Understanding Protein – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly


Protein is a one of the macronutrients your body needs for good health. The other two macronutrients are carbohydrates and fat. Your body needs all three of these, along with vitamins and minerals, which are called micronutrients, to be healthy, as well as water.


Protein is made up of smaller compounds called amino acids, often called the building blocks of protein. Your body can’t make all of the amino acids it needs to build muscle and stay healthy, so you have to get some from your diet. Protein that contains all the amino acids your body can’t produce is called a complete protein, which mostly comes from animal sources like meat, milk and eggs.


Your body also uses protein from plants like nuts, legumes and grains, but they are not considered complete proteins and have to be combined together with other sources to provide a complete protein. Complete protein combinations would include eating a corn tortilla with beans, whole grain bread with peanut butter, or beans with brown rice. There is some debate as to whether or not these foods need to be eaten at the same meal.


The Benefits of Protein


Protein does many wonderful things in your body including:

  1. Building muscles
  2. Repairing tissue, including skin, bones and muscles
  3. Keeping your immune system strong
  4. Protein is needed for growing hair


You simply cannot stay strong, healthy and beautiful without good protein in your diet.


The Bad


  1. A diet high in protein can provide excess calories
  2. Protein from animal sources tend to be high in saturated fat
  3. A diet high in saturated fat can raise your cholesterol levels, which isn’t good for your heart.


The Ugly?

  1. A diet too high in protein can produce a lot of nitrogen waste
  2. Nitrogen waste is removed through the kidneys, so too much can stress your kidneys and cause some health problems


To calculate approximately how much protein a typical adult needs, a good rule of thumb is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) you weigh. To calculate your weight in kilograms, simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. So a 150-pound person weighs about 68 kg and needs approximately 54 grams of protein per day.


The Academy of Nutrition states that many factors affect the protein needs of athletes including age, gender, size, and fitness level and regimen. Some studies suggest athletes need 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of weight for endurance athletes, and 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram for strength trainers.


Is it safe to use sports supplements?


Most sports supplements, including protein powders and bars, are considered safe for consumption; however, these foods should not replace whole foods. An athlete needs a balanced diet that includes all the food groups, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, meats and proteins, and dairy or a dairy substitute to meet all their health needs.


How to choose the best meal replacement shakes


To choose the best protein shake powder, or meal replacement shakes for weight loss, look for one with a protein such as whey as the first ingredient. Avoid those that have sugar (or sugars) listed near the top of the ingredient list. One of the things that I like about Total Gym Fit Blast Shakes is that it’s fortified with 24 essential vitamins and minerals, a real plus when you need a quick and healthy meal on the run.


To quickly add additional protein to your diet, simply mix a big scoop of FIT BLAST Protein to your favorite smoothie recipe.


Here is a great recipe to try:

1 cup orange or carrot juice

½ cup plain or vanilla yogurt

2-4 Tbsp. of Total Gym FIT BLAST protein powder

½ cup frozen berries


Place all ingredients into a blender container. Cover and blend until smooth, adding additional juice for desired consistency.


For more great total gym protein shake recipes to add to your diet click here.

Jennifer M. Wood, MS, RD

Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN is registered dietitian nutritionist and successful food and nutrition consultant in Southeastern Minnesota. As the founder of a nation-wide gourmet food company, Wood wrote Jenny’s Country Kitchen…recipes for making homemade a little easier! (2003), which is a timeless collection of make-ahead, freeze-ahead and pantry-stocking recipes and time saving tips to help busy families put nutritious food on table. Wood graduated with a pre-med bachelors degree in nutritional science in 2001, completed her dietetic internship in 2007 and went on to complete a master’s degree in food and nutrition in 2011.

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