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The Protein Myth

Put down those supplements and eat some potatoes!

09/07/2017 9:56 AM IST | Updated 09/07/2017 11:33 AM IST
MRBIG_PHOTOGRAPHY via Getty Images

Why is everyone chasing more and more protein? Too much of anything is not healthy for your body. It doesn't matter if some "bodybuilder" or actor swears by whey protein, or if you source yours from London or New York. Ultimately, body will use only what it needs and it can only use the protein you consume if your body is healthy enough to break it down and absorb it.

Most conventional whey protein gets lost in the body and excreted without actually breaking down into the right amino acids that the cells need. An unhealthy gut will prevent assimilation of protein, rendering your expensive purchase useless. Yes, in some sicknesses we need to increase protein in the diet due to the side effects of certain treatments like chemo etc and even some medicines. In malnourished people and children we need to increase protein as well.

Extra protein does not help you lose weight. Extra protein will not build a muscular body. We need to break away from the whole protein "quantity" game.

But again, why the craze for everyone else? Extra protein does not help you lose weight. Extra protein will not build a muscular body. (Discipline, balanced nutrition, the right exercise in terms of quantity and quality and good sleep are the ingredients for a lean and muscular body.) Extra protein does not make you look younger. Collagen does. Extra protein does not make your joints tougher, exercise does. We need to break away from the whole protein "quantity" game.

The body can't absorb more than 13-16 grams of protein at one time, so all the protein companies that promise 35-50 grams per scoop are selling you plain marketing crap. Split that scoop and space it over the day for better results. But whey even gets into protein supplements. Don't you think natural foods can supply the body with sufficient protein (unless you are an athlete or training for competition)?

This is what you need to know about protein. The body builds its own protein from the food that it is fed. Whether animal products or plant products are consumed, our body first has to break it down into amino acids, which will then be used to produce human protein.

There are 23 kinds of amino acids, 15 of which our body can produce. The other eight, also called "essential amino acids" must come from our diets. If you are eating fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and sprouts on a regular basis, you are getting all the amino acids necessary to build the protein that your body needs.

The real key is not how much protein you are getting but the amount of amino acids available in the food you eat. It is virtually impossible to get a protein deficiency, even on a strict vegetarian diet, provided you eat balanced meals and less junk and processed foods. There have been Olympic gold medallists and pro bodybuilders who achieved success being completely vegetarian.

The body can't absorb more than 13-16 grams of protein at one time, so all the protein companies that promise 35-50 grams per scoop are selling you plain marketing crap.

I'm not against meat, but make sure the meat you eat is not pumped with hormones and antibiotics which are quite common today.

And nowadays more people are becoming vegans for health reasons. However, they may be dissuaded from embarking on weight/strength training based on the misconception that their diet will not allow them to see results. Please don't give in to that trap. Yes, when you start with your training many heads will turn and you'll probably get plenty of "protein. Don't fall for it. Proteins are important for building muscles but that doesn't mean you have to load your body with high-protein meals all the time—as discussed above, it will not get digested by the body.

Let's now take a look at a few protein-rich vegan foods which will provide you with all you need. The following foods contain all eight essential amino acids—bananas, beans, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumbers, sunflower, pumpkin seeds, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, okra, peas, and potatoes.

Get them in your diet and realise that the your body needs everything in small amounts, the right way and the right quality, and your body should be healthy enough to accept and break it down into powerful nutrition that really contributes towards a great physique and immunity.

That's all you need to know about protein—so vegetarians, continue to enjoy your staples in a balanced manner and non-vegetarians, eat clean meat and veggies and the above foods and don't do anything in excess.

A few of my favourite high-protein post-workout smoothies

  1. Nutty banana smoothie: Add 1 banana, 100gms organic curd, 1 tbsp mixture of mixed nuts and seeds (of your choice) along with 1 tsp organic honey. Blend until smooth and enjoy it.
  2. Sattu drink: Mix 2 tbsp sattu powder in a glass of lemon water, stir well and relish the high-protein drink. You can even mix 1 tbsp sattu powder in a glass of mint flavored buttermilk to cool down your system post a heavy workout.
  3. Peanut butter smoothie: In a blending jar add 1 tbsp homemade peanut butter, 1 cup almond milk, 1 tbsp mixed nuts and raisins and a few drops of honey. Blend until smooth and top it up with 1 tbsp soaked chia seeds.

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