8 Sure-fire Ways to Trim Body Fat and Keep It Off Forever: The Best Quality Protein, Part 2
Not all protein is created equal. Here are five of the best quality protein you can get from animal sources IF you choose wisely.
HERE’S THE much anticipated follow-up to 8 Sure-fire Ways to Trim Body Fat and Keep It Off Forever, Part 1, (so says my Mom) that was published on this site last week.
In Part 1, we examined these eight ways to win the battle of the bulge:
- Prioritize health macronutrients
- Eat the best protein
- Get the most of your carbs from veggies and fruits
- Track your diet and nutrition to ensure you maintain a caloric deficit
- Be sensitive to your insulin
- Get that gut healthy
- Do high volume full body resistance and HIIT
- Sleep more, stress less
Much of the advice presented in Part 1 was culled from two articles (1,2) from Charles Poliquin’s website, with a liberal dose of my own commentary. But I have more to say, specifically about “#2 Eat the best protein”.
Yes, if vegetarianism isn’t your thing, it’s fine to eat eggs, whey protein, grass-fed beef, salmon and chicken. Like all protein, these sources can help satiate you, build lean muscle tissue (which improves metabolism and fat burning), and can substitute for high glycemic grains that mess with insulin and make us fat.
But a disclaimer is needed, in my humble opinion.
Not all eggs, whey protein, grass-fed beef, salmon and chicken are created equal; meaning, if you’re going to eat these foods, get picky, and be aware of the potential downside. You need to choose the best quality protein.
Our focus is on quality, and that means we need to differentiate between different types and sources of our animal-derived proteins.
A Chicken McNugget, for instance, is not equivalent in quality to a pasture-raised, no-antiobiotic, hormone-free, rosemary-lathered chicken basking in a slow-cook crock pot.
With that savory image in your head, I’d like to point out that the information about the downside of animal products will mainly be sourced via NutritionFacts.org, run by Dr. Michael Greger.
Two reasons to refer to his site: (1) He has succinct educational videos reviewing the scientific literature on nearly every nutrition-based topic under the Sun; and (2) He addresses the downsides of animal-derived proteins that I wish to cover.
Let’s dig in…
Like with coffee, saturated fat, cholesterol and meat, the debate about whether eggs are healthy or not rages on. People like Dr. Mercola say “eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat“, whereas people like Dr. Greger say that consuming even less than one egg a day substantially increases the risk of heart disease.
Two doctors, two opposite conclusions. What are we mere mortals to do? Let’s shuffle that question to the side for the moment.
In Part 1, I wrote that eggs contain a high concentration of leucine, the most important amino acid for building muscle, as well as choline, which (via a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine) improves brain function, is useful for motivation, and is both a liver detoxifier and fat disruptor.
On the face of it, it seems that a food source rich in choline that helps your brain and liver is a good thing. But as Dr. Greger reports:
Turns out most people get about twice what they need and, in fact, too much choline may be the real problem… Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that dietary choline, found predominantly in eggs, milk, liver, red meat, poultry, and fish, (after it is converted in our gut to trimethylamine and oxidized in our liver to form trimethylamine oxide) may contribute to plaque build-up in peoples’ arteries. This may set us up for heart disease, stroke, death, and cardiac surgery. (Source)
So, now we have a medical doctor who pours through the research to inform his conclusions, and he tells us that:
- Most of us already have plenty of choline, so no need to eat eggs for that; and
- Eggs (the yolks primarily) will dramatically increase your chances of getting heart disease, the number one killer in America.
Watch this video:
For those of you who did not watch the video, here are some of Dr. Greger’s conclusions:
- The contention that dietary cholesterol, of which eggs is the number one source in America, has little impact on blood cholesterol levels was informed by a study published in 1971 performed on just eight people. Dozens of other studies covering hundreds of participants conclude that blood concentrations is “clearly increased by added dietary cholesterol.”
- The latest meta-analysis, a compilation of all the best studies on egg consumption and risk of heart disease going back to 1930, found that those who ate the most eggs had a 19% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a 68% increased risk of diabetes, and, with diabetes, an 85% increased risk of heart disease.
- Just over half an egg a day may increase heart disease risk 6% (40% in separated diabetes patients), and the risk of diabetes by 29%.
Frankly, I’m unhappy about this, just like I am about all the conflicting information in the health world. I like eggs. I eat eggs, but I’m cognizant that it might not be the glorious food some claim it to be.
My Recommendation: If you eat eggs every day, look for some substitute food. For breakfast, consider a cup of organic steel cut oatmeal, topped with some sliced apple, almonds and cinnamon, and covered with almond milk mixed with hemp protein powder. When you do eat eggs, make sure they come from pasture-raised chickens.
If you want to learn more about choline and eggs, click this bar to watch a video and/or read its transcript.
Transcript: Eggs and Choline: Something Fishy
If you remember, I lampooned the egg industry PR campaign trying to promote eggs as a source of eyesight saving nutrients such as lutein by noting the amount found in a single spoonful of spinach had as much as nine eggs. The reason you’ll only hear that egg industry claim on websites and TV shows and never in an ad or on an egg carton is because there are laws against false and misleading advertising that don’t allow the industry to say eggs contain lutein because there’s such an insignificant amount. This is an email retrieved through the Freedom of Information Act from the head of the USDA’s poultry research and promotion programs reminding the egg industry that they can’t mention lutein in an egg ad. Can’t say it helps people with macular degeneration. Can’t even talk about how good lutein is for you since eggs have such a wee amount, and given eggs’ fat and cholesterol content this is a nonstarter for anything but PR. So for public relations you can lie through your teeth, but there are laws covering truthfulness in ads.
Also can’t say eggs are a source of omega-3s,or a source of iron or folate. Can’t even honestly call eggs a rich source of protein. The USDA Agriculture Marketing Service suggested the egg industry instead boast about the choline content in eggs, one of the only two nutrients eggs are actually rich in, besides cholesterol.
So the egg industry switched gears. A priority objective of the American Egg Board became ‘to make choline out to be an urgent problem and eggs the solution.’ Maybe they could partner with a physician’s group and write an advertorial. They developed a number of “advertorials” for nutrition journals. An advertorial is an advertisement parading as an objective editorial. They sent letters out to doctors arguing that “inadequate intake of choline has tremendous public health implications.” So forget about the cholesterol, the “elephant-in-the-room,” as the industry calls it, and focus on this conjured epidemic of choline deficiency.
Turns out most people get about twice what they need and, in fact, too much choline may be the real problem. For one thing, too much choline can give your breath, urine, sweat, saliva, and vaginal secretions an odor resembling rotten, dead fish. Millions of Americans have a genetic defect that causes a fishy body odor and might benefit from a low-choline diet, since choline is converted in our gut into the fishy compound trimethylamine (TMA).In fact, individuals oozing trimethylamine often become vegans, as reducing the ingestion of dietary animal products rich in lipids decreases TMA production and the associated noxious odor. The other 99% of us, though, can turn the fishy choline compound into trimethylamine oxide, which is 100 times less stinky. We used to think extra choline was OK for the 99%, but not anymore.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic found that dietary choline, found predominantly in eggs, milk, liver, red meat, poultry, and fish, (after it is converted in our gut to trimethylamine and oxidized in our liver to form trimethylamine oxide) may contribute to plaque build-up in peoples’ arteries. This may set us up for heart disease, stroke, death, and cardiac surgery.
The good news is that this may mean a new approach to prevent or treat heart disease, the most obvious of which would be to limit dietary choline intake. But if that means decreasing egg, meat and dairy consumption, then the new approach sounds an awful lot like the old approach.
Choline may be one of the reasons people following the Atkins diet are at increased risk of heart disease whereas a plant-based diet like Ornish’s can instead reverse our number one killer. This new research adds choline to the list of dietary culprits with the potential to increase the risk of heart disease, making eggs a double whammy—the most concentrated common source of both choline and cholesterol.
Way Too Much Whey Protein
Not your consumption, per se, but mine. In the past, I consumed way too much whey protein. I’d plop a scoop or two into a glass of water or almond milk anytime I got a bit hungry, as well as after workouts.
Using whey after workouts makes a lot of sense. Whey protein has a greater fat burning and thermic effect than other than other protein powders, and is the go-to choice among body builders to repair the muscle tissue broken down through weight lifting. (Repairing micro-tears in muscle tissue is how muscles get larger and stronger.)
Three other things that whey protein can do is help improve blood sugar tolerance, insulin sensitivity, and reduce cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods.
Despite these benefits of whey, nowadays, rather than myopically using whey, I mix it up. My morning shake is typically a combination of pea and hemp protein, rather than whey. Pea and hemp protein powders have lots of fiber, and the hemp in particular is full of omega-3 fatty acids.
My Recommendation: As with all food, and food-derived products, quality matters. The best quality whey protein is “hydrolyzed”, and comes from un-drugged, grass-fed cows.
Do not consume whey protein isolates, as it may be processed with acid and it can be rancid. “Hydrolyzed whey protein isolate” refers to it being pre-digested into smaller protein fragments for faster digestion than regular whey isolate. Whey protein concentrate is less ideal. It goes through less filtering, so fewer of the natural carbohydrates found in milk are removed, resulting in a whey product that’s much lower in protein content.
Here’s Dr. Mercola explaining the differences between in whey protein quality:
The Beef On Grass-fed Beef
Yes, I’m being trite with that well-worn phrase, but even if the beef you eat has been raised on grass, and was never pumped plump with hormones or antibiotics, there still remain two concerns: the environment and adrenaline.
The aim of every poor society is to become a rich one. Rich societies eat a lot of meat. Cows that are raised on grass need lots of pasture, about 1.5 acres per cow if grass is abundant; more if the grass is sparse.
A big reason the rain forest is being decimated is to make room for cattle raising. Cows also produce a lot of waste that winds up in rivers, and flatulence that, remarkably, has a measurable effect on methane in the atmosphere, which is among the most deadly of green house gasses that disrupt climate.
The point is that — grass-fed or not — the planet will not sustain 8,000,000,000 meat eaters.
Adrenaline is a less existential concern; it’s not the environment but you’re very own body under consideration here. It’s unclear how much adrenaline (specifically, epinephrine and norepinephrine) is released into the blood stream of a cow just prior to slaughter, and it’s potential affects on us when we eat the meat. Suffice to say that the less fear the animal experiences prior to slaughter, the better tasting is its meat and the better it is for meat-eaters.
My Recommendation: Be as conscious as you can when eating meat. Try to select meat from animals that were raised with care, in a natural environment, eating the food their designed to eat, and slaughtered in a humane way. Stay away from the Frankenmeats sold by fast food restaurants. Former vegetarian and co-founder of The Food Revolution Network, John Robbins, has written a very thoughtful article on conscious meat-eating, which I encourage you to read.
If you want to learn how anabolic steroids get into meat, and subsequently, into you, click this bar to watch a video and/or read its transcript.
Transcript: Anabolic Steroids in Meat
Some hormones we do implant in farm animals, though. Last year Japanese researchers were lamenting the dramatic increase in hormone-dependent cancers in their country—four times more breast and ovarian cancer, 8 times more endometrial cancer and 10 times more prostate cancer just in the last 25 years. They suspect it might be because they import so much hormone-laden beef from the United States, but just because we implant cattle with hormones doesn’t mean it actually makes it into the meat.
We inject these hormone implants in the ears of cattle, but the ears get chopped off at slaughter so the U.S. beef industry argues that the hormones don’t get into the meat, but these researchers were suspicious, so they compared the hormone levels in American beef to Japanese beef, where they don’t commonly inject cattle with hormones.
They found up to 600 times the level of estrogens in American beef. So they got the feeling that the increasing consumption of estrogen-rich American beef following steroid implantation might facilitate estrogen accumulation in the human body and could be related to the incidence of hormone-dependent cancers, although further studies are required. . For example, eggs may be the greatest source of estrogens in a person’s “normal” diet.
Why would estrogen-rich beef lead to prostate cancer—you think of that more related to male hormones like testosterone. We inject cattle with that too. Just like athletes can use doping agents in sports to build up their muscles, in the livestock industry anabolic steroids are given to cattle to “beef” up their muscles. We don’t just give estrogens, we implant anabolic male steroids with brand names like magnum and, “steer-oid,” some of which contain androgens like testosterone.
Where are these hormones found the most? Researchers in Iran last year compared the levels of testosterone in the meat, liver, and testicles of sheep. What, did they find?
Interestingly, though testicles produce testosterone they don’t store it, and so builds up elsewhere in the body. In fact, the levels of anabolic steroids in meat can be so high that studies have shown that athletes who eat certain kinds of meat may be falsely accused of abusing steroids.
As with dairy, eating meat may also affect prepubescent children, boosting their production of male sex hormones in both boys and girls, which may hasten the first appearance of pubic hair between ages 6-8. Even though the effect was small, the fact that it’s a modifiable factor—something you can change about your child’s diet—makes it potentially relevant.
Salmon of the Pacific Northwest
Salmon and other cold water fish, are high in protein, provide healthy doses of vitamin B12, niacin, selenium, potassium, and iron, in addition to being high in the omega-3 fats (for which most of us are deficient), and helps reduce systemic inflammation.
Sounds really good, and it is, with one caveat.
The caveat is not the usual admonition to beware of high levels of mercury that’s found in many species of fish, particularly, tuna. Salmon has very little mercury. Instead, what I want you to be aware of is that salmon from the Pacific Northwest, or Alaskan salmon, is far superior to Atlantic farm-raised salmon.
My Recommendation: Eat Alaskan salmon, not farmed Atlantic salmon. Environmental groups such as Seafood Watch and the Environmental Defense Fund have put nearly all farmed salmon on their “red” or “avoid” list. Farms use crowded pens where salmon are easily infected with lice, may be treated with antibiotics and can spread disease to wild fish, which is one reason that Alaska banned salmon farms. For more on this, read Lisa Grosselin’s article, Which Salmon Should I Buy.
If you'd like to know about one particular problem with organic salmon, click this bar and watch the video and/or read its transcript.
Transcript: The Problem with Organic Salmon
The endocrine-disrupting industrial toxins in fish don’t just affect our gonads, but other glands, too. Like getting thyroid disruption from the flame-retardant chemicals, which literally just settle out of the atmosphere such that even fish who only swim in Antarctica are contaminated. Levels in the United States, though, are higher than anywhere else in the world.
Researchers recently looked at U.S. retail salmon. And where do you think they found the most contamination?
Six choices: Wild-caught with skin, wild-caught without skin, organically farmed salmon with or without skin, or conventionally farmed salmon with skin or without?
The differences were really marginal, but the worst? Organic farmed salmon with skin. The wild-caught was least contaminated. Notice also, that it didn’t really seem to matter whether you took off the skin, which suggests that the toxins are actually concentrating in the fish muscle itself.
PBDEs aren’t the only new industrial toxin we’re finding in fish. This year researchers looked at the amount of polychlorinated naphthalenes in fat that was sucked out of the butts of New Yorkers in liposuction samples. Where in the diet was it coming from? Out of about 52 daily nanograms, 50 came from fish.
What’s the bottom line? Until safer and more renewable sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids—plant-based sources—become more generally available, it would seem responsible for physicians to refrain from advocating that people should increase their intake through fish. But it is available now. There are a half dozen brands of microalgae-derived DHA on the market now—I just show this one because I’ve found it to be the cheapest. And it’s 100% bioequivalent to what’s in fish. A “safe and convenient” source, and less likely to go rancid than fish oil. As you can see on the little handout that came with this DVD, I recommend people take 250mg of microalgae-based DHA every day, which is about 5 times the average American intake.
Home on the Range Chicken
It’s lower in those muscle-building Branch Chain Amino Acids possessed by the other protein sources discussed here, but chicken does have the highest protein content per gram, and has an amino acid and fat profile that scientists believe contribute to a thermic effect that influences body fat loss.
That said, if you care about food quality, as well as the quality of life of the animal before it’s on your dinner plate, there are two things to focus on order to get the best chicken meat, and three that are irrelevant.
Focus on this:
- A “pasture-raised” label, which indicates that the chicken raised on the free range.
- An “antibiotic-free” label, because poultry can be given antibiotics to fatten them up and prevent disease.
This is irrelevant:
- The “free range” label from a large-scale farmer means that the birds have access to the outdoors, not that they actually do. On small farms, there’s a better chance that they actually do forage outside.
- “Cage-free” is irrelevant because birds raised for eating are not put in cages, even on industrial farms. The cages are for egg producing poultry (unless otherwise specified).
- The “hormone free” label is irrelevant. It’s never been legal to give poultry hormones, whereas cows can be raised on hormones.
My Recommendation: Scrutinize those chicken labels, and try to only buy poultry that’s “pasture raised” and “antibiotic-free”.
If you'd like to see an autopsy of Chicken Nuggets, a favorite children's food, click this bar and watch the video and/or read its transcript.
Transcript: Autopsy of Chicken Nuggets
In a scathing expose of the USDA’s new meat inspection program, the Washington Post quoted a representative from the inspector’s union, who said pig processing lines may be moving too quickly to catch tainted meat. “Tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses,” he said. “Not small bits, but chunks.”
What about the other white meat? The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine created this infographic to highlight what they consider to be the five worst contaminants in chicken products. In their investigation of retail chicken products in 10 U.S. cities they found fecal contamination in about half the chicken they bought at the store. But with all the focus on what’s in chicken products, we may have lost sight on what may be missing, like actual chicken.
Researchers recently published an “autopsy” of chicken nuggets in the American Journal of Medicine. The purpose was to determine the contents of chicken nuggets from two national food chains. Because chicken nuggets are a favorite of children, and the obesity epidemic now extends to them as well, they thought knowing a bit more about the content of the contemporary chicken nugget could be important. The nugget from the first restaurant was composed of approximately 50% skeletal muscle, with the remainder composed primarily of fat, with some blood vessels and nerve present, along with generous quantities of skin or gut lining and associated supportive tissue. The nugget from the second restaurant was composed of approximately 40% skeletal muscle with lots of other tissues including bone.
“I was floored,” said the lead investigator, ”I had read what other reports have said is in them and I didn’t believe it. I was astonished actually seeing it under the microscope.”
They conclude that actual chicken meat was not the predominant component of either nugget—it was mostly other tissues, concluding the term chicken nugget is really a misnomer.
I now want to bring back into consideration the query put aside earlier, which was, basically:
“In the face of clashing conclusions made by experts, what are we mere mortals to do?”
The answer comes in two parts:
- Be particular — choose the best quality protein foods; and
- Be abstemious — don’t overindulge in meat-derived foods.
These two acts will keep you safe till the “experts” arrive at a harmonious conclusion, which optimists think may happen before hell freezes over.
One more thing. Although I didn’t specifically say it, I hope you realize that the overwhelming amount of food “manufactured” for our consumption is either of poor quality or is actually detrimental to our health.
(Just watch the videos revealed when the toggle bars above are clicked if you doubt that assertion.)
It’s often said that the only safe places to shop in a supermarket is along the perimeter where most of the “whole foods” are placed. But even there, as I’ve been blabbing, you need to be careful when selecting meat-based protein. And although it’s outside the purview of this article, the same could be said for fruits and vegetables as well.
Remember these five things:
- Go light on the eggs, and make sure they’re from pasture raised birds.
- Choose whey protein that is an “isolate” or is “hydrolyzed”, and comes from un-drugged, grass-fed cows.
- Eat grass-fed, organic beef sparingly, and try to ensure that it was humanely slaughtered.
- Consume only Alaska wild caught, not farmed (Atlantic) salmon.
- Choose poultry that was pasture-raised and antibiotic-free.
P.S. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you’re missing out on:
- The food that will trim body fat and build muscle.
- The food that will heal your gut and trim body fat.
- The exercise that will trim body fat and build muscle.
- The way sleep (improvement) and stress (reduction) can trim body fat.