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Information on Protein
by Justin Leonard
UPDATED December 19, 2003
Written on January 7, 2001

You've heard of them before: egg protein, soy protein, whey protein, milk protein, etc. But which one is best? How does the body utilize protein? How much protein do we need? Ion-exchange, myopro, metamyosin, isolate, concentrate, microfiltration . . . What is this stuff? This article will answer the following questions and cover addition facts about protein.

Proteins are large molecules made from smaller units called amino acids. There are approximately twenty amino acids commonly found in both plant and animal proteins. There are eight amino acids that the body cannot make on its own which need to be obtained from the food we eat or via protein supplementation. They are leucine, isoleucine valine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and tryptophan.

The following are some of the best protein sources: beef, chicken, fish, protein powder, ham, veal, eggs, and milk.

There are several formulas and methods for figuring out how much protein you need per day. Dr. Fredrick Hatfield is the cofounder of the International Sports Sciences Association. According to the Hatfield Estimate for Determining Daily Protein Requirements, it is recommended to use the following formula:

Lean body weight (in pounds) x need factor = protein req.

Notice the "need factor" in the equation. Choose one of the following numeric values to plug into the formula:

.5 - no sports or training
.6 - jogger or light fitness training
.7 - sports participation or moderate training 3X per week
.8 - moderate daily weight training or aerobics
.9 - heavy weight training daily
1.0 - heavy weight training daily, plus sports or 2-day training

The best protein or best absorbed protein is whey (derived from milk). It has the highest biological value (BV). A BV is used to measure the amount of nitrogen absorbed by the body. BV ranges from 0 - 100. Egg protein is second best. Milk protein comes in third, with soy having one of the lowest protein BVs. Soy protein is derived from plants, which do not contain several of the amino acids that our bodies need. Although soy has one of the lowest protein BVs, studies suggest that it is of benefit to women.

Question: What about all of the fancy protein names? What do they mean?

Ion-exchange, isolate, concentrate, microfiltration are all filtering processes used to separate the highly digestible portion of protein. It's sort of like straining dirt and rock to get the gold.

Items such as metamyosin, myopro, or anything similar are nothing more than fancy names that mean "protein" or "processed protein." It's used for the sole purpose of marketing. Here's how it works: A supplement company will patent a special blend or specially processed protein. They will then get the media to hype the new type of protein or process method. This media leverage ultimately produces more money in the long run because consumers will look to make sure the protein they buy has the specific ingredient or that it was processed in a certain way.

"The best protein or best absorbed protein is whey."

- Justin Leonard, ISSA CFT

Question: Earlier, you mentioned eggs as a good source of protein... I usually make homemade protein shakes. Should I mix in a few raw eggs?

The answer is no. The body actually processes boiled or cooked eggs better. When eggs are boiled or cooked, the proteins in the eggs become denatured or transformed into a different shape. The denaturing of these proteins actually helps with absorption in the human body. It's also a good idea to cook the eggs to prevent getting salmonella.

Question: What should I look for in a protein supplement?

If you plan on supplementing your diet with protein, look for the following:

1. Consider 100% Whey Protein

Make sure it says "100%." Per Food and Drug Administration standards, if a product says "100%" that's all it can contain. You may have to pay a bit more for the quality, but it's worth it.

2. Choose Isolate, Ion-exchange, or Concentrate

Again, go with the best. Rarely will you find a protein on the shelf that wasn't filtered using at least one of these processes.

3. Check Serving Sizes

Protein powders come with a scoop. The size of this scoop varies depending on the product, so be sure to check to see how much you're getting on the dollar.

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