How much protein do you really need?

Hello readers and friends!

It has been over a year since my last post and I have MISSED you. Blogging for the medical practice that I work for and other business and creative projects has really sapped my writing-time, but I am back! At least, I am going to try. :)

Today, I want to give a quick summary on how much protein is appropriate for an individual, as this is something that varies based on genetics, height and weight, body composition, goals, and activity level. After reading many studies, it is clear that while we do not know the exact amount or protein appropriate for everyone, the RDA underestimates our needs. The RDA says .8 grams per KILOGRAM of bodyweight is fine, but this quantity leads to negative nitrogen balance in multiple studies. Negative nitrogen balance means that the body is losing more nitrogen than gaining, aka losing muscle mass, which is rich in nitrogen-containing amino acids.

Assuming a person is does not have any confounding medical conditions (like kidney failure), here are the recommendations that the literature points to as the current best guess:

People engaging in strength training:  1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kg bodyweight daily. Note: It is important to get this amount even on days when you are not training, as those are the days that muscular repair is occurring.

People engaging in endurance training: 1.2 – 1.6 grams per kg bodyweight daily.

Non-exercising maintenance: 1.2 grams per kg bodyweight daily. For those who are inactive or taking an extended break from exercise.

Calories and protein have interesting relationship. You may be able to ‘get away with’ eating less protein if you eat more calories, and conversely, eating more protein at a lower calorie intake may spare muscle while losing weight. So, the lower you are on these ranges for protein, the more important overall calorie and macronutrient intake is.

How determine what these ranges mean for you: Take your weight in pounds and convert it to kilograms (multiply times 0.453). Then, multiply that number by the  low- and high-end factors to see what your daily range is.

Before weight training and interval training, it is best to get a small portion of carbohydrate in at least an hour beforehand. This will provide glycogen/glucose substrate for a better workout, as these more intense workouts tend to burn more glycogen than fat during the exercise session itself (and more fat in the hours following).

As far as protein timing, protein before a work out is fine, as it will still be digested during and after the workout. The key is to get enough protein each day, regardless of timing. However, there is some minor benefit to getting protein in within the 30 minute window after a workout. If you have muscle gain goals, having a protein shake (or protein rich meal) right after weight training could be beneficial. Protein powders are processed and are utilized more quickly than whole foods, so they are best used during or after workouts rather than before. Studies on supplements are pretty inconclusive or unconvincing, so they probably are not needed. If you really want to, branched chain amino acids have the most science to justify their use for muscular repair and reduced soreness.

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Feed the lifts!!!! 

What you don’t know about personal trainers

I am no longer personal training, but I did put in about 5 months at a large commercial gym chain that most everyone has heard of. I went in excited to help people get stronger and fitter and ended up looking forward to leaving the job, as it wasn’t what I had expected. At all.

1. The certification matters.

When you think of a personal trainer, you probably picture a hyper-fit burly dude whose knowledge does not extend much past the perfect ratio of eccentric to concentric motion during a bicep curl for max muscle gainzz. While there may be a few of those out there, most personal trainers are very intelligent and driven people. Most gyms will not hire you without a certification, and some are much better than others. NASM Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) is the best certification and it is not easy to attain. With a BS in biochemistry under my belt, I thought the exam would be a cinch. It was fine, but I certainly had to put in a good amount of studying for it. The level of biochemistry, physiology, and anatomy is surprising – and necessary for the makings of a good personal trainer. There are definitely some good trainers out there without that cert, but if I was going to hire a trainer, I would make sure they had the NASM CPT. If you have a solid personal trainer, there will be a lot of science behind their programming for you.

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2. They are under tremendous sales pressure.

I am not a salesman. I like science and development. Pathways, nutrition, and randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover studies make my heart sing. I had no idea that personal trainers had to meet monthly minimums in multiple categories. 500$ a month in supplements, 3,000$ in personal training, and 5 new clients per month or you don’t get your commission. In order to meet these numbers, trainers often bump down the pricing of their training, which means they get paid less for each session. If you are paying 100$ per session, they are only seeing about 20 or 25$ of that. If they lower their price to 80$ a session, a “special deal for you” of course, they are getting even less. And it is not just the personal trainers that are under pressure. The membership team has minimums they need to make by the end of each month too, and the chain manager doesn’t get his bonus if everyone beneath him doesn’t meet their quotas, so he or she is on everyone all the time. If you want to get the lowest price possible for your gym membership, go at the end the month. If you want to take full advantage of the system, you can probably try the gym for free for up to a week during the month and sign up at the end for the lowest price. You will also likely be offered a free personal training session, which you could utilize. Having been on the other side though, if you know for certain you aren’t going to buy a package, it would be kind of you to not use that time with a trainer. They won’t be paid for it and they could use that time training a paying customer or trying to find new clientele.

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3. A good training program may seem easy at first.

Everyone has muscle imbalances and asymmetries that need to be corrected before going hard and heavy. A responsible trainer will identify these weak spots and have their client begin their training program with a stabilization phase. This phase may be short or long, depending on how out of whack the body is and is necessary to correct the body’s alignment and bring it to a state that able to perform exercises with proper, safe form. The stabilization phase is light and repetitive and may not seem like it is doing much. It is, and it’s setting the foundation for a safe and maximally beneficial program to follow. You will never reach your max strength potential if you do not first achieve a base level of stability, flexibility, and muscular balance.

4. The best trainer in the world cannot make up for a shitty diet.

It is okay to not work out and eat tons of sugar and processed foods, just like it is technically okay to harm your own body in every other way. However, if you choose do these things, take responsibility for your actions. I think it is wrong that the government and media push false information about nutrition and health to the public and I want to help make the truth widely known so that each and every person can make informed decisions about their lifestyle. However, once a person has done their homework and knows the full story, whatever they choose to do or not do is fine with me. If you are not meeting your weight loss goals and are working out every single day with your trainer while eating cereal, sandwiches, candy, soda, and other crap – don’t blame the trainer. Your weight and the way your body looks is majorly a function of what you put in your mouth. Working out can alter what your body does with the food that you eat, but that has its limits. (In addition, of course, to the awesome health, mental, physical, and emotional benefits of exercise!)

5. I truly think that everyone can benefit from at least a couple sessions with a solid personal trainer.

Whether you are a seasoned lifter or fitness newb, spending some time with a personal trainer can help you. It is incredibly important to have proper form when exercising, and most people do not. Personal trainers can help you break through strength plateaus, lose weight, learn proper technique, and be there to support you and your goals. They want you to succeed! I know that personal training is expensive for many people, so if you want to get the most out of your 55 minute session, warm up and stretch before you meet with the trainer! These things are required before a safe session, so if you don’t want to allocate paid time to them, be sure to come early and gitterdone!

If you have any questions – leave a comment! :)

Aside

I read the awesome article Bariatric Medicine: Seven Exciting Developments” by Sean Bourke MD on a flight from NYC to San Francisco last weekend. I identified with it enough feel compelled to summarize my favorite points for you all. Dr. Bourke is a bariatric doctor, meaning he works with those that are overweight or obese (and thus often times diabetic).

1. “Not all calories are created equal” is finally becoming accepted and substantiated.

Everyone differs in their level of tolerance for carbohydrates. Some people need more, while others need less. Some people need very little, whether it is for life or for the short term to treat a disease. Eating carbs above an appropriate level for your genetics, environment, and activity can lead to fat gain (adiposity), fat making you sick (adiposopathy), or both. In the last 40 years, diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed. What has been the major change in dietary habits? More carbs. As Dr. Bourke put it, “Carbohydrates, not [dietary] fat, may well represent our greatest metabolic and cardiovascular health risk contributing to obesity.” Because humans cannot consume more than 30-40% of their calories from protein, those that must eat a very low carbohydrate diet must make up the difference with fat intake. These people, namely those who have type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome, would do best with a well-designed low carb diet including particular fats while avoiding others.

Fats to emphasize: Heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats from avocados, nuts, olive oil. Heart neutral saturated fats from coconut and grass fed meats. Omega-3 rich fats from fish like salmon and tuna.

Fats to avoid: Omega-6 heavy fats found in vegetable, corn, and soy oils. All trans-fats, always, no matter what, because I said so.

In cool news, there is a test currently being developed to pinpoint an individual’s carbohydrate tolerance, so that exact recommendations can be given in the future!

2. Blood work is becoming more meaningful.

We now know and understand that heart health is more than just a cholesterol level. Most people are aware that HDL is good and LDL is bad. But now we can dig even deeper. LDL is also divided into subsets based on particle size. Some LDL’s are large and fluffy in our blood and others are hard and dense. The hard dense ones make you more likely to get a clogged artery and have a heart attack. The large fluffy ones are more likely to bounce of the walls of your arteries and not create a blockage.

And guess what alters our HDL and LDL levels, as well as affecting the LDL size….

Carbohydrate intake.

White flours and sugar increase LDL, particularly the small, hard LDL. Luckily, there is now testing available to determine what an individual’s levels of the various sizes of LDL are. Lipid fractionation yields blood results that can help doctor’s make more personalized recommendations for diet and lifestyle habits of their patients.

3. Ketogenic diets may provide antioxidant protection to the body.

Ketogenic diets are not for everyone and should not be confused with keto-acidosis, which necessitates higher levels of ketones in the blood. A ketogenic diet involves eating a low enough quantity of carbohydrates daily to force the body to produce ketones to burn for energy. A recent study by Shimazu et al found that a ketogenic diet may produce epigenetic changes to our DNA that prevent oxidative stress and free radical formation. This in turn may slow aging and help prevent diseases like coronary artery disease and Alzheimers.

4. For many patients, exercise is not the best way to lose weight.

Before interpreting that as a go ahead to forgo cardiovascular or muscular training, let me first say that exercise is extremely important for a plethora of reasons, like increasing insulin sensitivity, bone density, heart health, stress reduction, and general sexiness. However, exercise is should not be your big guns for weight loss. What you eat is the key to losing weight and is the basis of your health (at least in my opinion). You cannot outrun a crappy diet.

5. “Nutrition is the linchpin on which the solution to obesity crisis must turn.”

80% of the 600,000 food listed in our food supply have added sugar. Each American eats an average of 156 pounds of sugar per year, up from only 5 pounds in the 18th century. The solution? Eat real food.

Not all calories are created equally, and any system that allows you to interchange a Twinkie for 1.5 apples is wrong.

Things I have learned these last 9 months in San Francisco… Part 1

Hi world. I have been gone so long, essentially since moving to San Francisco, and yet I have thought about this space every day. I have been learning and doing so much in the time that has passed. I can only hope I have grown a fraction as much as I feel I have learned.

I have had this post (and several others) as a draft for a month now  thinking I would add and improve. I am just going to publish it and do this piece by piece. Baby steps!

Paleo is not the end all cure all to all diseases. I had the idea that going strict paleo could put any Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis sufferer into remission, ameliorate most GI issues like reflux, pain, indigestion, and bloating, and get everyone’s blood work going in the right direction. What I have learned is that paleo can do these things for some people, but it cannot completely cure others. Some people do just fine with, or even need, a higher carbohydrate diet and a little rice isn’t going to kill them. Some people actually do benefit from reducing meat consumption if their lipid profile is resiliently out of whack.  However, as I have said before, this is not the majority and saturated fat is not the enemy. For me personally, paleo has rocked my blood work in the best of ways. I went from average-to-fairly-good HDL and LDL numbers to an HLD to LDL ratio that made my doctor say “You must be one of those genetic freaks.” Only I’m not – it has all been diet. Diet truly is the foundation of all health, in my opinion. However, some people can eat paleo till the cows come home and go out to pasture again and still suffer. Which brings me to my next learning.

Our health is just as much in our minds as in our bodies. We truly can think ourselves  sick or in pain. With that, we must be willing to think positively and channel being healthy and happy. No amount of medication, weight loss, supplements,  or exercise is going to make you “better” or “healthy” or “thin”  if you do not truly want to be. This may sound crazy, like why would anyone want to be sick or unhealthy, but it is true. People can take comfort in their conditions. The labels give them license, excuses to keep doing what they have always done. Similarly, people can take comfort in their extra weight and may not truly want to lose it, despite what they say. This is fear. It can be fear of rejection once the weight is gone, fear that they will won’t be happy at their new size, fear of failure.  Sometimes what looks like obesity, diabetes, chronic pain, etc, is really concealed self-hate, depression, anxiety, and addiction. To truly heal oneself, the whole picture must be assessed and treated from all sides. From the inside out, diet and exercise. From the mind to the body, through various types of therapy, meditation, yoga, stress reduction. From the surface of the problem down to the roots.

 

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the journey to summit Mt. Shasta – May 2013

Combating holiday feast weight gain

To avoid holiday weight gain, people often make the mistake of under-eating during the day to make up for the feasting of the evening. This is bad because

a) you will likely be extremely hungry and mow down on rich holiday fare

b) the food you will be eating more of is probably less healthy than what you would normally eat

and c) depending on your body type and what you eat that day, you may lose a bit of muscle mass…and gain fat mass.

If you are going to work out before a feast, lift weights. The insulin coursing through your veins after dinner will be anabolic and your muscles will get ample signals to grow.

If you are going to work out after a feast, lift weights or do cardio. Preferably sprints or intervals, but try not to vomit. Doing cardio before a big meal might end up just making you hungrier, but doing it after will stimulate the hormone epinephrine (which tells the body to release fat and glycogen  stores) to balance out the ridiculously high blood insulin and sugar levels.

After our Christmas dinner tonight (Mom wanted to have leftovers for the rest of our family visit), I did a workout that anyone could do – anywhere. Not gonna lie, I started to cramp up at the beginning, but it passed quickly… Worth it.

Download the free iPhone app Seconds and create a high intensity interval timer with 1 minute hard 1 minute easy, 15 rounds, for a total of 30 minutes of work.

The Shut Up and Do It Workout

  • 10 minute jog

Choose whichever of the following exercises you feel like at the moment and do it for 1 minute, repeat with different exercises until the 30 minutes are up. If you don’t have dumbbells or something heavy, just do the ones you can.

  • Jumping jacks
  • V-ups
  • Box jumps
  • Mountain climbers
  • Fire hydrant kicks
  • Squat jumps
  • Lunge jumps
  • Booty leg lifts
  • Lunges
  • Dumbbell swings
  • Bridges
  • Dumbbell snatches
  • Alternating crunch up-toe touches
  • Leg lifts
  • Pushups
  • Pull ups
  • Bicep curls
  • Tricep dips
  • Dumbbell flys
  • Jumping jacks
  • Butt kicks
  • Long jumps
  • Step ups (one leg at a time)

GO DO IT!

‘duck liver mousse?’ ‘omg so much vitamin A!’

It is almost Wednesday and that means I get to go home to Texas for a week! I’ve been looking forward to seeing family, high school friends, and eating Tex-Mex and BBQ for months now.

Today, though, was wonderful as well. I started the day off with the usual coffee and greek yogurt bowl and then headed to Crunch to workout.

This workout killed my glutes. If you want to build a booty, do this workout 2x a week and get at least a gram of protein per pound of goal weight per day.

  • Barbell squats, 5 sets 0f 15, 95#
  • Barbell lunges, 5 sets of 15 per leg, 65#
  • 100 incline situps
  • Barbell thrusts (where you do a bridge with a barbell laying over your hips), 4 sets of 15, 115#

For lunch, I made a quick, easy and paleo…

bacon butternut squash soup

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Recipe: serves 1

  • 2 cups roasted butternut squash
  • 1/2 tbsp grass fed butter
  • 1 slice bacon, crispy
  • 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth (or more if desired)
  • 1 tbsp yellow onion
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • shake of salt
  • shake of freshly ground pepper
  • optional: for protein, once the soup is prepared, feel free to throw in grass fed beef, chicken, turkey, or even eggs!
  • optional: 1-2 tbsp almond or peanut butter to top (I loved the soup with almond butter)

Directions – Combine the squash, butter, bacon, broth, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth. Heat and add your protein and/or nut butter topping and enjoy!

After lunch, two my my closest friends from UC Davis came to visit and we went for a walk along the coast.

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nutrition biochemistry nerdz 4 lyfe.

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golden gate bridge

Afterwards, we went to State Bird Provisions for dinner. It is New American fusion served dim sum style, so you order lots of smaller plates. Very cool! I didn’t take any photos of dinner, but it was insanely delicious. We got

  • almond biscuits with duck liver mousse
  • hamachi spring rolls with persimmon
  • garlic bread with burrata
  • seafood salsa with avocado cream
  • glazed pork ribs with chard and togarashi (my fave!)
  • red trout with hazel and mandarin brown butter

Gah, I am salivating just rehashing the details. I should go pack. Have a wonderful  Wednesday!

peanut butter banana bacon bars

Good morning everyone.  I hope your weekend was relaxing and rejuvenating. To everyone, but particularly those most closely effected, I wish you the strength to recover from the recent tragedy and to not let it forever color your vision of this earth. I don’t want to say much more, but it would have felt wrong to not acknowledge the loss.

This past week, I got some much needed girl time and nature. Some women from work and I had a wonderful ladies night mid-week that included Mexican food, a bit of red wine, chocolate, and good conversation. Slumber party style. Even though we are all very different and our ages range from 22-32, we get along really well. I have been missing my friends so much since moving to the city. It can be hard to make new friends when you work a lot and don’t know anyone! Friendships are kind of like spiderwebs, you connect with one, and they connect you to so many more – but you have to start somewhere! You can’ t just pop one out of your rump like a spider, as it turns out.

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Friday evening was the annual Crunch holiday party. Apparently, personal trainers know how to get down…especially when it is open bar. I didn’t take advantage though, I wanted to get home by midnight, so I could rise with the sun for a special trip to Berkeley to CROSSFIT!

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My friend Jameson and I drove to Berkeley on Saturday morning and did a WOD at his friend’s new business: GrassRoots CrossFit. The box was brand spankin’ new and really sleek. The workout was:

  • 12 deadlifts (225# men/155# women)
  • 9 toes through rings
  • 6 wall climbers (I am wretched at these)

We stayed after to work on some Olympic lifting and then went to eat at an awesome Peruvian place called Brasa.

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I ate  a full half of a chicken after that… But it was free range, so it’s okay. ;) I was spent for the rest of Saturday, but today my friend Zoe and I drove down to Santa Cruz to meet up with some friends for mountain biking and hiking to a gorgeous waterfall. I don’t have group photos yet but here is the waterfall:

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I brought one of my zillions of homemade bars with me to most of these gatherings. My current obsession are these

peanut butter bacon banana bars

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They aren’t technically paleo because peanuts are a bean and not a nut. (And stevia baking blend isn’t “real food,” but you know what I mean when I refer to baked goods as paleo: no grains, beans, or dairy.) However, they are delicious and high in protein and fiber and low in carbs. You could use any nut, and if you aren’t a fan of bananas, you can easily leave it out.

Recipe: Makes 8 bars – grain free, dairy free, high fiber, high protein, low carb

  • 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 3/4 cup NuNautrals stevia baking blend
  • 1/2 cup peanut flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • dash cinnamon
  • 3/4-1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • maple extract
  • 2 strips bacon, extra fat trimmed
  • peanuts, to garnish

Directions – Preheat the oven to 375. In a bowl, combine the coconut flour, stevia baking blend, peanut flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add the egg, egg white, and mashed banana, and mix well. Add the almond milk until the dough is sticky, but not pourable. If using, stir in the maple extract. Grease a pan with bacon grease or grass fed butter. Press the dough into the pan until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Trim the extra fat off the bacon and pan fry or microwave until crispy. (I place the strips on a plate with a paper towel over them and microwave for ~3 minutes.) Crumble the bacon into bits and stick into the dough. Press the peanuts into the dough. Bake for 14 minutes, or until cooked through.

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alway hits the spot!

Don’t forget to treat yourself right this week. You deserve to…

Breathe deeply.

Eat your veggies and proteins.

Get enough sleep.

Workout the way you most enjoy.

Do something frivolous – just for you.

Show love and be loved.