The great protein question

The great protein question

by Daniel Aaron

The first question I usually hear when someone finds out I choose a cruelty-free lifestyle, a vegetarian diet, is ‘how do you get your protein?’ It’s a good question. And whether one is choosing a raw, vegan that comes from animal source is very difficult for the body to utilize. The amount of energy (and enzymes) required to breakdown animal flesh and make it into energy for the human who consumes it is phenomenal. What about regular people (not body builders)? The truth is most people need far less protein than we think. An essential truth diet or a cooked one – or even if someone chooses to eat meat – being smart about our protein ingestion is helpful. If we’re into bodybuilding, the question is even more important. While most people’s protein needs are usually less than they think, anyone engaged in building muscle – and you’re either building it or losing it (anabolism or catabolism) – needs more than the average person. Like everything in life, we’re either growing or decaying, living or dying – we’re either part of the solution, or part of the problem. Let’s get right into the good news. For those of us choosing a diet that minimizes harm in the world (vegan), and specifically raw, the protein we ingest is is much easier to assimilate than cooked and/or meat protein. Body building nutrition recommends approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day; some say more, some say less. In other words, a body builder who weighs 150 lbs would consume more than 150 grams of protein per day.

That’s a lot. Part of why fitness nutritionists recommend so much – whether they realize it or not – is because cooking instantly renders 50% or more of the protein unusable. Plus, protein   for everyone – regardless of what we eat – is that everyone’s nutritional needs are different. It’s called bio-chemical individuality. We all need different amounts of protein in different ratios to how much carbohydrate and how much fat we need. Moreover, we all respond differently to different sources of protein, carbs and fats (macronutrients). To enrich the discussion further, important factors such as how much we eat, how frequently – and key: How we eat – determine a great deal about our health, digestion and assimilation. As Hippocrates said, “Man is not nourished by what he swallows, but by what he digests and uses.” Or, put more crassly, instead of “we are what we eat,” the saying ought to be ‘we are what we don’t poop.’ By eating smaller meals more frequently, we maximize our protein assimilation. By chewing well and eating slowly we increase it more. Approaching our meals in relaxed and grateful state makes a huge difference in nutritional absorption, and in nourishment in general. While most people eating a raw diet will automatically get enough protein, especially if we are paying attention to how we feel, to how foods affect us, it’s worthwhile knowing about  some  nutritional  powerhouses  that can add some insurance. With protein – and with nutrition in general, including considerations of phytonutrients and minerals – I find superfoods are a fantastic way to ensure (health insurance) that I’m at optimal thriving.

We live in an exciting time when the world’s most nutritious superfoods are avail- able to us instantly. By including a few of these highly digestible, protein-dense, superfoods, you ensure that your protein levels stay high. My favorites are spirulina, bee pollen, hemp protein, sprouts and raw brown rice protein.

Spirulina may be the most protein  rich food on the planet, with a protein content of approximately 70%. Full of antioxidants, natural beta carotene, mixed carotenoids, chlorophyll, vitamin B12, gamma linolenic acid (GLA), riboflavin and other phytonutrients, spirulina is certainly one of the top most nutritious foods.

All nuts and seeds contain concentrated protein. Some more than others. Hemp seeds, in addition to being a perfectly balanced source of essential fatty acids, omega 3 and 6 – is packed with protein. Eating a freshly powdered form of it, which is often called Hemp protein or Hemp powder, maximizes digestibility and protein. Sprouted nuts and seeds, including grass- es, not only contain a great deal of protein, as well as phytonutrients, they are easily made in any climate. They additionally provide extra vitamins and minerals.

For most who have experimented with protein powders and supplements over the years, there’s been dissatisfaction with the results from both soy and whey based products. The introduction of a completely raw, vegan protein powder is exciting news. It’s become a staple for me and many high caliber athletes and nutrition gurus. In addition to a high concentration of ami- no acids (approximately 66% protein), bee pollen also contains as many as 60 trace minerals, putting it in the nutritional elite class. Including even a small amount of any of the protein rich superfoods will virtually guarantee that you’re getting more than enough protein.

Daniel Aaron is the founder of Radiantly Alive Yoga Studio in Ubud

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