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Monitoring protein ingestion helpful

Published July 12. 2014 09:00AM

In this column, I will never tell you to adopt my eccentricities--even the ones that serve as the foundation of my health and fitness. From time to time, however, I will tell you about them, so you can learn from them and possibly modify them to suit your needs.

Especially after two well-publicized studies find an element of soundness to my strangeness.

My eccentricity up for discussion today is always knowing how many grams of protein I've ingested and when I've ingested them during the day. Except for a four-day stint in the hospital, I could tell you this info for every day of the last 28 years the length of time I've kept a legitimate calorie log.

Yes, I've weighed or measured virtually everything I've eaten virtually all of my adult life. Full disclosure: the handful of times I've dined at a restaurant, I've ordered two baked potatoes and steamed broccoli, "weighing" the spuds with my hands and the broccoli with my eyes.

And yes, I guess calling a situation like this an "eccentricity" is probably being very kind.

Anyway, I started logging my cals for the same reason you might: to estimate daily caloric intake to maintain a certain body weight. What I first learned, however, was that my daily counts were so ridiculously low that I needed to weigh the foods to generate accurate information.

A few months after I purchased a dietary scale and the calorie counter's bible Pennington and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used I noticed a correlation between my protein ingestion and body weight.

If I didn't consume enough cals to reach my normal daily intake, but was "low" in protein, I usually didn't register a reduction in weight. Yet if I ate more than what I needed to maintain my current body weight but I was "high" in protein, my weight usually didn't increase, either.

This led me to espousing a theory in my teachings and writings that not all calories are equal, that the type of calorie be it protein, fat, complex carb, or simple carb determined to a large extent how your body processed it. When I later discovered others far more qualified than I held the same belief, I knew that someone who found counting cals to be too time consuming could greatly benefit simply by knowing the amounts of protein in foods and estimating a total amount of protein consumed each day.

Now recent research performed at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has confirmed a crucial bit of information about protein ingestion: for it to have the most advantageous effect on your health, full servings of protein need to be ingested at each meal.

In the study that first appeared online in May on the Journal of Nutrition's website, healthy adult subjects followed one of two diets. The first skewed protein ingestion in the manner that's typical for most Americans.

A small amount, 10 grams, was consumed at breakfast; a bit more, 15 grams, was consumed at lunch; a large amount, 65 grams, was consumed at dinner.

A second group consumed the same amount of protein but in equal, 30-gram dosages.

Blood samples and muscle biopsies were taken from all the subjects. Researchers found that those consuming full servings of protein at each meal synthesized the protein at a rate 25 percent higher than those who ate the differing amounts.

In other words, those who ate full servings at each meal were more likely to add muscle if they were working out, maintain muscle if they were not, and minimize the reduction of muscle loss if they were middle-aged or older.

Maintaining muscle mass is seen as crucial for those attempting to lose weight.

As has been written in this column so many times before, muscle needs a fair amount of calories to maintain itself. Fat requires nearly none.

As a result, if you diet foolishly and lose equal amounts of muscle and fat, your chance of keeping off the weight lost virtually evaporates.

And for those interested in adding muscle mass, a study also published online in May, this time by the Journal of Applied Physiology, found that consuming a blend of soy and dairy proteins after weightlifting is better than consuming a protein shake containing only whey, the dominant protein source in protein powder supplements.

What muscle biopsies of the subjects found was that the protein blend kept the body in muscle-building mode longer. That's because the protein found in dairy products takes longer to break down into amino acids. In fact, muscle protein synthesis still occurred five hours after subjects consumed the blended mix that contained 50 percent dairy protein.

Yet when those same subjects consumed a shake solely made from whey, synthesis stopped sometime before the three-hour mark.

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