of resistance training. You want to damage your muscles by working them hard, so that your body will come in to repair and replace those damaged muscle cells with bigger (sometimes), faster, stronger ones. The process of muscle repair is what heightens your metabolism for hours following a workout.
So, back to protein. It is crucial that you feed your body the proper building blocks following a workout so that it can go about its business by repairing and replacing your tissues. Many different studies have been done on this topic and there are varying thoughts on the matter, but from what I have read and researched, a beverage or protein shake immediately following (within an hour) a workout with a ratio of 4:1, grams of carbs to grams of protein, seems to be the best way to feed your body.
Not only does the carbohydrates replace depleted glycogen stores in the muscles/liver to replenish your anaerobic energy levels, but it also acts as a sort of shunt or transport system delivering the correct amino acids to your muscles to aid in the rebuilding process. Chocolate milk is a great post-workout drink, and is what I use following my workouts. It has that correct ratio of carbs to proteins and is also pretty darn tasty too!
On top of using protein as a post-workout recovery drink, small amounts of protein should be ingested every few hours throughout the day. No, that does not mean that you need to be chewing on a chicken breast every few hours, but some sort of protein source is beneficial such as a protein shake, almonds, fish, quinoa, or yogurt (Greek yogurt especially!). Ingesting protein at set intervals throughout the day gives your body the tools it needs to maintain its tissues as well as stabilize its blood sugar level. Elevated protein has been shown to give healthier-looking skin and hair as well as acting as an appetite suppressor as it takes longer to digest, keeping you feeling "full" longer, which is good for fighting off those hunger pangs.
So what types of protein should you ingest? Whey protein can be found in a variety of protein shakes. It is a fast-acting protein which means it can digest, distribute itself throughout the bloodstream and be into the muscles in no time. This is a fantastic type of protein for post-workout so that you can get those amino acids to your muscles as soon as possible.
Casein protein is found in mammalian dairy products such as cheese and milk and is a slower-digesting protein which can stabilize your blood sugars for longer and provide more of a steady drip of protein for hours after ingesting. This is great for a mid-afternoon snack!
When it comes down to it, having more protein in your diet can be beneficial for everyone, men and women. Not only does it suppress your appetite, give you a youthful appearance, and stabilize blood sugar levels, protein is also vital after exercising to build more lean, healthy, efficient muscle tissue. More muscle means a higher resting metabolic rate, which means you are burning more calories even at a resting state!