Protein Taster

Protein shakeAthletes of any persuasion need to ensure there is adequate protein in their diet. Protein contains the raw material that muscles use to repair and grow. It is also a valuable fuel for muscles, providing them with energy and even helps maintain an optimal state of metabolism.

Foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and nuts, to name a few, are all protein dense. A varied diet rich in these foods will definitely help the retention and growth of muscle mass and increase strength. Eating six high protein meals a day at regular intervals is generally recommended. However, even then it may be difficult for an athlete to meet their needs from these whole foods alone.

That is where protein supplements come in.

Proteins are comprised of individual amino acids which are linked together to form chains called polypeptides. When protein enters the body and is digested it is broken down into its individual amino acids. They are then used as building blocks to create new proteins as necessary.

Of the 20 standard amino acids, 9 are known as “essential” because the body cannot synthesize them on its own. The only source for them is food, and all 9 of them are necessary for the synthesis of new proteins. Protein sources that contain all of the essential amino acids are referred to as complete proteins. Though complete proteins are the most desired, incomplete protein supplements have their place and can of course be combined with others to form a complete profile.

Essential Amino Acids

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

Non-essential Amino Acids

note: the designation “non-essential” does not mean the body does not need them – just that the body can synthesize them itself. Non-essential amino acids can become essential in certain circumstances, e.g. intense physical training.

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

From the above list of essential amino acids, three of them are known as branched chain amino acids. They are:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine

Named due to their physical structure which differs from the other amino acids, BCAAs have a large presence in skeletal muscle tissue; about 16% of its amino acid makeup give or take a few percent. BCAAs are therefore key to muscle protein synthesis.

BCAAs demonstrate another very important behaviour: they are metabolized differently to the other amino acids and can be oxidized directly in the muscle tissue during training to provide energy. They also improve carbohydrate availability and can spare muscles some of the detrimental protein breakdown brought on by exercise.

Using BCAAs as a supplement can only help increase muscle size and strength and of course provide much needed energy during a workout.

Quantity of Protein

An individual’s protein needs is dependant on a figurative sliding scale of activity level, diet and training objectives.

To give you a benchmark to go by, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of protein in the U.S is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. That’s about 65 grams of protein a day for someone weighing 180 pounds.

Of course, the RDA was not calculated with athletic individuals in mind. Strength and weight lifting athletes may require up to as much as 2 grams per kilogram body weight if they are in an intense bulking phase. Any amount in excess of that may just be a waste of protein and numbers equal to or higher than around 3 grams per kg bodyweight could be on the verge of impairing kidney function.

Carbohydrate Supplementation Before, During and After Exercise

BEFORE Exercise

Supplementing with carbohydrates before exercise will have its greatest effect and is really only needed if muscle glycogen stores are low as you begin exercising. Pre-exercise supplementation may not even be necessary if the workout is to last less than around 30 minutes. Similarly, if you have eaten carb rich food leading up to exercise, you may not need to supplement at this point.

Remember: supplementing is to add to our diet when that alone is insufficient. Try not to start replacing food with supplements.

A half-hour to an hour before training, consume around 45 grams of carbohydrates (more like 30 grams for someone weighing 160 lbs and more like 60 grams for someone weighing 230 lbs).

It appears that high, moderate or low glycemic index sugars are fine as long as the levels remain stable. Once you have started on high GI carbs you have to keep consuming them to avoid the infamous “crash” during your workout. Therefore, it is our opinion that moderate GI carbs are more suitable for this initial pre-workout phase.

DURING Exercise

Carbs During ExerciseDepending on the length of your workout, you may need to supplement as you go. A high intensity session, or one lasting over an hour may not be fuelled sufficiently by the pre-workout carbs you took. Furthermore, if you opted to go without a pre-workout supplement then it might be more important to get some in as you go. Eating food is not impossible during exercise but a carbohydrate drink is much more accessible, not to mention less messy!

This is where high-GI carbs are useful for fast replenishment of your glycogen stores. A drink containing maltodextrin should do fine here. Again somewhere either side of 45 grams per hour of exercise will work. Too much and you could get an upset stomach.

A little protein or branched chain amino acid powder in the same drink mix will go a long way to reducing your exercise induced catabolism as well. We say 5 grams of BCAAs or 10-15 grams whey protein isolate should do the trick.

AFTER Exercise

The post-workout window is critical for replenishing nutrients. If ever there were serious gains to be made from training, it’s in the recovery period.

During the first 30 minutes to an hour after a workout our bodies are primed for the replenishment of glycogen stores and it is absolutely key to get it right during this period of time to be able to bounce back fully the next day. If this window is missed, it will take much longer to recover completely enough to exercise at full potential again.

After exercise, the muscles are also ready to synthesize protein and the mechanisms for amino acid transport and nutrient partitioning (insulin sensitivity) are intensified. A combination of protein and carbohydrates will work synergistically to improve muscle repair, decrease catabolism (muscle breakdown) and replenish glycogen stores.

Obviously, specific needs will depend on the person but the below indicators might help when you have your scoops ready to fill your shaker cup. This is for within the 2 hours immediately after exercise.

Exercise Intensity | Low to med | Med to high | High | Bodybuilding
Protein (g)                      5-20            20-30        30-40        40-50
Carbs (g)                       30-40          40-60         60-80       80-100

NOTE: The above quantities of protein and carbohydrate supplements would ideally be consumed as soon after training as possible.





The Most Protein Rich Whole Foods – Vegan, Vegetarian and Animal Based

proteinHealthy eating is high on the agenda for those who want to equip their bodies with what’s needed to function optimally. Protein is an essential nutrient that is further classified according to the specific amino acids supplied by various foods. Animal proteins consist of all the essential amino acids, but you can still get the full set from vegetable protein sources as long as you consume a variety of foods containing the relevant amino acids.

In general, 46g of protein per day is recommended for adult women and 56g for men although this can be debated and may vary according to the metabolic requirements of an individual’s body and according to lifestyle.

Types of Amino acids

Amino acids are classified into three groups. Essential amino acids are the ones we have to consume in order to maintain our bodies. There are nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. In addition to these, there are the so-called ‘non-essential’ amino acids. These are amino acids that our bodies can synthesize for themselves if needed as well as the ‘conditional’ amino acids that you usually won’t need unless you’re ill or suffering from stress.

Protein rich foods to include in your diet

Vegetarian / Vegan foods

Because those of us who don’t eat animal products have to balance their plant based amino acid intake, we’ll list not only the protein-rich plant based foods, but also the amino acids they will supply.


This super-food will give you 26g of protein per 100g consumed. Two amino acids are lacking: methionine (essential) and cysteine (conditional), but if you consume lentils in the form of sprouts, this deficiency is remedied.

Black beans

This highly nutritious food offers you 8.86g of protein per 100g. It delivers 16 different Amino acids including all nine essential Amino acids.  However, the concentrations of lysine and methionine are a little on the low side- unless you want to eat black beans at every meal to get enough lysine. Adding grains like quinoa will help you to get enough methionine.

Kidney beans

Kidney beans will give you 9g of protein per 100g, but do be cautious regarding preparation as this type of bean is more toxic than others and requires cooking at high temperature for at least 30 minutes in order to destroy the toxin. The set of amino acids delivered is very similar to that of black beans.

Other beans with a similar profile

Small red beans, pinto beans, navy beans and black-eyed peas are among the most nutritious and protein-rich plant-based foods you can get. Beans offer still more nutritional benefits, not least a good dose of fibre – something that is lacking in the diets of most people in first world countries.


You’ll get 25g of protein per 100g of peanuts and this is made up of 14 Amino acids, but peanuts are low in the essential Amino acid methionine. Foods that are rich in methionine such as almonds and rice will give you the methionine you need.


Almonds will give you 21g of protein per 100g. Although they contain all the essential amino acids, the levels of three of these: lysine, methionine and cysteine are too low for almonds to be considered as a complete source of protein.


100 g of walnuts will give you 14.8g of protein. The only amino acid that is deficient is lysine. Eating grain-based proteins like quinoa will give you the lysine you need.


Oats do not contain the essential Amino acid tryptophan and the concentrations of lysine and phenylalanine are a bit on the low side. Adding beans or nuts to your diet will make provision for this. They deliver 2.4g of protein per 100g.


You’ll get 4g of protein per 100g of quinoa – pretty good for a grain and it also contains all the essential amino acids.

Brown rice

You’ll get all the essential amino acids in brown rice, although it’s a bit low on lysine. However, you’ll get less protein per 100g than what you’ll get from quinoa: 2.5g per 100 g.


This super-food contains a good balance of all the essential amino acids as well as a host of other nutritional benefits. You’ll get 33 g of protein per 100g consumed along with antioxidants and much more. It’s not always that easy to get hold of as a whole food, but there are also good Spirulina supplements available.


Popeye’s favourite supplies 3g of protein per 100g consumed raw and the balance of essential amino acids is complete, however, it does look a little bit puny when compared with spirulina.


Broccoli is often touted as a super-food and the figure for protein content (by no means the only nutrition it supplies) is 2.5g per 100 g (raw). It’s a fraction low on leucine, but that’s easy to make up for with a combination of other protein-rich foods.

Meat, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy

Let’s compare the above results with the traditional animal-based sources of protein. Animal proteins have the full range of essential amino acids.

Meat: Lean beef delivers 36g of protein per 100g.  Pork tenderloin will give you 32g of protein per 100g and lamb gives you a boost of 36g protein per 100g.

Fish: This depends on the type of fish. Cod is the richest, weighing in at a hefty 63g of protein per 100g.

Organic chicken breast: Be careful of intensively farmed chicken, it’s much lower in nutrients than it should be. Good chicken will give you 33g of protein per 100g.

Dairy: Regular milk gives you 3.3g of protein per 100g, cottage cheese offers 12g per 100g, parmesan cheese has a nifty 42g per 100g while ordinary gouda and cheddar weigh in at 24.9g protein per 100g.

Eggs:  you can’t forget eggs as a source of protein, but you might be surprised to find that 100g of egg only gives you 13g of protein.


If you’re a vegan, you have a slightly more complex balancing act in order to get the right balance of Amino acids, but if you combine nuts, pulses (beans) and grains, you can easily get all the protein you need. It’s a bit easier for those who eat meat, fish and dairy, but if you’re looking to eat in a healthy way, take cholesterol counts into account and remember that organic or free-range is better than intensively farmed items.