Eat a complete protein at each meal. As a general rule if it had a face, it’s fair game. For plant based options (for veggies and vegans), beans and lentils become your “protein food”. Also a good choice if budget is concern…beans are cheap.
Eating protein with each meal enables the body to produce enzymes, hormones and antibodies. Protein, the major building blocks, helps to aid in other functions such as muscle and cell repair. Having protein with each meal increases plasma concentration of the hormone glucagon. This is important because glucagon is responsible for antagonizing the effects of insulin in adipose tissue, leading to greater fat mobilization.
Eating a complete protein with every meal is in your best interest according to Nitrogen balance. What does Nitrogen have to do with anything? Nitrogen is what differentiates proteins from carbohydrates. Carbohydrates consist of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen molecules whereas proteins contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. When eating protein, the body has a larger amino acid pool to choose from. The body needs to be in a positive nitrogen balance to build muscle. This means the body is in an anabolic state. When the body is depleted of nitrogen, the body will be in a catabolic state, a state that is not ideal for the body to be in. In a catabolic state, the body breaks down muscles in the body to use as fuel. Think of this as a very, costly and inefficient way to produce energy. Lastly if you would like to remain the same, the nitrogen intake must be equal to the amount of nitrogen used.
Eating a complete protein means that you are getting all 8 essential amino acids at once. Complete proteins that contain all of these amino acids are red meats, foul, fish, and any other wild game along with cheese, eggs, and milk. Quinoa and soy are also considered complete proteins, though quinoa is great for after workouts, or for people who follow a vegan/ vegetarian diet. Lastly soy contains all essential amino acids the body needs, but these foods should NOT be in your diet.
Women – 1 serving of lean, complete protein (20-30g) with each meal, every few hours. (Or, if you eat less frequently, eat a bit more protein with each meal).
Men – 2 servings of lean, complete protein (40-60g) with each meal, every few hours. (Or, if you eat less frequently, eat a bit more protein with each meal).
High quality protein.
3-4 oz of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish
1 cup of cooked seafood
4 egg whites
2 large eggs
1/2 cup of cottage cheese
1/2 cup of plain yogurt
2 oz of part skim cheese
1 scoop of protein powder
1 cup cooked lentils or beans
1 small veggie burger
These Don’t Count:
Protein in “fast food” restaurant meals (chinese take out, etc.)
***Complementary proteins do not contain all 8 essential amino acids, but if combined with other complementary proteins they do***
Examples of combined complementary proteins to create a complete protein in one meal include:
- Grains with Legumes – sample meal: lentils and rice with yellow peppers.
- Nuts with Legumes – sample meal: black bean and peanut salad.
- Grains with Dairy – sample meal: white cheddar and whole wheat pasta.
- Dairy with Seeds – sample meal: yogurt mixed with sesame and flax seeds.
- Legumes with Seeds – sample meal: spinach salad with sesame seed and almond salad dressing