One of the problems with western diets is a lack of high-quality protein. One reason is our obsession with poor-quality fast foods; another is lack of time. In a world where everyone is overwhelmed with a busy life, it often becomes difficult to find the time to prepare high-protein meals of fish, lean meats or eggs. This is especially true for bodybuilders and elite athletes who follow lifestyle programs that have them consuming five to six meals a day. One solution is to make health food shakes with added protein or to consume meal replacement products that are high in protein.
A great way to get a lot of high-quality protein quickly is with a shake with protein powder added. This product has an interesting history. The first type of protein powder was powdered milk, which has its roots in the Mongol people and their powerful leader, Genghis Khan. The Mongols would evaporate milk by allowing it to dry in the sun and would reportedly take the chalk-like substance with them on their long journeys of conquest. In Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, author Jack Weatherford suggests that a low-carb, high-protein diet with an emphasis on milk protein was one of the reasons for Khan’s success in battle:
“The Chinese noted with surprise and disgust the ability of the Mongol warriors to survive on little food and water for long periods; according to one, the entire army could camp without a single puff of smoke since they needed no fires to cook. Compared to the Jurched soldiers, the Mongols were much healthier and stronger. The Mongols consumed a steady diet of meat, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, and they fought men who lived on gruel made from various grains. The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth, and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest Mongol soldier ate mostly protein, thereby giving him strong teeth and bones.”
The individual responsible for inventing the modern form of powdered milk was most likely Gail Borden, nicknamed “The Father of the Modern Dairy Industry.” In 1856 Borden received a patent for condensing milk that involved boiling the milk in airtight vacuum pans. In the early 1860s, the American Civil War created a huge demand for Borden’s product, and another market opened up in 1867 when Henri Nestlé added flour and sugar to powdered milk to create the first infant formula.
With today’s powdered milk there is little risk of bacterial contamination because of the lack of moisture. However, you need to pay attention to the expiration date of powdered milk and protein powders, as the proteins eventually oxidize, reducing their quality.
One benefit of powders is that they enable you to precisely follow a nutrition program. For example, when someone reduces calories to try to lose weight, his or her protein requirements increase. If you don’t get enough protein during a weight loss program, you can experience a loss of muscle mass. In addition, protein tends to help with food cravings because it helps stabilize blood sugar levels and creates a sense of fullness. Sure, drinking milk and eating steaks will give you protein, but they also give you a lot of fat and calories you may not want during a weight loss program.
Does Your Protein Measure Up?
One question we have to ask in any discussion about protein powders is “Why use milk as a source for protein in the first place?” There are many good reasons. The first reason to use milk in protein powders is simply because it contains a lot of protein. Beef, chicken and eggs are considered very concentrated sources of protein, but just one cup of milk contains as much protein as one ounce of beef or chicken – whereas a whole egg contains 6.5 grams of protein.
Another reason to use milk as a protein source is that it’s very digestible. Just because the label of a protein powder says it contains a certain amount of protein, that doesn’t necessarily mean your body can use all that protein. Of course there are protein powders made from soy , rice and even hemp seeds, but those proteins are of inferior quality. Let me explain.
There are several methods of ranking the quality of a protein, and one of the most recent is called the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA). The highest value that a protein can receive in this type of measurement is 1.00. Milk and whole eggs earn a perfect score, and beef looks good at .92, but Mr. Peanut has no reason to smile, as he only earns a .52 score.
Of course, there are other ways to judge the protein quality of food, such as a measurement called biological value (BV) that looks at nitrogen retention and absorption. With this measurement, milk earns a score of 91 compared to whole eggs, which max out at 100; but milk still wins out over beef, which achieves a score of only 80. And with the plant proteins, you have to consider that these are considered incomplete proteins in that they must be combined with other sources of amino acids to be used by the body. For example, to make a complete protein source you can spread peanut butter on a rice cake.
Although this discussion has been primarily about powdered milk, I’d like to take it a step further and talk about whey protein. Milk contains two types of protein: casein and whey. Whey protein is higher in quality than casein; whey is equal to milk in PDCAA scoring and higher in BV, and during the separation process its lactose can be removed.
Lactose is a sugar that causes gastrointestinal distress in much of the world’s population. The enzyme that breaks down lactose is called lactase. If an individual is not producing enough lactase, the result is lactose intolerance. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea and even nausea. Lactose intolerance is one reason for the popularity of soy protein powders, but I have a laundry list of problems with using soy products, including its potential to reduce testosterone in men. It’s rare that a child is born with complete lactose intolerance, as the problem usually develops after adolescence. Taking a lactase supplement can help, but it’s easier to avoid lactose intolerance altogether by using whey protein powders.
When you go shopping for whey protein powders, you’ll see that they come in categories such as concentrates, isolates and hydrolysates. Isolates contain more protein and less fat than concentrates, and hydrolysates contain digestive enzymes. Isolates cost more than concentrates, and hydrolysates cost more than isolates.
The Case for Meal Replacements
Extending our discussion beyond protein powders, meal replacement shakes offer quality food ingredients in various combinations of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. And despite the name, meal replacements should only replace some meals – not all of them.
There are many reasons to use meal replacements, and there is legitimate scientific research to support their use. Two frequently cited studies looked at weight loss with meal replacements.
The March 2001 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published the results of a yearlong study of 64 overweight women, ages 18 to 55, who expressed an interest in losing between 20 and 40 pounds. One of the unique characteristics of the women involved in this study is that all claimed they had been unsuccessful in changing their eating habits. The women were divided into two groups and were placed on 1,200-calorie diets. The control group was given a standard diet, while the other group consumed three milk-based, 220-calorie meal replacement drinks totaling 680 calories (meaning that the remaining 520 calories consumed were from whole foods, primarily fruits and vegetables). The result is that after three months, both groups lost 3-6 pounds, but at the end of 52 weeks the group that used the meal replacement product kept the weight off while the whole-food group regained the weight they had lost. Discipline in a can!
Published in October 2004 in the International Journal of Obesity were the results of a six-month study with 63 overweight subjects, 50 female and 12 male, with an average age of about 49 years. Their daily nutrition consisted of one whole-food meal per day and two milk-based meal replacement drinks, with a total daily intake of 800 to 1,800 calories. The subjects were instructed to walk three times a week for 30 minutes each session. Six months into the nutrition program, there was a mean decrease of seven percent body weight.
The meal replacements used in these studies were commercially available and had a high amount of sugar (220 calories and 34 grams of sugar); the ingredients in one brand consisted primarily of milk, cocoa and two types of sugar. But before getting into what constitutes a good meal replacement, let’s look at the origins of this type of product – which, incidentally, falls into the category of infant formulas.
The first infant formula was developed in 1867, consisting of cow’s milk, wheat flour, malt flour and potassium bicarbonate; the first soy formula was introduced in 1929. The most famous developer was Henri Nestlé (yes, that Nestlé, of Toll House cookie fame).
Born in Frankfort, Germany, Nestlé came from a family of 14 children, half of whom died before reaching adulthood. In the mid-1860s, Nestlé used his training in pharmacology to address the issue of infant mortality due to malnutrition by developing a healthy, economical alternative for mothers who could not breastfeed. With the help of nutritionist Jean Balthasar Schnetzler, Nestlé made the formula easier to digest by removing the acid and the starch in wheat flour. Nestlé called the new product Farine Lactée Henri Nestlé.
The early days of infant formula eventually involved into meal replacement powders for athletes , primarily bodybuilders. One of the most popular formulas among bodybuilders in the ’70s was called Blair’s Protein, developed by Irvin Johnson (who changed his name to Rheo H. Blair on the advice of an astrologer). It was a delicious mixture – described as having the taste of soft ice cream – and was reportedly the favorite of six Mr. Olympias. However, because it contained approximately 25 percent lactose, it often caused gastrointestinal distress.
The two major types of meal replacement
formulas manufactured today use whey or soy as their primary protein source.
One reason that soy was introduced to infant formulas was to deal with infants
who are allergic to cow’s milk; however, the American Academy of
Pediatrics says that infants who are allergic to cow’s milk should not be given
soy milk because 50 percent of those who are allergic to cow’s milk are also
allergic to soy milk. Soy can be bad news, especially for men due to its effect
in decreasing serum testosterone. To learn why soy is such a poor choice for a
meal replacement, pick up a copy of Dr. Kaayla Daniel’s book The Whole Soy
Although not as well known, one other option is pea protein . Pea protein has excellent digestibility (98 percent) and has an excellent array of amino acids, including high levels of BCAAs. It is particularly high in leucine, lysine, arginine, phenylalanine and tyrosine. And because pea protein has ACE inhibitory activity, it may have a positive effect on the maintenance of normal blood pressure levels. It has also been shown, in rat studies, to have a positive impact on total cholesterol and very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) by stimulating bile acid formation and excretion.
The concept behind using meal replacement powders is a good one, as they can be quickly and easily prepared and can provide precisely the nutrients you want. When you use nutrition/lifestyle protocols that involve several “feedings” a day, adequate food preparation becomes very difficult and time consuming.
I recommend that the majority of your calories come from whole foods, but this is a fast-paced world, so meal replacements and protein powders have a place as convenient ways to ensure you receive the highest-quality nutrition.
Daniel, K. T. (2005). The whole soy
story: The dark side of
’s favorite health food.
Washington, DC: NewTrends
Frantz, J. B. (1951). Gail Borden: Dairyman to a nation. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
History [of Nestlé]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nestle.com/AboutUs/History/Pages/History.aspx .
Huerta, S., Li, Z., Li, H. C., Hu, M. S., Yu, C. A., & Heber, D. (2004). Feasibility of a partial meal replacement plan for weight loss in low-income patients. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 28 (12), 1575-1579.
Rothacker, D. Q., Staniszewski, B. A., & Ellis, P. K. (2001, March). Liquid meal replacement vs traditional food: A potential model for women who cannot maintain eating habit change. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101 (3), 345-347.
Weatherford, J. (2004). Genghis Khan and the making of the modern world. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.
There has been a huge increase in interest in cycling over recent years as more people become aware of the health and fitness benefits’ cycling achieves, as well as its advantages as a fast and economical means of transport. Studio cycling has also grown and has been identified as one of the most popular group exercise formats in clubs worldwide.
Good bacteria can help you lose weight
For every probiotic evangelist there are several that sneered at the idea that these ‘good bacteria’ products did anything other than leave a big whole in your pocket. But according to a recent study, probiotics are very much more than a health food gimmick.
Probiotics, which are available as yoghurts, drinks and pills, contain so called ‘good’ bacteria that manufacturers claim aid digestive health and boost the immune system.
But the jury remained out – until now when a study has found that they do have many health benefits, including proving effective medicines and helping to control weight.
But you need to need to use the probiotics every day to see any benefits and you should be mindful of the sugar content (it’s best to opt for a pill over yoghurt) which will negate any of the benefits.
The definition of motivation is that which gives the impetus to behaviour by arousing, sustaining and directing it towards the successful attainment of goals. Abraham Maslow (1954) proposed that we all have a hierarchy of needs, the most basic being physiological needs such as food, and the highest needs being those related to self-fulfillment. Motivation directs behaviour – it organizes behaviour towards a particular goal state. It maintains behaviour until that goal is achieved.
The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 26 miles and 385 yards that is usually run as a road race. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are contested throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.
Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.
In the world of endurance, it seems that you cannot discuss fitness without discussing VO2 max. Ask any endurance athlete about it, and you will hear epic stories with names like Indurain, and LeMond. Many of you, however, may find yourselves wondering what exactly VO2 max is and why is it so important. To better understand this concept; let’s take a little trip back to school, specifically back to physiology class. According to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook, VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/kg/min). In other words, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is the greatest amount of oxygen that can be used at the cellular level for the entire body. VO2 max has been found to correlate well with an individual’s degree of physical conditioning and has been accepted as an index of total body fitness. Numerous studies show that one can increase his/her VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises the heart rate to between 65 and 85 percent of its maximum, for at least 20 minutes, three to five times per week. The estimated mean value of VO2 max for male athletes is about 3.5 liters/minute and for female athletes is about 2.7 liters/minute.
It is ironic that in this age of information, people continue to be confused about supplements. While in The UK alone, billions of pounds sterling are spent annually on vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other nutritional products, studies still show that people in all walks of life (including fitness professionals) need a good foundation in basic supplement information to help them make informed decisions about which products might best suit their individual needs. Because of this, the following is a list of what I feel are the top 10 supplements facts that can help save you time and money - and get the most out of the products you use.
Caffeine is one of the most heavily researched and beneficial ergogenic aids available. It is mostly consumed in coffee, with 1 cup containing around 75mg of caffeine. The understanding of the performance effect of caffeine has increased and this has widened its use. Most people know that “caffeine may improve performance” but what does it actually do and how can we make the most of caffeine?
Caffeine is classified as a stimulant and is the most common drug used in the world. Caffeine crosses the membranes of all the body's tissues. It can wield effects on the central nervous system and the peripheral tissues that result in physiological effects. Studies have shown that caffeine can help an athlete perform better. It has been shown to be a powerful ergogenic aid that is beneficial in athletic performance and training. Caffeine has been shown to increase speed and power output, improve the length an athlete can train, and assist the athlete in resisting fatigue. Caffeine has also been proven to stimulate the brain which contributes to an athlete's clearer thinking and ability to concentrate harder on the task at hand.
You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again. You have been intensely training for months, but you start to mention that you haven’t slept well for weeks, and the stress is starting to get in the way of your performance. You may suspect you’ve overtrained, which is quite common among competitive athletes. While overtraining can occur in a variety of different ways, it typically results from a combination of hormonal, neuroendocrine, and nutritional imbalances, secondary to heavy training (Kreher, 2012).
Hamstring injuries are prevalent in many sporting and training environments. They are the curse of many top athletes and urban warriors alike and have a horrible tendency to recur with monotonous regularity.
In the past, rehab specialists and trainers may have fallen prey to the hypothesis that "if it keeps tearing, it must be tight and therefore needs a stretch."
In this article I would like to pose a different hypothesis. One that looks at the length-tension relationships between the hamstrings at the back of the pelvis and quads and hip flexors at the front of the pelvis. We’ll look at how this relationship can contribute to these types of injuries.