Friday, June 12, 2009

Choosing a Protein Bar

by Marc David

As consumers, we are faced daily with choices about what to eat. As a bodybuilder, we are bombarded with protein bars that promise everything from tons of protein, low carbs, less fat, and the cheapest bar on the market. But rarely do any of the bars meet the most necessary requirement of them all. If the bar doesn't taste great, then I don't want to eat it.

Regardless of how much protein might exist in a particular bar, if Bar A has more but tastes worse then than Bar B, I'm still more likely to choose Bar B. As a consumer of protein bars, I don't feel like forcing myself to eat something two or more times a day just because it has the best whey-protein on the market. And while some bars can claim to be great tasting, they never do the definitive real taste test.

The real taste test is a bar that not only health conscious adults will enjoy but one that you can give your child and it won't come home in his/her backpack. If your child (if you are childless, get a bar and test it out on a niece/nephew) won't eat the bar, chances are there's a reason for that. Because it doesn't taste good.

Over the last few years, low sugar, low carbs has become such a big deal. So now we have some of the healthiest bars on the market. But nobody wants (I didn't say won't) to eat them. Because it's like going to the dentist. Who wants to go? We go because we know the consequences of not going are worse. But is that really how you want to feel about something that you eat two or more times a day?

How about eating a bar that tastes good, has enough of the good stuff in it, and eating it two times a day is a treat? Okay, so you might get more sugar. Again, you might get a few more carbs. But statistics prove that you will be more likely to consume all that good stuff more often if you like doing it. Most of us don't daily do something that we don't like doing unless there is a compelling reason to do so. The lure of money comes to mind when I think of work.

Choose a bar that has enough protein in it and enough carbs. And sugar isn't all that bad. When you workout, your body needs instant fuel. Sugar is a better source of immediate fuel then protein. Having some sugar before your intense bodybuilding workout is not a bad thing. Forget all the science of the bar. Taste is most often overlooked in choosing a good protein bar. Give the bar to your child and see if they eat it. If they do, chances are, you will too.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Truth About Eating Too Much Protein

by Gary Matthews

Lets face it protein is an essential nutrient, and is vital to your health and is used to build muscles, skin, hair and nails. However, many people put their health at risk by eating too much of it.

The typical American diet already provides plenty of protein and there is no point in adding any more, unlike fat cells, there is no place in the body to store protein so the excess is eliminated or is seen as fat rather than muscle.

So what you need to do is to consume just enough protein to allow your muscles to be healthy, perform work and grow. But how much is just enough?

You only use protein for about 15% of your energy use, the majority of energy comes from fats and carbohydrates. Exercising doesn’t necessarily mean that you require more protein but more carbohydrates to stop your body breaking down protein and using that for energy.

Try to make sure that 70% of your protein comes from sources such as meat, fish, eggs or poultry. The complete protein provided by these foods combines with incomplete protein consumed from other food sources. So your body makes the best of all the protein that you consume.

If you are consuming too much protein, you are probably consuming too many calories over your maintenance levels and this will show as an increase in your body fat levels.

And with the advent of the latest fad high protein diets, not enough carbohydrates are being consumed so the protein is converted to glucose and not converted into muscle growth.

What is needed for muscle growth is not more protein but high intensity strength training with the required amount of time for rest and recovery between sessions.

Because that major bodybuilding star you saw in the latest magazine requires 300 grams of protein a day doesn't mean that you have to. What he won't tell you is that taking Steroids is behind his muscle gains and not his diet.

High intensity strength training and not food stimulates muscle growth

Consuming excessive amounts of protein is not only bad for your liver and kidneys but also promotes vitamin and mineral deficiencies. It is also linked to osteoporosis and some forms of cancer.

One way to overcome the need to eat large quantities of protein is to increase the consumption of protein in stages until a maximum efficiency point is reached and then to drastically reduce it again. This obliges the body to over-compensate by increasing the efficiency for the absorption of protein into the body.

An example of a Protein Loading diet is found below.

Week One

Breakfast: Poached egg on toast, cereal with fruit and milk.
Snack: Fruit and protein shake.
Lunch: Chicken, potato, and vegetables. Fresh fruit salad.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, and biscuits with cheese.
Dinner: Fish any style, rice, vegetables, and whole meal bread and fruit salad.

Week Two

Breakfast: Two poached eggs on toast, cereal with fruit salad and milk.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, protein shake.
Lunch: Chicken with potatoes and vegetables (any style)
Snack: Nuts, fruit, biscuits with cheese.
Dinner: Roast Beef with vegetables, brown rice, whole meal bread.

Week Three

Breakfast: Three eggs any style on toast, cereal with fruit and milk.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, and protein shake.
Lunch: Turkey with potatoes and vegetables, brown rice, whole meal bread.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, protein shake.
Dinner: ½ Chicken, potatoes, veggies, brown rice, whole meal bread.
Before Bed: Protein shake.

Week Four

Breakfast: Four eggs any style on toast, cereal with fruit and milk.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, protein shake.
Lunch: Spaghetti with meat sauce, potatoes, brown rice, whole meal bread.
Snack: Nuts, fruit, protein shake.
Dinner: Roast Pork, potatoes, brown rice, whole meal bread.
Before Bed: Protein shake.

After week four of this protein loading diet, move from the max intake of protein to the lowest. So in the fifth week go back to week one menu, in the sixth week, week two menu and so on.
Make no mistake about it this protein loading diet provides a balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates and combined with high intensity strength training will be very effective in increasing muscular bodyweight without the need to ingest large quantities of protein.

Are Amino Acid Supplements Necessary?

by Clare Wood

There are many protein supplements and amino acid products to be found in health food and fitness stores, declaring many benefits including strength and weight gain. While it is true that amino acids are essential for muscle growth and development, taking supplements may not always be required.

What are Amino Acids?

All amino acids are found in the food we eat, in the form of protein. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids strung together, and when eaten they get digested and absorbed into the system as single units called amino acids. Once in the body, these amino acids are used predominantly for building body tissue such as muscle development, though there are other uses for amino acids such as for energy (~5%) and enzymes. Under certain condition there is a greater requirement for protein and amino acids, such as during periods of rapid growth like in teenagers, while undertaking resistance training, and when there is tissue repair such as after an injury or illness.

What are the required daily intake levels of amino acids?

Daily protein requirements for athletes are approximately 1.2 - 1.7g/kg body weight. This means for a person of about 60 kg, their daily protein needs would be between 72 and 102 grams, depending on training and growth. To give you an idea of how much this means in real food terms; 1 cup of wheat based cereal provides 8g of protein, one glass of milk provides 12g of protein, one chicken breast (~150g) provides 42g of protein, 2 cups of steamed rice contains 10g of protein. This adds up to 70 grams of protein already. Include the rest of your daily intake, and you can see how easily it is to meet daily protein requirements. If the amount of weights or resistance training is high, you should be taking in the upper amount of this range of protein intake, which is still easily achievable through a good balanced diet.

Where are amino acids found?

Amino acids or proteins are found in the following foods; lean meats, chicken, fish, legumes (like baked beans) and eggs, and in lesser amounts in dairy foods and cereal products. The animal based protein foods contain a better profile of amino acids, that is, they contain all the essential amino acids for growth and development. If eating vegetarian style, you need to mix and match the non-meat protein foods to get the best profile of these amino acids. For example eating pasta with cheese, or baked beans with toast.

Is it true certain amino acids stimulate growth hormones in teenagers?

Some research on certain amino acids has shown a benefit to weight gain and muscle growth, though there is very little evidence to prove that any amino acid supplement works in these ways. There are three amino acids that have been claimed to increase the release of growth hormone in children and teenagers; they are arginine, lysine, and orthinine. An injection of arginine is used to stimulate growth hormone release in children with a deficiency, working for only a short period of time. However, there is no evidence that an oral dose of these amino acids has the same effect. Supplements with these amino acids contain very low doses. Teenagers will get the greatest benefit out of increasing their total energy intake, which will in turn increase their protein intake to assist with muscle growth.


Amino acid supplementation is not necessary in many athletes as they can get their daily requirements through a well balanced diet. Such a diet would have other benefits such as providing adequate carbohydrates for energy as well as other essential nutrients like B vitamins for energy production, calcium for bone health and other vitamins and minerals. So before you fork out your hard earned dollars on supplements, think about whether you really need them.