The Importance of Protein and Essential Amino Acids for Strength and Intermittent Fasting


The Importance of Protein and Essential Amino Acids for Strength and Intermittent Fasting

If you are a conscious eater attempting to balance the right carbs, sufficient protein and healthy fats daily, you are probably aware that finding lean sources of protein can be challenging. This is especially true if you are a vegan, a vegetarian, or a pesco-lacto-ovo vegetarian (which includes fish, dairy, and eggs).

Protein is essential for immune function, maintaining muscle and bone mass, encouraging fat loss, blood sugar balance, tissue healing and repair, muscle growth and the production of certain hormones that impact our mood and metabolism as well as digestive enzymes, which are necessary for the breakdown and absorption of foods.

Your protein intake must be personalized. I determine each of my patients required daily intake by considering the following factors:

  1. Their total body weight;
  2. Whether muscle mass needs to be maintained or increased. In a clinical environment, I can assess this with the use of a Medical Grade Bio-impedance device, which establishes their lean body mass (muscle mass). You can determine your muscle mass quickly and easily at home with the use of a scale that has the bioimpedance technology built in. I found an affordable option online made by Renpho that links with an app on your iphone.
  3. Exercise habits, including the type of workouts, duration and frequency.

In most cases, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein of 0.8 grams per kg of body weight per day has not been shown to be sufficient to maintain muscle mass and strength as we age. Instead, research shows about double this amount, 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day appears to be the target. And if you are moderately active with gardening, walking, cycling, or similar activities such as these, 1.8 – 2.0 grams per kg per day is best. When strength exercises like yoga, weight training or Nordic pole walking are included in a regular exercise routine, these activities should be supported with a protein intake of 2.0 to 2.2 grams. It’s important to note that  a common risk for adults is a reduction in stomach acid and the enzymes required to digest and absorb protein, so taking a supplement which contains betaine hydrochloride and pancreatic enzymes with each meal can be beneficial.

Are You Protein Deficient?

Without protein, your body cannot properly make collagen to heal the skin; serotonin, dopamine and melatonin to boost mood and improve sleep, thyroid hormone that controls metabolism, growth hormone for repair of body tissues and to slow down aging, digestive enzymes to prevent bloating and indigestion and antibodies to prevent infection. You may also experience skin concerns, like thinning, wrinkling or sagging and hair loss.

The biggest effect – metabolic slowdown, decreased strength, frailty, and increased risk of health injury from falls and injuries. Combined with this is greater chance of type II diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Protein-Rich Foods (amount of protein per serving provided in grams)

5 oz steak, cooked 35
5 oz roasted chicken 43
5 oz tuna 43
1 egg 6
1/2 cup edamame 15
2 slices of low-fat Swiss cheese (low-fat is best) 16
1 cup tempeh 31
1 cup cooked broccoli 5
1 cup beans (legumes) 15
*Individuals with kidney disease should consult their physician for proper protein requirements.

Protein Powders                                                                                                          

Since you require a minimum amount of protein per day, preferably spaced out into at least three meals, finding readily available sources can be challenging. Protein powders are a useful option and I find it immensely beneficial for fat loss, muscle strength, exercise recovery and energy and stress hormone balance as it allows me to keep to an eating schedule.  The best protein powder options for you are those that are complete proteins, which means they provide all of the essential amino acids. These amino acids must come from our diet because our bodies cannot make them. Many of these amino acids, including leucine, isoleucine and valine provide the most anabolic, or muscle building impacts.  Complete protein choices include animal-based options like whey and egg, and for a plant-based complete proteins option look for a mixture containing pea and rice or organic, non-GMO, fermented soy protein. You can also choose pumpkin, pea, hemp or rice protein powder options, but note that you will need to source additional essential aminos.Read more about protein powder and meal replacement powder on this blog: The Scoop on Protein.

Whey Protein

Whey is fantastic for fat loss, building muscle and boosting our fat-burning hormones. It is also rich in the antioxidant glutathione, aids immunity and supports the removal of harmful heavy metals. Whey protein isolate has been found to increase metabolic rate, aid liver cell function, reduce the amount of fat stored in liver cells (otherwise called fatty liver disease) and improve biomarkers for type 2 diabetes, including improved blood sugars and insulin sensitivity.

According to a study published in the September 2010 British Journal of Nutrition, wonderful whey protein isolate renders a powerful effect on body composition, lipids, insulin and glucose in overweight and obese individuals. Researchers found that subjects using a whey isolate (versus a mixed or casein protein powder) experienced a significant decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol over 12 weeks. Fasting insulin levels were also significantly decreased in the whey group compared to their counterparts. Another April 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when whey protein is ingested before a meal, it reduces the overall food intake as well as pre and post meal satiety. This is a big reason why I tend to recommend whey protein in your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. This little secret will reduce your appetite at lunch and dinner. Not only this, it also lowers post-meal glucose and insulin response.

Importance of Protein and Amino Acids in Combination with Intermittent Fasting:

In every single patient I have seen in my office over the past few years that has self-adopted the routine of daily intermittent fasting, I have found the physical signs adrenal fatigue like a decreased orthostatic BP reading and a loss in muscle mass according to bioimpedance testing. These negative changes are directly related to the repeated stress of not eating until late-morning or early afternoon and insufficient protein.

You can avoid these negative effects by using a blend of powders including collagen, protein, creatine and branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) in water upon rising, and before your coffee should you drink it, daily.  This mixture will provide protection to your muscle, your adrenal glands and keep your thyroid working. It will also keep you in ketosis because it is carb and fat free.

You can find these products local health food store, natural pharmacy or online. Simply mix them in a shaker cup with as much water as you like (I prefer less water). It also is best consumed 20 to 30 minutes before a workout:

  • Creatine: Did you know this is one of the only supplements proven to increase energy, muscle growth/recovery, and brain power? Yes, its’ true – it is not just for muscle-bound body builders anymore because almost everyone can take it for mental function, energy, and preserving muscle mass. Most vegans and vegetarians will be deficient in this essential nutrient. It is also excellent for the brain and concussion victims. Take 5 grams – about 1 tsp. per day and make sure its pure and simple creatine with no added sugars or caffeine. The formula I take  is clean with some extra benefits, such as glutamine and amino acids that aid in muscle recovery, and it is called Creatine, BCAA and Antioxidants.
  • Marine Collagen (hydrolyzed and with Vitamin C): As we age, our body’s ability to produce new collagen declines and existing collagen begins to break down. The loss of collagen effects skin, joints, and bones. The decreased collagen may also lead to increased digestive problems, weakened immune system, and increased risk of chronic illness. A recent article in the Globe and Mail turned me on to collagen’s benefits for tendons, bones, ligaments, and repair after exercise as the scientists gave 15 grams to the athletes (so you will need to take about one and a half tablespoons). The researchers saw great improvements in the 15-gram dose. By the way, 5 – 10 grams didn’t do the trick – it must be 15g or more. Since then, I have gone on to find these additional benefits of marine collagen: it builds bone strength, boosts thyroid, improves skin, hair, and nails – and even wrinkles, stabilizes blood sugar, boost the mood hormone and brain function, reduces inflammation, heals inflammation and immunity within the gut and helps with joint pain.
  • Whey Protein Isolate or a Blend of Isolate and Concentrate: Isolate is lactose-free and the best for fat loss and for replenishing muscles post-workout. A whey isolate and concentrate blend supports muscle growth. Whey has immune-enhancing, metabolic, and benefits as well. Add one  to two scoops (at least 20 to 30 grams for women; and 30 to 40 grams for most men) in your cup. If you cannot tolerate whey or prefer a plant-based option, look for a blend of pea and rice or an organic non-GMO fermented soy protein as your complete protein sources.  

Shake, drink and devour all these wonderful metabolic, energy, and body benefits from the one simple concoction of these three supplements. I am rarely sore after workouts, and I find the combo of this ingredients makes me feel energized and focused all morning.

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