We’ve gone through what protein is, and the importance of quality. What you’ve probably come away with: eat decent meat/animal products.
But this doesn’t work for everyone.
Some of you might be saying, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice and make life easier if I could actually consume dairy.” Whether this is all in our heads or intentional elimination, intolerances seem to run ramped amongst our population. But we know that eggs, Greek yogurt, and cheese can all enhance the protein in our daily intake significantly.
For those of you suffering from intolerances or stomach discomfort with certain foods, I’m right there with ya. I understand how frustrating it can be with the uncertainty of how your body is going to respond to certain foods. Or having to dissect the food label down to the last ingredient label on everything you pick up at the store. Or asking the waiter to leave out the cheese on your order and getting a strange look because, “Who doesn’t eat cheese?” Trust me. I’m one of those people who would if she could. But, we must work with what we’ve been given.
I would like to note that you should be getting tested for those suspected intolerances or allergies. You are not a doctor. Self-diagnosing can be dangerous and you could be limiting your diet for no reason. A lot of people will cut dairy when it’s all in their head, or intentionally because the latest post they saw on Facebook claimed that dairy makes you fat. The internet is also not your doctor. See a professional.
Prior to around 2014, I didn’t used to have issues with dairy products or whey protein. We (my former dietitian and I) determined that my stomach distress is likely linked to having been extremely low-calorie and restrictive in variety with my diet. It is not uncommon for the body to reject foods that have been cut out for an extended period, particularly when dairy is reintroduced. I have had quite the roundabout with figuring out how to hit my protein intake. And as an active female, it’s a bit on the higher end.
Before, it was easy because whey protein isolate could knock out big chunks of my intake for the day. I used to be able to down protein shakes and bars like the next guy. Even if I still could, I’m not as drawn to it now knowing what I know regarding ingredients. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those artificial sweeteners and thickeners had a lot to do with what has messed my stomach up in the first place.
This also made me realize how I was relying on it too much.
So, all things considered, what do I do? Simply eat meat. Chicken, fish, seafood. Shocker. It’s that simple. I know that protein is important in my diet (and limited protein powder options anyways), I budget a good amount towards this so that I can meet those requirements and not compromise for lower quality. I hear the argument quite a bit that “meat is too expensive.” If that’s an issue for you, I suggest relying on a combination of meat/seafood and plant proteins, and having a quality protein powder to supplement with. Canned beans, lentils, and fish can be fairly inexpensive (especially in bulk) and protein powders can be found on sites like Vitacost.com or Bodybuilding.com for much lower prices than retail.
Personally, I choose to spend less on protein powders. Not only are vegan powders extremely un-tasty (I’ve tried SEVERAL), but they can also have quite a bit of compromising ingredients like whey does. If you cannot stand drinking protein powders, eating meat, or whatever it may be – don’t do it. Food is primarily fuel—you should eat what your body needs. But that doesn’t mean you force down a steak or gritty shakes with a sour look on your face. Or maybe the food itself doesn’t align with your values/beliefs.
This brings me to vegan and/or plant-based eating.
It’s another thing to choose not to consume dairy or meat. This “diet” is on the rise and honestly, I can understand why. Who am I to tell someone not to eat more whole foods? That’s certainly not a terrible basis for your nutrition. I too am extremely skeptical of meat production in this country, which is why I stick to leaner cuts instead of red or processed meat, and buy organic and/or grass-fed. But please don’t use this method of eating to lose weight. Vegans and vegetarians make it a lifestyle for ethical reasons and/or health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.
Before this turns into an argument on animal rights or “meat does/doesn’t kill you” … how can people adequately meet protein needs without dairy or meat? Proteins from plants can be found in lentils, beans, tofu, hemp seeds, quinoa, hemp seeds, spirulina, nuts, nutritional yeast, etc. I don’t subscribe to this because while I love animals, I have personally seen the benefits of eating animal products and have read the research on this. As we discussed with protein types, plant proteins are lowest quality on the list. If you aren’t an athlete, this isn’t a huge issue. But for active individuals looking to sustain and build muscle, it has been shown that animal proteins are more effective. You would have to eat quite a lot of vegetables, quinoa, and beans for them to add up for those with high protein demands, but I’m not saying it doesn’t work, particularly for those with lower protein requirements. And if your stomach can handle all the fiber, more power to you. However, it is simply my opinion is that this kind of eating can reach excessive carb and fat levels (dependent on the individual) if you are not monitoring it closely.
Ultimately, how you get your protein and from where is your choice. For me I have found that listening to my own body and experimenting what works for me and my life has led to much more nutritional success and satisfaction than eating exactly how my friends do, this or that star athlete, or buying every protein supplement I see promoted on social media. Just like any decision in life, your plate might look a lot different from someone else’s.
By Kailan Kalina