Written by Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD (sponsored by the Beef Checkoff)
Fitness and nutrition are inextricably linked because your diet will determine how your body changes in response to training. And, if a strong, lean body is your goal, high quality protein will help get you there. How do you know if you are eating enough of the right kind of protein? Follow these three easy tips and let your diet go to work for you:
Feed the Muscle to Keep the Muscle
Not all proteins are created equally and the best ones for muscle growth and repair are high in leucine, the key amino acid that regulates muscle growth. Beef, eggs and dairy proteins such as whey, Greek yogurt and milk contain a good amount of leucine and therefore support muscle growth.
|Food||Leucine (in grams)|
|Whey protein, 30 grams||3.75|
|Beef, 90% lean, 3 oz. cooked||1.74|
|Egg whites, 4 large||1.34|
|Fat free milk, 8 oz.||0.64|
Time Your Meals
In addition to choosing high quality, leucine-rich proteins, it is important to eat enough protein spread evenly throughout the course of the day. Though exact protein recommendations depend on a number of factors including your workout program, total calorie intake, overall health and more, aim for a minimum of 0.73 grams of protein per lb. of bodyweight (for example, a 130 lb female should aim for approximately 95 grams of protein per day). And don’t forget to consume at least 25 grams of protein immediately after resistance training to help build and repair muscle.
Look for a Complete Package
Protein is important but the vitamins and minerals in your food don’t get enough credit for the work they do. Vitamins help make structural proteins (like those that make up muscle tissue), metabolize food and convert it into usable energy, and assist with other physiological processes. Minerals also have a variety of jobs including building bones and hormones. Lean beef is packed with several essential nutrients. In particular, lean beef is a good source of iron, a mineral that is necessary for oxygen transport to tissues throughout your body, and an excellent source of zinc, which is essential for proper immune system functioning and wound healing. Also, lean beef is also an excellent source of the B vitamins your body needs to make energy from the food you eat and form red blood cells – the kind that carry oxygen throughout your body. So, look for the overall package your protein comes in. By doing this you are more likely to meet your vitamin and mineral needs.
If you want results, pay attention to protein. Research shows that a protein-rich diet combined with resistance exercise helps adults become more toned by helping them lose significantly more fat while maintaining more muscle mass. So beef up your protein intake for a better, healthier body.
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