All About Protein for an Active Lifestyle

Ever wondered how much protein is enough? What types? And when? Well today we’ll *whey* into this subject! 

As mentioned in our first  Sports Nutrition Article, protein is important for our health, especially for physical activity. Research is now suggesting that athletes and active individuals need more protein than what most individuals need [1].

 Let’s look at why and what happens to the proteins we eat:

This last scenario is especially concerning for athletes and active individuals since they’re consistently working out and burning calories (energy). In other words, if we’re active but don’t have enough calories or protein, our muscles might become a source of fuel; i.e. our bodies would lose protein and not have enough to build and repair muscle.

So How Much Protein is Enough?

For best health and performance, the amount of protein should meet your specific needs. It depends on many factors: the type of exercise (intensity, duration), your weight, calorie intake, goals, age, etc. Generally the literature suggests between 1.2 – 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight a day [3]. This range is very broad; the higher end may be better suited for athletes training for specialized sports, while the lower end may be for individuals who are recreationally active. Talk to a Registered Dietitian (RD) to find out what your specific protein needs are.

*Note: It’s important to have enough calories especially from carbohydrates, so protein is spared from being used as fuel and can be used to build other proteins (ex. muscle) [1][4]. You can think of it like this: have protein to build and repair muscles, and carbohydrates to fuel.

Protein Timing

We know it’s important to have enough protein, but recent research shows that timing may matter just as much. 

After we exercise, our body produces proteins to repair and rebuild damaged muscle – for 24 hours after exercise. This is when our bodies are more sensitive to the protein we eat [5]. They trigger and supply building blocks to make muscle and proteins [6][7].

So When Should I Have Protein?

The key to having a good supply of protein for your body is to have moderate amounts of high-quality protein spread throughout the day and after your workout. More specifically, research recommends to:

  • Have ~ 15-25g(or 0.3g per kg of body weight) immediately after or within 2 hours of exercise to best repair and build muscle § [3]. 

Examples: 2 oz grilled chicken breast, 4 scrambled egg whites, 3 oz cooked salmon/tuna, 1 cup cooked beans, ¾ cup Greek yogurt, ¾ cup cottage cheese, 2 tbsp peanut butter 

  • Spread protein intake throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) in modest amounts in meals and snacks – since our bodies don’t store protein

Does More Protein = More Gains?

No! Extra protein will not help you build more muscle! Current research has tested this and showed that doses of more than 40g after exercise do not enhance muscle growth in most people. There’s only so much your body can use in that time!

Having excessive protein may also lower kidney function along with other negative health effects, so it’s important not to overdo it [1]!

Note: This amount is generally for the typical athlete but depends on your weight. Check with an RD.

§Note: Having enough energy (calories) is important to support muscles. If you do not (ex. if your goal is weight loss), then you may need more protein to support muscle growth and maintenance. This changes from person to person. Talk to an RD to find out what your needs are.

Which Protein Sources are the Highest Quality?

We’ve all heard the saying, “quality over quantity”. Well the same applies to the protein we choose to eat. If you’re active, consider high quality proteins because they’re easily used by muscles to promote muscle growth, repair and maintenance [1][3]. 

High-quality proteins are:

✔ Easily digested
✔ Provide essential amino acids that the body can’t make
(i.e. must come from food)

Examples of high-quality proteins:
  • Animal sources: dairy products, egg whites, lean beef, poultry, and fish
  • Plant sources: soy, quinoa, pea, beans, lentils, and peanuts
  • Isolated proteins: whey, casein, egg white, and soy [1]

Note: Choose protein from food sources over supplements as they provide a natural source of protein with other nutrients to support an active lifestyle.

But there’s one more player involved, and that’s leucine – probably one of the most important amino acids for improving muscle growth after intense exercise [1]. Proteins rich in leucine (such as whey, found in milk), have been shown to be the most effective in improving muscle growth with resistance exercise [1][6][8]. Studies point to this branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) as the trigger for the machinery responsible for making more muscle proteins [6].  

The figure explains the theory that as leucine levels rise in the blood quickly, following exercise, it reaches a certain point where it triggers the production of muscle proteins more than a lower dose would. In other words, the theory is that protein with a high amount of leucine that digests quickly, will boost the amount of muscle proteins made following exercise. 

Foods Richest in leucine:
  • Animal sources: dairy products (ex. milk, yogurt, cottage cheese), egg whites, lean beef, poultry, and fish
  • Plant sources: soybeans, beans (ex. edamame), lentils, and peanuts

Note: there is little benefit of consuming a leucine supplement, rather high-quality proteins that contain leucine and other essential amino acids should be preferred for muscle growth promotion [6].

Therefore, athletes and active individuals should consider high-quality proteins that are:

  1. Leucine-rich
  2. Rapidly digested
  3. Rich in other essential amino acids

To Summarise:

  • Athletes and active individuals require more protein, which depends on many factors
  • An RD can help determine what your specific protein needs are
  • Consider high quality proteins, rich in leucine and essential amino acids that digest rapidly  to promote muscle growth, repair and maintenance
  • Spread protein intake throughout the day (every 3-5 hours) in modest amounts in meals and snacks
  • Have ~15-25g (or 0.3g per kg of body weight) of high-quality protein immediately after or within 2 hours of exercise to maximize gains

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit ourContact Us page to book your first appointment.

Until next time,

Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD


References:

[1] Webb, D. (2014, June). Athletes and Protein Intake. Today’s Dietitian, 16(6), 22. Accessed from: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060114p22.shtml

[2] Unlock Food (2019). Introduction To Protein And High Protein Foods. Can be accessed from: https://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Protein/Introduction-To-Protein-And-High-Protein-Foods.aspx

[3] Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: nutrition and athletic performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528. Chicago

[4] Rodriguez, N. R., Vislocky, L. M., & Gaine, P. C. (2007). Dietary protein, endurance exercise, and human skeletal-muscle protein turnover. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 10(1), 40-45.

[5] Burd, N. A., West, D. W., Moore, D. R., Atherton, P. J., Staples, A. W., Prior, T., … & Phillips, S. M. (2011). Enhanced amino acid sensitivity of myofibrillar protein synthesis persists for up to 24 h after resistance exercise in young men. The Journal of nutrition, 141(4), 568-573.

[6] Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.

[7] Phillips, S. M. (2012). Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes. British Journal of Nutrition, 108(S2), S158-S167.

[8] Pennings, B., Boirie, Y., Senden, J. M., Gijsen, A. P., Kuipers, H., & van Loon, L. J. (2011). Whey protein stimulates postprandial muscle protein accretion more effectively than do casein and casein hydrolysate in older men. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(5), 997-1005.

Will Fluoridated Water Affect my Child’s IQ?

To know what fluoride is and why our water is fluoridated, check out our last Fact Friday post here. Today’s post reviews the current research on whether drinking fluoridated water will affect a child’s IQ.

A recent Canadian study looked at the association between consumption of fluoride by pregnant women and their child’s IQ. From 601 mother-child pairs in six cities, they looked at how much fluoride the mothers consumed, how much was in their urine, and then tested the child’s IQ at age three [1]. To simplify, what they found was a slight decrease in IQ when the mother’s urine had a bit more fluoride a. This was only the case for boys, not girls. However the child’s IQ (regardless of sex) slightly decreased when the mother’s daily fluoride intake was higher b.   

So does this mean I should avoid fluoride while pregnant?

In the realm of research, we investigate to add to our knowledge. While this study presents that there is a potential association, we cannot prove that it is definitely true or that there is a risk with just one study. 

This study has some limitations: 

  1. Some key measurements were off – fluoride intake did not match urinary fluoride, i.e. we don’t know exactly how much fluoride the mothers were consuming to make a conclusion. 
  2. The decrease in IQ only affected the boys it is very unclear why fluoride consumption would not affect girl’s IQ as it did in the boys, although similar studies did not find a difference in sex as they did. 
  3. Previous studies had fluoride levels way above acceptable limits in Canada – these studies took place in regions where water fluoride concentrations are well above the guideline (1.5mg/L) [2]c.  
  4. High fluoride in 3 urine samples ≠ exposure to baby three urinary samples from the mother do not reflect the overall exposure of fluoride to the fetus over the whole pregnancy. 
  5. They did not take into account different ways of intaking fluoride: As mentioned, fluoride is present in toothpaste, mouthwash, some bottled water, and food i.e. measurements were off. 

Conclusion:

Though we can’t make conclusions based on one study, we can continually review what level of fluoridation is best for us. Based on years of research, we know that drinking optimally fluoridated tap water in Canada is safe, improves oral health and is better for the environment than bottled water!

a Results: With an increase of 1mg/L of maternal urinary fluoride they found an associated decrease of 4.49 points in their child’s IQ, but only when the child was a boy, and not in girls.

b When mother’s daily fluoride intake increased by 1 mg, they found an associated decrease of 3.66 points in their child’s IQ (regardless of sex).

c The researchers try to back up their results by quoting studies that have observed a similar association. But these studies took place in regions where water fluoride concentrations are well above the guideline of 1.5mg/L (the highest acceptable amount in Canada), while the study conducted in Mexico did not report a concrete fluoride value at all [3]. 

Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualised nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first appointment.

Until next time,

Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD


References:

[1] Green R, Lanphear B, Hornung R, et al. Association Between Maternal Fluoride Exposure During Pregnancy and IQ Scores in Offspring in Canada. JAMA Pediatr. Published online August 19, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.1729.

[2] Health Canada (2017). Fluoride and Oral Health. [online] Available at: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/environment/fluorides-human-health.html

[3] Bashash, M., Thomas, D., Hu, H., Angeles Martinez-Mier, E., Sanchez, B. N., Basu, N., … & Liu, Y. (2017). Prenatal fluoride exposure and cognitive outcomes in children at 4 and 6–12 years of age in Mexico. Environmental health perspectives, 125(9), 097017.

What’s the Scoop on Collagen Powder?

Your skin covers your whole body and is a protective barrier from all sorts of environmental dangers [1]. Part of what makes your skin is a type of protein called collagen.

Collagen is a protein found in our skin, bones, joints, and other tissues to help maintain strength, structure, or elasticity [1]. There are different types of collagen:

  • Type I is found mostly in skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Type II found in cartilage and skin as well [2]. When our skin ages, it’s because the collagen in it is deteriorating. Type I is found mostly in skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Type III is typically found with Type I and is also a component of connective tissue [2].

I keep hearing about different types of collagen supplements. How are they different?  

The collagen supplements you may see in health food stores come from three major sources – chicken, bovine (from cows), and marine (from fish). Since cow and marine collagen are usually Type I, it is often recommended by professionals for healthier skin. Chicken collagen, which is usually Type II, has gotten attention in recent years for its rumoured role in joint health. 

Is it true that collagen levels decrease naturally over time?

Yes! As we age, your body breaks down collagen at a faster rate in your skin, bones, and joints. Here are a few signs you can begin to notice with time [3][4]:

  • Wrinkles on your skin
  • Aching muscles
  • Issues with your gut
  • Poor wound healing

I’ve noticed some of these things! Will collagen powder help me?

So you’ve noticed some wrinkles and are considering collagen supplements. The thing is, though, that consuming collagen supplements does not necessarily mean it will go straight to your skin (or joints) and make them healthier or stronger.

Let’s look at what happens in our body when we consume collagen supplements [5]:

As shown above, your body will decide where and how to use the amino acids broken down from your collagen powder supplement.

But what does the research say?

Good, unbiased research articles that show clear benefits to taking collagen supplements are few and far between. While waiting for more conclusive evidence to come through, it is important to remember that our bodies are amazing and actually make collagen naturally anyways! By consuming a balanced diet with enough protein and making sure you aren’t missing out on important vitamins and minerals, you will be able to give your body the tools to make the collagen you need.

So what’s needed to make collagen? 

Your body needs protein, vitamin C, and trace minerals like zinc, sulfur, and copper to make collagen. Let’s explore each one:

  • Vitamin C and other antioxidants not only help with making collagen but also protect it [5] [6]. It can be found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli. 
  • Zinc assists in the process of making collagen and also comes in handy with wound healing [6]. It is mostly found in meat, whole grains, pulses, and seafood, so consider foods like bran cereal, pumpkin seeds, baked beans, organ meats, and even oysters for some natural sources of this important mineral.
  • Sulfur as part of glutathione prevents the breakdown of collagen in your body [7]. It can mostly be found in protein foods and things like onion and garlic. If you’ve ever wondered what makes these foods taste and smell the way they do, sulfur is your answer!
  • Copper is a major player in building collagen. It can be found in organ meats and seafood such as lobster and oysters [8]. For those hoping to avoid animal products, sesame seeds contain some copper as well. Vitamin C and other antioxidants not only help with making collagen but also protect it. It can be found in fruits and vegetables like oranges, bell peppers, strawberries, and broccoli. 
In conclusion…

Collagen production is actually quite simple: by eating a well balanced diet and a variety of healthy foods, you can ensure that you’ll get all the nutrients your body needs naturally. And most of all, you won’t have to spend money on supplements 😉

Until next time,

Huda Amareh, MAHN, RD & Almas-Sadaf Shaikh, PMDip, RD

*Please be aware that these are general guidelines. Nutrition and intake varies by age, sex, height, activity, being pregnant or breastfeeding, and medical conditions. For more information or to sit with one of our dietitians for an individualized nutrition counselling session, please contact us at amananutrition@gmail.com or visit our Contact Us page to book your first appointment.

References:

[1] Vollmer, D., West, V., & Lephart, E. (2018). Enhancing skin health: By oral administration of natural compounds and minerals with implications to the dermal microbiome. International journal of molecular sciences19(10), 3059.

[2] Ricard-Blum, S. (2011). The collagen family. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, 3(1), a004978.

[3] Avila Rodriguez, M. I., Rodriguez Barroso, L. G., & Sánchez, M. L. (2018). Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of cosmetic dermatology, 17(1), 20-26.

[4] Rangaraj, A., Harding, K., & Leaper, D. (2011). Role of collagen in wound management. Wounds uk, 7(2), 54-63.

[5] Murad, S., Grove, D., Lindberg, K. A., Reynolds, G., Sivarajah, A., & Pinnell, S. R. (1981). Regulation of collagen synthesis by ascorbic acid. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 78(5), 2879-2882.

[6] Bishop, A., Witts, S., & Martin, T. (2018). The role of nutrition in successful wound healing. Journal of Community Nursing, 32(4).

[7] Liu, R. M., Liu, Y., Forman, H. J., Olman, M., & Tarpey, M. M. (2004). Glutathione regulates transforming growth factor-β-stimulated collagen production in fibroblasts. American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 286(1), L121-L128.

[8] Harris, E. D., Rayton, J. K., Balthrop, J. E., DiSilvestro, R. A., & Garcia-de-Quevedo, M. (1980). Copper and the synthesis of elastin and collagen. In Ciba Foundation Symposium (Vol. 79, pp. 163-182).