Protein Myths

Every serious MMA athlete knows that protein is an essential part of a fi ghter’s diet. The amino acids in protein are involved in building and maintaining strong bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Dedicated athletes are in need of more protein than the average couch potato. Endurance athletes that regularly weight train should aim for up to 77 grams of protein per pound of body weight [2]. Additionally, hydration is a vital part of processing a higher protein intake. Keep your body in peak condition by choosing the right amount of protein, and by weeding out nutrition fi ction that circulates through the gym.

MYTH #1: RAW EGGS ARE A GREAT PROTEIN SOURCE

Despite the lure of the Rocky training montage, raw eggs carry too much risk to be considered a smart protein choice. In addition to the risk of food poisoning, longterm ingestion of raw egg whites increases the risk of becoming defi cient in biotin, an important nutrient. Biotin can become bound to avidin, which is found in raw egg whites. Cooking eggs thoroughly will allow the body to benefi t from the protein found in eggs without the risks [1].

MYTH #2: ANIMAL PROTEIN IS ALWAYS BEST

While it’s true that animal protein like meat, milk, and eggs are complete protein sources and are a bit easier to digest than plant protein [2], it’s important to have a balance between these two. Animal protein is often rich in sulfur, which becomes sulfuric acid during digestion. Some studies have shown that diets mainly consisting of animal protein can cause a signifi cant increase in blood acidity because of all the sulfuric acid. In response, stored calcium in the bones leaks out into circulating blood to act as a buffer. Since strong, dense bones are great weapons in the ring, making sure to include plant protein will help to keep bones at their sturdiest. [3] Plant protein is also a great source of vitamins and fi ber.

MYTH #3: SOY IS THE BEST FORM OF PLANT PROTEIN

Even though many health food stores hail soy as the miracle food, it should not be the staple of anyone’s diet. Excessive soy protein intake can actually slow down protein digestion by interfering with important enzymes. Unfortunately, cooking soy does little to stop this. Soy milk and tofu are relatively unprocessed, so their effects on digestion are the most pronounced when consumed in bulk. Soy foods that have undergone more processing, like tempeh, are safer bets since the fermentation technique helps to reduce the compromising side effects.

Perhaps the most shocking way that soy interferes with the body is its hormonal interactions. Soy has the ability to halt production of the thyroid hormones that oversee many aspects of metabolism. Additionally, soy beans contain phytoestrogens, which mimic the human hormone estrogen.

Soy doesn’t need to be completely avoided, just eaten in moderation. It’s surprisingly easy to snack on soy without even knowing it. Breads, cereals, and protein bars are often fortifi ed with soy fl our. As a result, stick with whey protein powder instead of a soy-based brand. If a vegetarian or vegan athlete opts to use soy protein powder as a supplement, it would be a good idea to cut back on other soy meals throughout the day [3].

MYTH #4: PROTEIN IS THE MAJOR FUEL DURING WORKOUTS

The fuel your body chooses depends on your breathing rate. The technical term used to describe the ratio of carbon dioxide exhaled to the amount of oxygen consumed is referred to as the “respiration quotient.” A low breathing rate indicates that fat is burned to supply energy, a high breathing rate that accompanies intense cardiovascular exercise means that carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source. Protein use is in the middle. So when you’re gassed from working your ground and pound technique, you’re burning carbohydrates instead of protein [1].

MYTH #5: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHEN I EAT PROTEIN AS LONG AS I GET THE PROPER AMOUNT

Making the time to include high-quality protein as soon as possible after a workout will defi nitely pay off. This is exactly the time when the body needs the protein, since the post-exercise period is when repairs start to take place. As part of this repair process, existing bodily protein can be burned to help rebuild. By making the effort to give your body fresh protein to work with, muscles will be able to grow [4].

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