Posts

Four Ways to Keep Fat Off Forever!

Weight Training

Weight training is the key to weight loss. Building a foundation of lean muscle will provide you fat burning centers found in the muscle spindle cells that is created and enhanced with load bearing exercises like strength training.

Eat More Protein

Feed your gains with protein. People often skip protein intake immediately after they exercise, thinking that they will save 200 to 300 calories. However, a high-quality shot of protein – specifically amino acids, will accelerate lean muscle growth and muscle repair post exercise. The more lean muscle you build the more efficient you are at burning body fat.

Establish Goals and Work Towards Them

Determine your physical and mental limiters by completing a strength and cardiovascular assessments (sport specific). Establish specific goals and objectives for the next three, six, and 12 months that will help you eliminate your physical limiters. Research indicates that eight workouts per month is the minimum required to stick to a fitness plan. The more frequently you exercise, the better the odds are that you that your initial effort will turn into a habit. Being mentally focused will help you maintain your motivation levels.

Start Exercise Slowly to Give Your Body Time to Adapt

If you have been away from training (i.e. off season, illness or injury), ease back into strength training and cardiovascular fitness slowly. Many people try to resume or pick up where they left off when they exercised in the past. This only results in excessively sore muscles, stressed joints, and a negative mental outlook on working out. When you begin your strength exercises, choose a load level that’s extremely easy to lift for 8 to 10 reps for two sets. Complete that same amount of weight and reps for three weeks to allow your body adequate time to adjust and adapt (I refer to this as the Anatomical Adaptation Stage). For your cardiovascular exercise, keep your duration less than 30 minutes and keep your intensity low – you should be able to pass the talk test, which is where you could talk to someone else or sing to yourself while exercising without becoming winded.

If Diets Worked – Everyone Would Be Thin!

This is a favorite saying of mine that a dear friend and longtime training buddy Dr. Robert Weatherwax has been saying for decades. Think about this statistic, in 2010 there were an estimated 75 million American individuals on some form of a diet and the total expenditure for these diets was $60.9 billion (with a B!). By 2014, the weight loss market grew to an estimated $586.3 billion dollars globally.

Now think about this, how can an industry continue to grow each year, when the industry itself is about losing weight – this number should be decreasing each year, just like the individuals are on these popular diets and medical systems? Here is the truth of the matter – the way to lose weight long term is so simple, the diet companies and medical system centers don’t want you to “learn” how to keep weight off long term because then you will not fail and keep coming back.

Tell me if this doesn’t sound familiar: You get to a point that you don’t like your weight, size and low energy levels. For the sake of this example, let’s say that your weight is 200 pounds. You tell yourself (or you have been convinced by extensive marketing/advertising) that you cannot accomplish your desired weight, size and energy levels without their special diet or medical system, so you join the “X” Company program/system and you are on your way to long term weight loss.

You follow the program religiously and over the next four to six weeks, you lose the “weight” (usually between 8 and 15 pounds); however, you are constantly hungry (because you must follow strict food consumption), you have headaches and you are not sleeping too well. Your pre-diet conditions (night sweats, interrupted sleep, loss of libido, and craving of simple sugars) continue to persist, but you are content that the scale is telling you that you are losing weight. By the eighth to tenth week, you are finished eating like a bird, feeling lethargic and work up the courage to leave your safety net of your diet or medical system to solider this alone. Note: you have reduced your “weight” from 200 pounds to 185 pounds; you are proud of the weight loss and tell yourself that you are determined to get back to your high school weight of 170 pounds.

So you transition from the diet makers boxed food items, canned drinks, bars and appetite suppressing shots to the real world’s meal and snack items. And sure enough within two weeks, you have put back on five to ten pounds of the weight that you lost. The first thing that comes to your mind is, “I can’t lose and keep the weight off without my special diet or medical system”. The diet company and/or medical systems have you in what is called the Endless Loop of Despair: they have you convinced that you are not capable of losing the weight and keeping it off unless you are under the instruction of their products. THIS IS NONSENSE, YOU ARE CAPABLE OF LOSING WEIGHT AND KEEPING IT OFF, YOU JUST NEED TO BE TAUGHT THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS.

SIX TRUTHS ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS

  1. Dehydrating the body is NOT weight loss
  2. Eating up your muscles is NOT weight loss
  3. Eating very little will cause you to GAIN weight
  4. Exercising too hard, too long, too often will CAUSE you to GAIN weight
  5. You should NEVER be hungry
  6. You should NEVER be tired

SIMPLE FACTS BEHIND EACH TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS (THAT THE WEIGHT LOSS INDUSTRY DOES NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW!)

Simple Fact #1-Dehydrating the body is NOT weight loss

Here is THE simple “trick” to the high protein, low carbohydrate diet: when you eat carbohydrates (breads, pasta, fruits, vegetables, essentially anything that is not protein) your body converts the carbohydrates into glycogen and stores this sugar in your muscles and liver for energy. In order for your body to store one gram of glycogen (stored sugar), your body stores 2.5 grams of water. Think about this strategy: no carbohydrates, no retained water – you lose 10 pounds in a week! There it is short and sweet – no carbohydrates, not water retention you are lighter. The problem: you have not lost any body fat, just water weight!

Simple Fact #2-Eating up your muscles is NOT weight loss

After you begin to cut calories, your body will go through a process of sourcing energy: stored sugar from the liver and muscles, then protein from muscles and then body fat. On a low calorie diet, protein intake is normally limited –when your body doesn’t receive adequate amounts (or quality) of protein, it will begin to cannibalize (or “eat”) your muscles for energy. It is easy to tell when this is happening, your urine is dark yellow and you can smell the uric acid & ammonia which is a by-product of breaking down the muscle for energy. The problem: you have not lost any body fat, just lost muscle mass!

Simple Fact #3-Eating very little will cause you to GAIN weight 

If your body is not consuming enough calories, the body will switch into the “preservation or survival mode”. The body sends messages (headache, belly grumbling, moody, etc.) to your brain that it needs more calories than it is receiving and when you ignore these messages, your metabolism slows down (usually within 1 to 2 weeks) to match your caloric intake. After you have slowed your metabolism down, anything that you consume over and above your “low calorie” intake is converted to fat -here is the reason why. A calorie from fat yields 9 calories of energy (carbohydrates and protein yield 4 calories of energy); when your body is in preservation mode it is looking for the greatest amount of energy from your body – this comes from either fat (9 calories) or stored sugar or protein (4 calories). When you decide that you are tired of constantly being hungry, experiencing low energy and having chronic headaches, you leave your low calorie diet or medical system and you go back to eating real world food and snacks. The problem is you go from (as an example) consuming 750 calories to 1500 calories and these “extra” 750 calories are immediately converted to fat because your body is stuck in preservation mode. This is why you jump from your end of diet/medical system weight of 185 to 205 pounds – now you are heavier than you were before you started your diet/medical system program! Welcome to the trials and tribulations of the yo-you diet and you begin to believe that you can’t “maintain” your desired weight without a diet program or medical system. The problem: you have not lost any body fat; you have actually triggered your body to convert everything you consumed to stored fat (because it thinks you are starving it)!

Simple Fact #4-Exercising too hard, too long, too often will CAUSE you to GAIN weight

Exercise can serve your body in two ways: as a stress reliever or as a creator of stress; the only element that creates the distinction is the level of stress that the exercise has on your body. When you exercise too hard (relevant to your personal max heart rate number) and/or for too long in duration, your body perceives this as stress and adapts to this exercise as it does any other stress – it dumps a hormone known as cortisol into your blood stream to handle the stress. Unfortunately, cortisol acts as a fat magnet in your body causing you to gain weight even when you are exercising consistently. What compounds the stress of exercise is when the body is lacking adequate quality and quantity of sleep & calories, lacking adequate stored sugar levels and is dehydrated (are you beginning to see a trend here?). The problem: you have not lost any body fat, instead you have exercised yourself into gaining more weight!

Simple Fact #5-You should NEVER be hungry

When you exercise, you should be finishing each session feeling strong and full of energy – actually more than when you started. If you are struggling to finish a workout, you are not taking in enough calories and/or enough carbohydrates (dense breads, fruits and vegetables). Ironically, you burn fat more efficiently when your blood sugars are stable during exercise. If you feel sleepy or sluggish within 20-30 minutes of eating, you may have sensitivity to certain foods types or ingredients. The problem: not consuming enough calories negatively effects the quality of your exercise efforts and limits your ability to burn fat.

Bonus Fact-You should NEVER crave simple sugars

One of the big four indicators of adrenal fatigue are the craving of simple sugars (Note: the other three indicators are night sweats, interrupted sleep and loss of libido all of which will be addressed in another report). This behavior (yes it is a behavior), occurs as a result of low essential fatty acids being consumed in your daily eating. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are sourced from cold water fish, avocadoes and extra virgin olive oil – when your body is low on EFA’s, a negative by-product is the overwhelming cravings for simple sugars. The beauty to consuming cold water fish, avocadoes and extra virgin olive oil is that your body will either use the calories as fuel or pass it as waste – not depositing of body fat! The problem: experiencing adrenal fatigue will cause you to crave simple sugars to the point that it will feel like an addiction.

Building the Perfect Soup

When made with the optimum ingredients, soup can provide carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and powerful antioxidants to improve your health, wellness and ultimately your performance. The good news is you can make nutritionally dense soup with whatever is in your kitchen and have it ready to consume within 30 minutes. Create your own power soup by following these five steps, choosing among the fresh, frozen, and leftover ingredients you have on hand from the list below:

Step 1: Aromatics

Optimum Choices: onion, garlic, celery, carrots, dried sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder

Health Benefits: they add anti-inflammatory compounds that fight soreness.

Step 2: Liquids

Optimum Choices: vegetables, chicken, beef and fish stock; tomato puree and juice

Health Benefits: liquids keep you hydrated in the winter and relieve congestion

Step 3: Vegetables 

Optimum Choices: kale, carrots, peppers, bok choy, cabbage, tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes

Health Benefits: vegetables are loaded in antioxidant vitamins and minerals

Step 4: Proteins

Optimum Choices: beans (any kind), chicken, beef, fish, shrimp, tofu, edamame, lentils

Health Benefits: lean protein repairs muscles and provides iron – an imperative mineral needed to carry hemoglobin (a carrier for oxygen in the blood)

Step 5: Carbohydrates

Optimum Choices: cooked whole grains (brown, black or wild rice, faro, quinoa and barley; whole-wheat pasta; potatoes

Health Benefits: carbohydrates replenish depleted stored sugar levels within your liver (to feed the brain) and the muscles (fuel movement), provide B vitamins which are imperative for the production of energy

Top 5 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Although you know good nutrition is like quality fuel for your car, spending a few extra dollars for high quality fruits and vegetables can be a difficult habit to adopt.  These 5 tips can help meet the needs of both your body and your budget.

  1. Understand & Prioritize Nutrition

How important is good nutrition to your health ? Answering these questions will help you determine how much money you are willing to invest in your food on a weekly basis.  Once you decide that your health is worth investing in, you’re buying and eating habits will change accordingly.

  1. Purchase, Prep & Store Your Food

Set your weekly schedule so that you visit the grocery store on specific days: ideally Tuesday and Friday.  Block out time in your personal schedule to wash, dice and package your food into tupperware or baggies. Write the specific day and whether it is breakfast, lunch or dinner on each package and store in your freezer or refrigerator.  The convenience of grab and go packages will increase your intake of high quality fruits and vegetables by 100%.  It is rarely the lack of desire to eat healthy, but rather convenience that drives you to fast food.

  1. Eat your Food

You have taken the time to purchase & prep your food, now you have to sit down and eat the food!  Just like the time that you carved out of your schedule to purchase and prepare your food, you now need to block out time to sit down and consume your food.  Digestion begins inside your mouth.  By sitting down and avoiding any distractions (TV, iPhone, computer, etc.) you will chew your food more completely making digestion easier inside your stomach which results in higher absorption of nutrients and water in a shorter period of time (because the food pieces are smaller and easier to break down).

  1. Avoid Fast Food

You have been lead to believe that the dollar menu at a fast food chain is “cheap” eating.  Well the marketing is both right and wrong.  The food is cheap when you look at the quality – some fast food restaurants use meat quality that is so low, it literally says “Safe for human consumption on the boxes”.  However, it is NOT cheap when you add up all  the add on features to a combo meal, on average you spend nearly five ($5.00) dollars per person every time you run through the fast through line and what you purchased is gone in ten minutes or less.  If you headed to your grocery store and purchased $5.00 worth of fruits and/or vegetables, you will be consuming both a high quality food item along with purchasing a lot more food.  Now when you spend $5.00, you are getting both “good food” and “good quality” for the same $5.00 that can last you through two or more meals.

  1. Learn to Read Labels

There’s nothing frustrating than finding out that you’ve been spending your money on high quality fruits and vegetables that you thought were healthy, only to find out that they are not. Many labels use terms like natural, raw, and whole wheat; however, they are not regulated and can be used to sell products at a higher price. By reading labels you can determine which foods live up to their labels and which are just clever marketing.

  1. Don’t Shop Hungry & Without a List

When your blood sugar is low (i.e. hungry), your ability to make rational decisions is gone.  When you shop in this mental state, you are more likely to purchase items you normally wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) resulting in a higher food bill with lower quality.  While shopping with a full stomach of high quality fruits, vegetables and low fat protein while purchasing ONLY the items on your shopping list will result in a lower food bill at the checkout register.  When you get home, your refrigerator is stocked with exactly what you need to prepare your high quality meals and snacks.

Stop the Insanity of Weight Loss

Eat Your Way to Your Potential

New research suggests that changing the way you eat could result in your body being able to adapt to the stress of training – especially hard training!

We all realize that nothing causes the human body to adapt to training and racing except sport specific training and racing. However, through proper eating – quality, timing and quantity, you can improve your ability to adapt and absorb hard, interval type workouts.

Between food and sleep, you have THE two key elements to improvement – sleep allows the body to rejuvenate and the food provides the vitamins, minerals and macro nutrients (carbs, protein and fat) to rebuild the torn down muscle tissue, hormonal system and the cardiovascular system.

I always have my clients focus on health and wellness first and then performance. I utilize several tools to ensure that my clients are recovering adequately and consistently improving. You are either getting healthier, stronger and faster or you are not – there isn’t any middle ground. It is just a physiological fact.

What is Adaptation?

When you train, one of the adaptations is an increase in the development of mitochondria within your muscle tissue. Mitochondria are the cellular power plants which are responsible for producing a majority of the energy you use during endurance training and racing. Through consistent training, your body naturally produces chemicals that tell your body to produce additional mitochondria. This concept is not a new one, but is intriguing because we have become acclimated to the idea that training improves endurance by enhancing the production of mitochondria within the muscle tissue. But what if I told you that eating fruits and vegetables may produce the same effect? Let’s take a look.

Food to Help You Train Harder and Faster

While trying to determine the true source of obesity and develop that “wonder pill” that will help offset the negative health issues associated with obesity, research has tripped upon some intriguing results associated with endurance training and racing.

The area of research has stemmed around polyphenols and flavonoids. Please don’t get caught up with the big words and become intimidated, the concept is what I want you to take away, not the actual pronunciation! Both of these nutrients are found in fruit and vegetables and are available to the human body in many different types, but with similar functions within the body.

Resveratrol is one type of polyphenol which is found in red grapes (and also red wine!). In a 2006 edition of the science journal Cell, mice that were supplemented with Resveratrol had a 33% higher peak oxygen uptake and lasted nearly 50% longer before exhaustion.

When researchers took muscle samples of the mice, there was 2.5 times greater mitochondria within the muscles. Also increased was Citrate Cynthase, a key enzyme to producing energy within the muscles, along with additional triggers telling the muscle to produce more mitochondria.

Here is an interesting observation on behalf of the researchers. The mice that were supplemented with the resveratrol, were also able to complete more exercise on a consistent basis which in turn improved the fitness level of the mice which allowed them to longer and faster. This is a huge observation when you consider an athletes ability to get fitter involves being able to go both longer in duration (active recovery workouts) and faster (high quality interval workouts). An additional health benefit to consuming polyphenols is an improved immune system which will keep you from becoming run down, sick and away from training – hence improving your consistency. Another key factor within the world of health, wellness and ultimately performance.

Research completed here in the US has been researching another polyphenol called Quercetin. Mice that were supplemented with quercetin showed significant increases in the molecular triggers within the muscle tissue, indicating that their bodies were preparing to produce more mitochondria. After only seven days of supplementation, the mice were able to run 40% longer before becoming exhausted.

This research has validated that this supplementation has benefited individuals “less fit”. However, when you consider most athletes are running deficient in micro and macro nutrients within their bodies, this research validates that when these nutrients are present within the body, athletic performance improves.

Quercetin is found naturally in onions and apples – so maybe that saying that an “apple a day keeps the doctor away” may not be far-fetched. Research provides overwhelming evidence that quercetin can help reduce the stress of high intensity training and support the immune system. So this falls right in line with my desire to have my clients healthy first, then fit and fast!
Fruits and Vegetables Aren’t The Only Source of Improved Speed!

All natural herbs and spices are an excellent source for polyphenols as well. For example, research is validating that cinnamon has shown to stimulate the production of mitochondria within muscle tissue.

Before you Overdose on Supplementation

It is imperative that you realize that this research on quercetin and resveratrol is just that – research. As I mentioned earlier, the realization of these mitochondrial production levels within the muscle tissue came as a byproduct of researching obesity at a chemical and muscular tissue level. With this in mind, the improvements associated with physical performances cannot be overlooked. Factor in the all-natural source of these elements: fresh fruits, vegetable, herbs and spices, and you have another way to improve your immune system and make you more resilient to high intensity training.

Four Tasty Sources of Polyphenols

Blueberries – one of the highest polyphenol contents of all foods; benefits include enhanced aerobic function and off-setting the development of cancer. Add blueberries to your salad and top off your Greek full fat yogurt for additional nutrients, fiber and flavor.
Cinnamon – not only loaded in polyphenols, it helps reduce the insulin response to high glycemic meals, which helps you stabilize blood sugar levels and burn carbohydrates more efficiently. Add cinnamon to your all natural oatmeal.
Dark Chocolate – look for chocolates that have over 75% cocoa. In addition to having high polyphenol content, it has been shown to improve blood flow to working muscles. Consume high quality, dark chocolate as a mid-day snack (unless you can have a glass of red wine instead!).
Nutritionally Green Smoothies – these products are derived from real fruits and vegetables and provide a hefty dose of vitamin and minerals per scoop. They are easily absorbed by the body because it isn’t broken down through the digestion process in the gut. A scoop can easily be added to soups, broths, and smoothies to add to the nutrient value.

Grocery Shopping For Better Speed

Stock up on these items the next time you head to your grocery store:

  • Dark Chocolate
  • Red kidney beans
  • Blueberries, Strawberries
  • Acai berries
  • Olives
  • Spinach
  • Walnuts
  • Chestnuts
  • Cherry juice
  • Green tea/coffee
  • Cinnamon, Sage, Rosemary, Spearmint, Thyme, Tumeric
  • Cloves, Dried Mexican Oregano, Basil, Curry, Celery Seed
  • Flaxseed
  • Black Elderberry

The Power of Protein

The Importance of Protein

Because of the numerous responsibilities of protein in the body (from muscle regeneration to energy production) consuming the proper amounts on a daily basis are imperative for both health and performance. Your body continually makes new cells for your muscles, organs, glands and bones on a daily basis. All of these are built on the foundation of protein, their main building block. Keep in mind, the longer and/or harder you exercise the higher your protein intake on daily basis needs to be.

The Role of Protein

Before we get into how much protein your need on a daily basis, let’s discuss the role of protein. In addition to growth and repair of muscles and other tissues, some protein is used for energy. Per Dr. Phil Maffetone, the amount of energy contributed by protein may be as high as 15% in some individuals. Protein is also necessary for enzymes important to metabolism.

Protein is essential for maintaining neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers used by the nervous system to signal proper function throughout the body. Additionally, oxygen, fats and vitamins are transported throughout the body with the help of proteins.

Protein also plays an instrumental role in making natural antibodies for your immune system. Those who lose muscle mass through reduced protein consumption have a weakened immune system. Additionally, those who consume inadequate protein may not get enough of certain nutrients necessary for proper immune function. For example, the amino acid cysteine  contained in whey protein can improve immune function. This amino acid is necessary for your body to make its most powerful antioxidant, glutathione.

How Much Protein?

The argument about how much protein is needed for optimum health and performance has become so convoluted, it has been revised by the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowence) 10 times since 1943! The RDA’s current recommendation of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight has been declared too low by many doctors and nutrition experts. Some of these professionals believe that the gram per kilogram needs to be increased by 3 – 4 times this amount to maintain proper lean muscle mass, recover from exercise and keep the blood chemistry healthy.

As clearly declared by Dr. Phil Maffetone, the issue of protein needs dictated by body weight is very distorted and inaccurate. These inaccuracies are created because if you are going to use grams per kilogram of body weight, it needs to be calculated off of body mass (total weight minus your body fat). It is your muscle that needs protein, NOT your stored fat. Keep in mind that over 50% of the dry weight of your body is protein.

As you can see, this can get complex and consuming quite quickly. It is for this exact reason that I don’t want you to count calories, calculate grams or weigh your food. Why? Because you can determine your personal needs by listening to your body, document your mental clarity and performance results and capture eight simple body measurements to determine how your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake is affecting your health and wellness.

Importance of Protein

All bodily functions, from breathing to muscle movement to new muscle development is controlled by thousands of different enzymes – and you guessed it, enzymes are made from protein as well. Even the hemoglobin, that carries the oxygen in your blood, is manufactured out of protein. The structure of your genes and your brain cells are totally fabricated from protein.

As documented by Dr. Michael Colgan, research using radioisotope techniques show that over 98% of the molecules of the human body are completely replaced each year. Bits and pieces of all your structures are constantly being replaced with new proteins. Research has proven that every six months your muscles, blood, enzymes and even the structures of your genes are completely replaced. Think about this, the body that you have today is the result of what you have eaten for the last six months. Garbage in, inferior health, wellness out!

Dangers of Inadequate Protein Intake

Signs of low protein (or low quality) intake includes:

  • Muscle Weakness
  • Low Energy Levels
  • Easily Broken Bones
  • Slow Recovery after Exercise

In a study completed by Dr. Gontzea at the Institute of Medicine in Bucharest, he demonstrated that exercise causes increased demands on the body’s need for protein. During this study (and most studies on protein synthesis) he evaluated the nitrogen balances in urine and feces. A positive nitrogen balance means that the body is obtaining sufficient quantity and quality from the diet. A negative nitrogen balance means that the body is not receiving enough quality or quantity of protein from the diet. A negative nitrogen balance means that the body is not receiving enough quality and quantity of protein so the body literally “eats” muscle and other protein structures in the body for its daily needs.

Dangers of Taking in Too Much Protein

Many people are afraid of eating too much protein – and justifiably so; excessive protein intake is harsh on your body with painful side effects (i.e. kidney stones). However, if your body needs 100 grams of protein per day, then 100 grams is not too much but rather your personalized protein needs!

On a quick side note, many times kidney stones are a result of chronic dehydration, not excessive protein intake. If you are consuming half of your body weight in ounces of water and calculating your sweat rate during exercise, you will minimize your risk of dehydration and the development of kidney stones.

Protein Intake to Build Muscle

One of the big misconceptions of building muscle is that you can accomplish this task by eating tremendous amounts of meat, nuts and protein shakes. The truth about building muscle has little to do with the amount of protein you take in, but rather the demands of the body to “need” more protein to rebuild stressed muscle tissue. If you consume more protein that your body needs (and your liver processes), the excess protein is broken down into carbohydrates and passed as urea waste.

The key to building more muscle mass is to stress the tendons, ligaments and muscles in a systematic manner to break down the muscle tissue without tearing it. This is a big problem with athletes who try to grow too fast, they overstress the system and instead of developing new muscle (natural anabolic growth mode) they put their bodies in a tear down mode (catabolic mode).

As you incrementally add more load and stress on your tendons, ligaments and muscles, consuming high quality protein will result in increased muscle mass as the body “absorbs” the much needed amino acids which build new muscle (in addition to repairing the torn down existing muscle tissue).

Amino Acids

Like everything we eat, it isn’t just what you consume but also what you absorb that improves your health and performance. The important component of protein is an element called amino acids. Think about amino acids as the “building blocks of muscle”. Amino acids must be digested in the intestine and broken down into amino acids for absorption. Once absorbed, the amino acids are used either as individual products or recombined as proteins. For example, the amino acid tryptophan is used to make certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Additionally, recombining many amino acids provides for the manufacture of new muscle cells.

Experts say that there are at least 20 amino acids necessary for optimum health and performance. While some of these amino acids can be made by the body (non-essential), others must be taken in through the diet (essential). The following table lists both types:

Essential Amino Acids Non-Essential Amino Acids
Arginine Alanine
Histidine Asparagine
Isoleucine Aspartate
Leucine Cysteine
Lysine Glutamate
Methionine Glutamine
Phenylalanine Glycine
Threonline Proline
Tryptophan Serine
Valine Tyrosine

One topic that pops up when discussing amino acids is “complete amino acids” and “incomplete amino acids”. Animal protein sources such as meat, fish, cheese and eggs contain all amino acids, and are what we consider complete amino acids. The only non-animal product that is a complete protein is tofu. Vegetables foods contain only some of the amino acids. With this in mind, combining various vegetable foods can produce a complete amino acid profile. Keep in mind that it is NOT necessary to eat all of them in one meal. For non-meat eating individuals, the combination of whole grains and legumes will provide a complete amino acid profile. Simple examples are brown rice and beans or almond butter and whole wheat bread.