Protein is the long 4-block piece in Tetris. “WTF does that mean” you ask. Luckily, I have the rest of this blog to explain it to you. Let’s get the quick science-y crap out of the way first: Proteins are made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Amino acids (which have nitrogen in them) are molecules that exist in the human body. Your body can create 11 of those Amino acids naturally in its system (pat yourself on the back). However, there are nine others that your body can’t make (you slacker), so you need to get them through your diet.
Still awake? Good, now back to the videogame talk: think back to tetris: all the different shapes are different kinds of protein. Weeeeeeeeeeee! Some are the kinds that your body make, and some are the kinds that you get through your diet. Every time you clear a line, your score goes up and your muscles get rebuilt. When you work out, your muscles are broken down and over the next 48 hours they’re slowly rebuilt just a little bit stronger. Sure your body can rebuild them naturally (like slowly clearing one line after another in the game), but when you throw some protein from your diet in there, BAM! 4 line Tetris – big score, faster muscle recovery and growth! Certain proteins are higher quality (the straight Tetris pieces) while others are lower quality (think the squares – they clear lines, but they’re less efficient in the process). Let’s find out which pieces are which:
High Quality Protein (the long pieces) – these are complete proteins, and the most efficient
Eggs – now you know why Rock drank raw eggs – I wouldn’t recommend that though.
Fish – tuna especially…unfortunately I hate tuna.
Poultry – Chicken! Lots of chicken.
Meat – lean ground beef is a favorite of mine, great for burgers or in spaghetti sauce.
Dairy – those milk ads were onto something…
Lower quality proteins (square pieces) –
Grains – if you don’t know what grains are, then we have a lot to work to do.
Legumes – beans, lentils, lupins, peas, and peanuts
Vegetables – if it’s green, it’s probably good for you…unless it’s ecto-cooler. Remember that stuff?
Let’s talk about when you should be eating protein. Whether you’re trying to gain weight or lose weight, protein needs to be a major component of your daily diet. Like I said earlier, when you work out your muscles are broken down, and over the next 24-48 hours they’re rebuilt. Don’t waste your time working out unless you’re going to fill your body with high-quality protein immediately afterward, and then on a regular basis for the next 48 hours. Most people don’t realize this, but all of your gains and success in the gym comes when you’re NOT working out. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this until after spending 4 years in a gym unsuccessfully trying to put on muscle mass (I’m a jackass). Once I figured it out, I bulked right up.
Let’s use another analogy: if your body is a mason, you have to provide it with materials constantly throughout the day or it will run out of stuff to do and stop working. Try to spread that protein intake out evenly through the day by having some with each meal (breakfast especially – your body has been without food for 8-9 hours at that point). You should try to get at least 20-30% of your daily diet from protein. If you’re eating 1800 calories…that means you should be eating 90 grams of protein a day or more. For you skinny nerds looking to build muscle mass, you should be eating close to a gram of protein per pound of body weight, spread out evenly for every three hours you’re awake. Yeah, it’s a lot of protein, and a lot of eating, but that’s what needs to be done.
Look at that list of protein guys and gals, and memorize it. Learn to love the food there, because it will become a huge part of your diet, and an even bigger reason why you’ll be in shape. I know it’s tough to get that much protein in your diet all the time, which is where protein shakes and protein powders come in. I’ll be writing a blog soon on what protein supplements are legit and which ones are useless. For now, just try to stick with regular “whey protein” supplements that don’t have anything else in them except that. Mix with low-fat milk for a double protein boost!