Can’t figure out why you’re always dragging? Lack of iron may be to blame – even if you’re not anemic. When fatigued women with normal blood levels took iron supplements for 12 weeks, they reported feeling 50 percent less tired, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It’s possible that they had enough of the mineral in their bloodstream but inadequate amounts stored in their brain, muscles, and other tissues, probably because of blood loss during menstruation, says lead study author Paul Vaucher, a Ph.D. student at the University of Geneva in Switzerland. Participants took 80 milligrams each day, which is much more than the recommended daily value of the 18 mg contained in many multivitamins. However, don’t self-treat with larger doses without talking to your doctor first, as too much iron can be dangerous. And keep in mind that a pill isn’t the only answer: Beef, seafood, and poultry are also great sources of iron.
WHEN IT COMES TO PROTEIN, it’s not just what you take; it’s when you take it. Although the human body processes protein every time that you consume it, there are certain instances when your system is more receptive to protein. More specifically, there are times when you should consume different kinds of proteins. Don’t miss out on these five important occasions.
FIRST THING IN THE MORNING: The period between when you go to bed and wake up in the morning is the longest that your body goes without food. “Break the fast” with protein. In addition to providing much needed amino acids for muscle maintenance and rebuilding, proteins provide more stable, sustained energy than that donut or bagel that you’re currently chowing on. Opt for a faster-acting protein like whey first thing in the morning.
PRE-WORKOUT: By drinking a protein shake about an hour before your workout, you’ll prime your body for growth with BCAAs and other essential amino acids. Whey and egg proteins are a good choice, because they are easy to drink and quickly digested.
POST-WORKOUT: The 30-60 minute timeframe following exercise is the single most important time of the day to get protein. Enzymes and hormones are actively repairing and rebuilding exercise-induced damage as well as replenishing glycogen stores, so your muscles are especially receptive to nutrients. By supplying a post-workout recovery protein containing whey, casein, egg, and simple carbohydrates during this window of opportunity, you’ll help ensure that you’re recharged and ready for your next training session.
BETWEEN MEALS: Consuming a protein shake in between meals not only helps keep muscle synthesis maximized, it also helps keep body fat and body weight in check. Proteins help stimulate the release of gut hormones that trigger a feeling of fullness or satiety. Dairy proteins (whey, casein, and milk) are considered to be better appetite blunters than other protein sources – especially when combined with dietary fiber – so choose a product with one or more of these proteins if weight control is part of your goals.
BEFORE BED: Prepare your body for the long fast ahead with a casein protein shake a half an hour before bed. Unlike whey which is rapidly broken down in the gut, casein is digested at a much slower rate releasing its amino acid constituents over several hours throughout the night while you sleep. For this reason, casein is commonly referred to as a time-released protein. Casein is also considered anti-catabolic because it’s rich in glutamine and other amino acids that help protect against muscle breakdown.
BUYING A PROTEIN ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE, but don’t underestimate the process either. Choose the wrong type and you’ll buy more than you need. Worse yet, spend less than you should and you may not get satisfactory results – or any results at all. The type (or types) of protein you select, the amount of protein per serving, and the absence or presence of carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, are other areas where you can wander astray. Avoid these and other pitfalls by following these simple rules.
FIGURE OUT HOW MUCH YOU NEED For most individuals, 1 gram of protein pound of body weight per day is a good target. Those who are looking to add size may need as much as 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. You should also plan on eating some extra protein (1.25 – 1.5 g/lb/day) if you’re trying to lose weight on higher-protein, lower carbohydrate diets, as some of the amino acids will be burned for fuel. These amounts include all of the protein consumed through foods, beverages, and supplements. What’s more, your daily protein allotment should be spread out over 4-6 smaller meals to enhance absorption and utilization. If you’re a big meat, fish, poultry, egg, and dariy food eater, you can probably get by with a smaller “hit” of protein from your powdered mix. Vegetarians and others who eat lots of starchy foods will benefit more from a higher-protein formula.
DETERMINE WHAT YOUR BUDGET AND SCHEDULE ALLOW Single-source proteins offer more precise benefits. Ideally, you might use a fast-acting whey protein first thing in the morning and 30 minutes before workouts, a recovery product containing protein plus carbohydrates immediately after workouts, a moderately-digested egg protein in beetween meals, and an all-micellar casein protein at bedtime for sustained amino acid delivery throughout the night while you sleep. Now, here’s where you need to be realistic and honest with yourself. Even if you can afford multiple products, are you the type of person who’s disciplined enough to follow such a regimen? If you answered “no”, consider a protein blend. While not as fast as the fastest or as slow as the slowest single-source proteins, blends offer many of the disirable qualities of a variety of different proteins.
MAKE YOUR SELECTION AND STICK WITH IT – AT LEAST FOR A WHILE To do something positive for your physique, you need to take your protein(s) continually and consistently for at least 60 days. After a couple months, evaluate and, if necessary, modify your program to add in other proteins, to increase or decrease the amounts used, or to change to a different type of protein altogether.
Research shows that eating protein helps build muscle and, in some cases, burns fat too. There are almost certainly other yet-to-be-proven benefits. We just don’t know what they are yet. As the scientific story unfolds, it’s becoming increasingly clear that different proteins offer different benefits, so try to work in as many different types as you can.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE DIFFERENT TYPES
1) Whey Proteins
The undisputed king of proteins. Here’s why: whey proteins are quickly and easily digested (hence the “fast-acting” description that they’re often given), they are loaded with Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) – including the three Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs), and they contain subcomponents (microfractions) that appear to provide benefits above and beyond amino acids and elemental nitrogen. Whey proteins are available in several forms. The most basic is whey concentrate. Whey protein isolates have much of the fat, lactose and other undesireable elements “isolated” out. Whey peptides have been hydrolyzed, or broken down, for even faster digestion. So the purest and fastest digesting whey proteins you can buy are hydrolyzed whey protein isolates.
2) Casein Proteins
About 80% of the protein in milk is casein. Often referred to as a “slower-acting” or “time-released” protein because it is digested and absorbed much more slowly than other proteins, casein proteins are especially useful when taken at bedtime and during other prolonged periods without eating.
3) Egg Proteins
Ask any dietitian, “What’s the best source of protein?” and eggs will probably top the list. Most nutrition textbooks refer to eggs as the “gold standard” for protein quality. With loads of EAAs and some of the highest scores of protein quality, we’re not going to argue. Naturally dairy-free, eggs are a great alternative to whey, casein, and whole milk proteins for those with milk allergies or severe lactose intolerance.
4) Blended Proteins
If you can only afford one type of protein, consider going with a blend. Combining faster – , intermediate – , and slower-protein sources, blended proteins give you more sustained protein digestion than single-source proteins like whey, casein, or egg.
5) Recovery Proteins
There are moderate calorie, fast-acting protein and carbohydrate combinations specifically designed to be consumed immediately after workouts when nutrient needs are great and glycogen and muscle protein resynthesis are at their peak. Many also contain whey protein hydrolysates and supplemental ingredients like creatine, BCAAs, and glutamine to further aid the recovery and rebuilding process. This may also include complementing ingredients like, creatine, betaine and micronized amino acids to assist with your muscle building goals.
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