If you want to grow and maintain your muscle mass, you have to get enough protein in your system to allow that to happen. When it comes to nutrition, the bottom line is always “eat enough and you’ll be fine”, but this is even more stressed for protein because you can’t maintain a healthy body without the right amount of it. Protein is built out of amino acids, which means that any foods high in amino acids in it will also be high in protein. It’s practically the same thing!
To sustain itself, your system needs twenty different amino acids. These are divided into essential and non-essential amino acids, the difference between them being that your body will be able to create and utilize the non-essential ones as it sees fit. That doesn’t imply that you shouldn’t eat them, but it does say that you should mostly be looking to consume the essential ones.
There are nine essential amino acids which the body can’t produce, which means that you’re going to have to implement them through your food. You can do this by eating foods high in protein, such as animal based foods, which contain all of the amino acids. You can also obtain them from plant based foods, but these will always lack one or a few of the essential amino acids, making them the worse choice.
When it comes to your health, it doesn’t matter if you eat plant based or animal based foods – they both have equal health benefits. Of course they have their distinctive characteristics such as plant based sources having more fiber and animal based sources having more iron (especially red meat!), but when it comes to amino acids, they are pretty much equal. Nevertheless, essential or not, all amino acids are vital to the functioning of your system and you should strive to have them all in your diet.
Essential amino acids are leucine, isoleucine, histidine, methionine, phenylalanine, lysine, tryptophan, threonine and valine. Some of these are branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) – these are the valine, isoleucine and leucine.
If you want to eat food high in amino acids, you want to get some of the following ten foods.
They’re great for building muscle and if you’ve ever seen Rocky you know he downed some raw eggs to keep his strength up. As much as we don’t recommend doing this, you can also poach them, boil them, scramble them or throw them in a more complicated recipe. One single large egg has about six grams of protein – make sure to note how much you’re eating!
Beef has all of the essential amino acids and you can really use it for anything. It has a lot of iron as well, but depending on the place of the animal where it was cut from, it can have a lot of calories because of all of the fat. When it comes to beef, the rule is – the more white you see, the more fat it has. You are looking for the leaner cuts, with as little fat as possible – it’s still going to have enough fat, but it will also have a lot more protein.
It has a lot of amino acids, as well as selenium and niacin. Arguably the most popular food choice in the bodybuilding and fitness industries.
You can get it fresh or you can get it in a can which can help you get your protein intake right when you’re on the road.
Another fish, but this one has a lot more healthy fat content as well as a lot of protein.
Soybeans have a lot of protein in them but also have a lot of insoluble fiber, vitamins such as vitamin E and minerals such as potassium, zinc and iron.
It has a lot of healthy fats, but it also has a lot of protein. Just like the tuna, you can get it in a can or you can get it fresh and maybe grill it and throw it in a salad.
Lamb, especially grass-fed lamb has a lot of CLA, which is a healthy omega 6 fatty acid, but it also has selenium and zinc. Grill it, baste it, bake it, it’ll always be awesome.
Prawns have practically no fat, but they have a lot of protein. If you’re counting your calories and you want to have a protein addition in your meal, prawns will get the job done.
Scallops contain a lot of protein, but also they have omega 3 fatty acids as well as vitamin B12. They’re a great source of minerals such as magnesium and potassium which is why a lot of people enjoy them a lot – plus, they’re delicious!
If you’re just starting your diet now, you can use branch chain amino acids as a supplement which will help you keep your muscle loss to a minimum when you cut your calories. When you diet, your body will be in a catabolic state almost always. This means that it will be breaking down fat to use as energy, but it will also be breaking down some of your muscle tissue to compensate. You don’t want that, so to keep it to a minimum you will need to maintain a healthy metabolic strength which will make dieting a little bit less hard.
This is because when resting, fat will burn fewer calories than lean muscle tissue. Also, branch chain amino acids will help you boost your intensity, because when you train, your serotonin levels increase and more serotonin means you’re going to be more tired. Branch chain amino acids reduce the quantity of tryptophan that goes to your brain, which then lessens the amount of serotonin that your body produces, which means you won’t feel as tired. All in all, make sure that you’re eating the right amount of protein and you’ll be fine.