Nutrition

What is Protein?


The simplest answer that requires no organic chemistry is "the building blocks for...well...everything."  Your skin, hair and nails, muscles - it is an important part of every cell of your body.  It is considered a macronutrient, which means, like fat and carbohydrates, your body needs a relatively large amount of it daily to continue its functions.  Unlike fat and carbs, protein doesn't make an efficient source of energy, though as you'll read on you'll realize that it can be burned for energy. 

What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are basically the building blocks of proteins.  One could say when you ingest protein, you deliver amino acids to your body.  AA's are in two basic categories, essential and non-essential.  By definition, "essential" means your body cannot produce it, and it must be ingested from food.  I've always been a little unclear as to the distinction between the two categories to be honest.  

Amino Acid Structure: amino group, side chain, and carboxylic group

This is one of the age old arguments.  First of all a definition: vitamins are organic compounds needed in small amounts to ensure health. They cannot be naturally made in the body.  Often deficiency in certain vitamins can lead to disease.


Vitamins are found naturally in organic compounds - the plants and meats we eat.  Most doctors would say that you can get enough of your vitamins from eating whole foods.  The problem is, most of us don't eat enough whole foods to deliver enough vitamins.  So decades ago, vitamins began to be produced synthetically, i.e. in pill form.  Through a chemical process, vitamins are distilled and extracted from organic compounds, including food sources or in some cases compounds like coal tar, to give us the vitamins you can buy on the shelf.  A lot of the foods you eat contain added synthetic vitamins, from breads, to cereals, to clif bars, to health shakes (Shakeology does NOT have synthetic vitamins, more on that later).  Since many synthetic vitamins are extracted from real foods and are chemcially identical to natural vitamins, they should interact exactly the same in our body.  But some people disagree.

Many people believe the key to getting healthier is simply eating less.  Eating less sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates is definitely a way to get healthy.  But there are some foods that if left out of your diet, can cause an equal amount of damage to your long term health.  Today I am going to just focus on two major groups: dark green vegetables, and healthy fats.

Would you agree with me that for the most part, we KNOW how to eat right? I mean, there are only so many permutations of diets out there before you realize that whole grains, lean protein, and vegetables as 90% of your diet with keeping an eye on portion control will pretty much get you where you need to be.

That being said, instead of struggling with WHAT we eat, many of us struggle with WHEN we eat and HOW MUCH we eat.  I am an emotional eater.  I can admit it in public like this, yet still not be able to control myself when things get a little stressful.  So as I often do, I am writing this blog post to help you and me together to battle this problem!

 

It feels like summer around here today, so I'm thinking about Mojitos, which makes me think about a topic I haven't covered in a while: alcohol and how it affects your fitness.

I get the question all the time, "Can I still drink if I'm trying to lose weight?"  The answer is of course, yes.  You can do whatever you want.  Everything in moderation.  BUT the most important thing is how far do you want to go with your fitness?  Do you want see infomercial-like, insane results, do you want to see "kind-a" results, or do you want to look exactly the same 90 days from now?  If you are committing to a bootcamp type mentality whether it is one of my 5-person fitness challenges, or simply saying "yes" to 90 days of P90X, I would be lying if I told you alcohol doesn't negatively impact your results.  Of course it negatively impacts your results, we all know that, and in fact the reason I often get asked is as if I am supposed to give you permission to drink, when in reality you already KNOW the answer to the question!

Today, I want to chat a little bit about the term "organic food".  Organic food generally means that the food or specific ingredient is raised or grown in the absence of added hormones, chemicals, pesticides, irradiation, chemical food additives and solvents, and doesn't contain anything synthetic or genetically modified.  For something to be certified organic, it must adhere to the standards of the specific country in which the food is grown or raised.  In the US, the USDA will certify a food as organic (with the sticker and everything!) if at least 95% of the ingredients are considered "organic" by their standards, which generally cover all the parameters I put above.

Organic food is, of course, more expensive since it must be tested in order to be certified, and possibly because it is not mass produced cheaply like some non-organic food.  Usually a company that is willing to spend extra to get their food tested is showing it's consumers a commitment to being honest about the source and nature of the ingredients.  In 1990, the Organic Food Production Act was passed which called for the USDA to set these standards.  The big question is, does it make a difference in our health?