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Pick Your Protein: Eating for optimal muscle gains

In order to satisfy the body?s demand for protein and facilitate muscle gain, dietary protein must have the following three qualities.

Choosing the right dietary protein is critical. In order to satisfy the body’s demand for protein and facilitate muscle gain, dietary protein must have the following three qualities:

1) It should provide all eight essential amino acids in the right proportion’to help avoid protein imbalance and deficiencies, which can cause severe metabolic setbacks.

2) It should be free of toxins and chemical residues’to help avoid acceleration of overall metabolic stress, which may suppress liver function, tissue repair and growth.

3) It should maintain all its amino acids and peptides in their natural L-configuration. It should also be free of cross-linked damaged proteins and AGE proteins (advanced glycation end product’peptides that lose their biological integrity due to uncontrolled conjugation with sugar during processing or exposure to extreme heat).

That last quality of dietary protein is often overlooked. Freshness and protein integrity are critical factors that can make the difference between muscle gain and muscle waste.

Proteins exist in two mirror-image configurations: the L-form and the D-form. For an as yet unknown reason, all life forms on this planet consist almost exclusively of proteins with L-configurations. L-proteins compete with D-proteins on binding sites. Since D-proteins resist digestive enzymes (which can act only on L-proteins), their clearance rate is slower than L-proteins, so their effect on the body lasts longer.

D-proteins may cause irreversible damage to body tissues, affecting numerous metabolic functions, including hormonal and neural activities, and thereby suppressing energy production, tissue regeneration and growth.

Live organisms can protect themselves from that kind of protein degradation via a special metabolic process that prevents the conversion of L-proteins into their D-form. That process, called the ubiquitin system, also plays a critical role in muscular development. Time and processing work against all protein foods. Long storage and overprocessing may increase the formation of harmful D-proteins.

Protein from old, over-processed, degraded or stale food may increase the intake of D-proteins and lead to serious metabolic disturbances, aging of tissues and impaired growth.

Obviously, other important factors determine protein quality. Composition, allergenic effects, pH, temperature and moisture can all affect protein value. Animal-based protein foods lose their integrity faster than dry, plant-protein foods such as beans and nuts, a fact you should consider when combining foods.

There’s no substitute for really fresh food. Ricotta cheese is a far better protein than any powdered whey. Farmer’s cheese and cottage cheese are more nourishing than milk powder, and soybeans are far superior to any soy-protein isolate. ALL Fresh food, however, isn’t always readily available, a fact that creates a need for supplemental protein. When choosing protein products, you should apply certain principles, including the following:

‘Choose younger animal foods (sorry for the cruelty), which have superior protein integrity. Veal is better than beef, lamb is better than mutton and so on.

‘Combine meat, dairy or eggs with plant protein foods such as beans and nuts. Proper food combinations can create a superior protein quality, with higher bioavailability and less damaged residues.

‘Introduce a variety of proteins and rotate among different types of protein foods’for example, a day of dairy followed by a day of meat. Food rotation may prevent food sensitivities, improve protein utilization, support growth and regeneration and enhance overall performance.

Editor’s note: Ori Hofmekler is the author of the books The Warrior Diet and Maximum Muscle & Minimum Fat, published by Dragon Door Publications ( For more information or consultations, contact him at [email protected], or by phone at 1-866-WAR-DIET.

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