Week 11: Protein – just the facts, ma’am

protein facts and exercise

Remember the old 60’s show, Dragnet?  At some point during each weekly episode, Sergeant Joe Friday would utter the now-famous phrase, “Just the facts, ma’am” whenever someone would was eloquent with a lot of unnecessary details.  The phrase kept coming to mind when I was writing this article.  When it comes to protein and exercise, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around.  Let’s clear up any confusion on how to best utilize protein when it comes to exercise and building muscle.  Therefore, today it’s protein – just the facts, ma’am.

The most common misconception I encounter is that you should “protein-up” (my invented term) before exercising.  However, when you exercise, your body breaks down protein and protein production slows down.  Your body also uses the carbohydrates it has stored, lowering your glycogen (form of energy storage) levels.  Eating a protein-rich food after a workout will make sure your body has a positive protein balance, which is crucial for post-workout muscle recovery and growth.

Also, for about an hour after your workouts your body acts like a sponge as your muscles use stored nutrients to repair and build from the exercise. That is why it is important for you to have a quality source of protein immediately after exercising.

The second most commonly misunderstood fact about protein and exercise is the more the better.  You’ll see all sorts of protein bars, shakes and other supplements advertising mega amounts of protein per serving.  When you try to compare them all it can get confusing.  Just how much do you really need?  The good news is that your muscles only need about 10 – 30 grams of protein after a workout; it really just depends on the intensity and nature of your exercise.  If you’re getting in a good walk, your protein intake only needs to be on the lower end of the scale.  If it’s moderate intensity aerobics or resistance training, aim for mid-scale protein intake.  High intensity aerobics, jogging or resistance training, you need the highest amount of protein.

Another issue with the bars, shakes and supplements that hawk high protein content is the cost.  Per serving it can get pretty expensive.  More good news – your muscles don’t care if the protein comes from a hard-boiled egg, a cup of yogurt, a handful of peanuts or a protein shake.  After an intense workout, one of my favorite protein snacks is one cup of plain Greek yogurt with three tablespoons of peanut powder and some stevia to taste mixed in.  I’m getting 30 grams of protein and it tastes very much like creamy peanut fudge.  The point is you don’t have to buy the expensive protein bars, powders and shakes.  You probably already have a good protein snack in your refrigerator.

If you exercise later in the day, it’s best to try to get your workout in before supper.  You can then protein-up at your evening meal from whole foods such as meat, fish, milk, super grains or beans.

Considerations

  • If you do choose a protein bar, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. One, read the ingredients.  If you don’t know what the majority of the ingredients are and can’t pronounce them, leave it on the shelf.  Two, check the amount of sugar.  You should keep your sugar intake under 30 grams per day.  If you eat a protein bar that has 10 grams of sugar, you’ve just taken in 1/3 of what you should have for the entire day.
  • If you choose a protein powder to make at home or a pre-made shake, check the calories and sugar per serving. Many of them are high in calories and/or sugar.  If you choose a powder and like to make them yourself, be sure to consider the calories and sugar you’re adding if you mix them with milk and add in fruit or yogurt.

Post-workout snack options

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons peanut powder, stevia to taste
  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • ½ cup quinoa
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, blueberries/strawberries, sprinkling of cinnamon spread on ½ whole-wheat tortilla wrap
  • 4 oz chicken or turkey, ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, lettuce and tomato in ½ whole-wheat tortilla wrap

Want more ideas?  Email me at kim@inperfectunity and I’ll come up with some ideas tailored to your tastes!

Week 10: Going from “got to” to “get to”

get to exercise_newsletter

I enjoy exercising to Michelle Spadafora’s Faithful Workouts. Several times a week I get up early so I can start my day with one of her videos.  They’re not long (25 minutes) and most people, regardless of your physical level, can do the exercises.  She mixes up cardio and strength training for an overall, total body workout.  I especially like her core exercises that focus on strengthening the abdominal, back and hip muscles.

Michelle also points out that even if you’re exercising reluctantly, think of it as a praise and worship activity and thank God for being healthy enough to exercise.  She encourages viewers to think of others who have physical limitations preventing them from exercising, or even simply walking.  When you think of that person, compare your current physical health to theirs. Be thankful that God has blessed you enough that you have physical strength to exercise.  Thank Him even if you’re only able to sit on the couch and do leg lifts and bicep curls.

Simply put, we need to change our thinking about exercise from an attitude of moaning and groaning, “Do I really gotta?” Have an attitude of “Thank you, God; You have blessed me enough that I get to exercise!”

Maybe you’re at the point now where you’re in pretty good shape.  You don’t think about exercise that much because you don’t feel you need to.  If you’re in this category, you need to reconsider your attitude toward exercise and view it as preventative maintenance.  If you have ever heard the phrase “use it or lose it,” it applies especially to your body when it comes to fitness.

Exercise is a way to get your body strong and keep it that way. If and when you are faced with medical issues, the severity and recovery time will probably be less than someone who has not stayed in shape.  It will also help to give you a better quality of life as you age. Who doesn’t want to be able to keep up with their children and grandchildren?  You don’t want to become easily winded, tired or unable to go on a nature hike with them.

The miracle of everyday health is just as great as any miracle we’ve read about in the Bible.  Consider the parting of the Red Sea, making a way for the Israelites to cross.  Remember the twelve hours of mid-day sun so Joshua could battle the Amorites.  Consider the iron axe head miraculously floating in water.  The difference is these things only happened rarely, but we have the benefits of a healthy, functioning body every day.  Even in elementary school we learned what an incredible miracle our bodies are.  Because of this, we should be motivated to consistently exercise because we “get to” take care of and keep in shape the miracle that is our body.

Nutritious eating is only part of being physically healthy.  If you still have not committed to an exercise schedule, make one today.  Remember to start off simply, choose forms of exercise that you like and make it a routine part of your day.  If you are exercising regularly, increase the amount of your workout time by just a few minutes.  Up the intensity just a bit to get more out of your workout.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I don’t have these struggles just like you do.  My writing is based on my own experiences with struggles, successes and failures.  I am vulnerable to the very same issues.  I have days, sometimes a couple of weeks, where I look for justification to get out of exercising that day.  I make up all sorts of excuses to binge on something I’m craving.  I have learned that the first step down a negative path starts as a thought.  If I stop it immediately and ask God for a right spirit and attitude toward exercise and food, and really give Him the control of those thoughts, I’ll make the healthy choice.

Most of the time I succeed, sometimes I don’t.  Lately the devil has been using a lot of circumstances (working 10 – 12 hour days, my little bit of free time is crammed full of other obligations, house cleaning, yard work, no down time at all) to chip away at my resolve to live a Godly, healthy lifestyle.  He’s tried to wear me down and wear me out so I’ll feel justified in running through the drive through for some fast food or not sticking to my exercise schedule.

The only way I have been able to stay on course is to one, stop those thoughts before they take root and give them to God.  Two, change my thinking and attitude.  Three, remember how good I feel after exercise and eating right, and how pleased God is with my obedience.  I’ll regret eating junk or not exercising; I’ll never regret pushing to make the right choice!

Make it a goal to change your thinking about exercise.  The next time you begin to groan and complain because you “gotta” exercise, don’t take your health for granted, praise God for what He has given you and that you “get to” exercise!

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