I know protein is good for me, but do I need a supplement? Whey, egg, casein and soy - which one protein is right for me and what does each one do?
Let's get the facts straight. Protein exists in virtually everything that moves and makes sounds, or in almost any animal. Primary dietary protein sources include fish, eggs, chicken, pork, beef, venison, buffalo and many other wild animals.
But which is the best source of protein? Ah, the million dollar question. As with any supplement, no protein powder will match what Mother Nature provides on earth. Natural proteins deliver more quality nutrients to your body than any protein powder ever could. Still, protein powders do have their place.
Scientist have come a long way in their development of protein supplements, including how they taste. Even recently, the best you could hope for with a protein shake was that you could choke it down in spite of its chalky taste and consistency. Now they actually taste good. Today there are plenty of protein powders and meal replacement shakes on the market. The key is finding the best quality products with the highest level of bioavailability.
Your primary source of protein should be meat, fish, poultry, eggs and other seafood. The protein source should be organic and grass-fed, free-range or wild. These furnish the body with the highest quality protein, provided that they are not cooked, or cooked very lightly, because heat denatures protein (kills proteins).
Other sources include commercial meats, farm-raised fish, and other genetically modified organisms like soy. Protein also can be found in other foods like nuts, legumes, some veggies and certain grains. However, your best sources of protein for packing on the muscle are organic meat and fish.
Protein shakes or meal replacements should be the last place you should look to fulfill your body's protein requirements. Although they can be beneficial, remember, nothing beats Mother Nature's proteins - not even a scientist-developed protein - for making you healthy and strong. Protein supplements are particularly useful for vegans, vegetarians and non-meat eaters, as well as for people with problems digesting heavy proteins or whose lifestyle prevents them from consuming proteins during the day.
A protein drink or meal-replacement shake is a great morning meal for those get-up-and-go types who only are short on time but understand how important breakfast is to losing fat and gaining muscle. Breakfast is the most important meal of any healthy diet, so a quick protein shake is a must for people who just don't have time to prepare a good breakfast.
The best protein powders or shakes are made from egg or whey. Use casein, protein from dairy products, sparingly. Avoid soy proteins, as these are the cheapest products you can buy and typically are genetically modified. Genetic modification means scientists have altered the organism from its natural state, a practice discouraged by most non-soy-paid scientists. Do your own independent research if you like, but always consider the source. Take with a grain of salt the comments of "specialists" who are paid by companies to say theirs is the best stuff for your body.
Remember, these are general protein recommendations. If there's something on this list that you are allergic to, that obviously would not be a good product for you. A food allergy test is recommended before you begin any supplementation program to determine if you have specific allergies and if there are particular substances your body has problems processing.
One last note: All the protein in the world won't help you if your body is deprived of other nutrients, such as essential vitamins and minerals. For optimal health, make sure you consume enough protein, eat organic and supplement with a great multivitamin.
Scott White is a certified personal trainer and nutritionist located in Scottsdale, Ariz. For more information about nutrition and fitness, reach Scott at personalpowertraining.net.