Tag Archives: Nutrient

Understanding Protein

If you’re confused about how much protein you need per day, you’re not alone. There’s not a cut-and-dried answer. Everyone has a different “need” depending on gender, weight, activity level and goals.

I’ve been doing a lot of research to try to answer this question for myself. There is a lot of information out there. Here is the lowdown on what I found.

What is the RDA for protein:

The purpose of the RDA guidelines is to inform you how much of a specific nutrient your body needs on a daily basis to function properly. So basically, depending on your weight and activity level, the RDA for protein can be viewed as the minimum requirement to keep you healthy.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for men is 56 grams per day and 46 grams per day for women.

Chances are you may need more. But how much more and why?

What is Protein?

Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body, making up roughly 20 percent of your total body weight. Muscle, hair, skin, and connective tissue are mainly made up of protein. Also, protein plays a major role in all of the cells and most of the fluids in your body.  Although your body is good at “recycling” protein, you use it up constantly, so it is important to continually replace it.

Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids. Your body can produce some of these amino acids, but others must be consumed through the diet. Animal products (meat, eggs, dairy) and many plant foods are good sources.

Follow this link to see what’s included in the protein food group:


Protein and Weight Loss

When you want to gain muscle and lose fat, eating the right amount of protein is key. Protein and the amino acids that make it up are required for two main reasons.

1) To construct muscle – they are the building blocks

2)  They act as a switch to ‘signal’ that it’s time to start up the “muscle building machinery”.

Leucine is probably the most important amino acid that stimulates this “switch” and is highly present in protein rich food.

Because protein is required to build muscle AND to signal the body to start this process, it’s important to spread out protein consumption evenly throughout the day.

How Much Do You Need?

“When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, research consistently shows that doubling the RDA spaced out throughout the day is the path you want to take to get the best results the fastest”. (BJ Gaddour, “Men’s Health, Your Body is Your Barbell”). This seems like a good rule of thumb in general. Let’s see what other people say.

Nutritionists use a standard to estimate your minimum daily protein requirement.

Multiply the body weight in pounds by .37.

Using this formula, a 150 lb. man would require a minimum of 55 grams of protein per day. This falls right in with the RDA.  And if you’re very active and exercise frequently, professionals agree you can nearly double this requirement. Be advised, though, if you’re shooting for a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or more, you’re probably overdoing it. The extra protein will not necessarily benefit you. Also, that’s a lot for the body to process and the extra calories will most likely end up as fat.

To look at it another way, it is recommended that 10-35% of your daily calories come from protein. This is a rather large range and where you fall in it also depends on your weight and activity level. For a  diet of 1800 calories per day, this means anywhere from a minimum of 45 grams of protein to over 150 grams of protein per day. That 35% is a pretty high number and may be overdoing it for a lot of people. In my diet, I lean towards around 20% protein.

So you see, there are various rules of thumb to figure out the ideal protein for you.

Tracking the Protein Grams you Eat

Many foods contain protein, but at the end of the day, how do you know how much you’ve consumed?

Here is an easy rule of thumb:

Remember the numbers 1, 5, 10, 15, 25 to roughly estimate protein intake.


  • 1 gram of protein for every serving of fruit and vegetables
  • 5 for every egg or handful of nuts you eat
  • 10 for every cup of milk or yogurt
  • 15 for every cup of beans or half-cup of cottage cheese
  • 25 for every 3-4 ounce serving of meat

Protein and Exercise Recovery

After a workout your body switches immediately from performance mode to recovery mode. It’s important to rebuild broken down muscle so you can come back stronger in your next training session. It is a great idea to refuel with protein right after your workout. Try a protein shake. Whey is a rapidly digested protein source loaded with leucine that will help maximize muscle recovery and growth.

Nutrient Timing: Exercise Recovery and Carbs

I found an extra helpful tidbit in my research about muscle recovery and carbs.

Nutrient timing is the concept that certain foods benefit your body more at specific times of the day than at others. After exercise, your muscles want to restock their supply of carbohydrates in the form of  glycogen. This is the time that your muscles are primed to take in the carbs you eat. In fact, after exercise is one of the few times carbs are preferentially transported to your muscles and away from your fat cells.

It’s a great idea to plan your starchiest meal of the day within 2 hours of your training. This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner depending on when you workout.

Your other meals of the day should consist of protein and nutrient dense carbs and vegetables.

A Few Last Words…

I hope this helps answer some questions you have about protein or got you thinking more about nutrition. As a trainer I am all about the workout but honestly, 75 – 80% of the weight loss equation concerns what you put in your mouth.

Wishing you much success!







Vitamin E – The Antioxidant

I’m still studying Nutrition and if you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve recently been posting about individual vitamins. To keep them straight I like to create a picture in my mind that helps me remember why each vitamin is so important.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and I picture it as a mini super hero or warrior. Why? Because this amazing vitamin is fighting for you! It helps defend, protect and prevent!

What is Vitamin E?

Vitamin E is not a single compound. It is actually two sets of four compounds each: the tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta) and the tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma, delta). Don’t worry, the confusing stuff stops here. They are collectively known as vitamin E and that’s what we will call them.

Vitamin E is an antioxidant and protects your body from all kinds of damage. It’s found in virtually every cell in your body.

Vitamin E defends your cells from free radicals, it protects your lungs against contaminants in the environment, it helps protect your eye, liver, breast and muscle tissue, and it may help prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Wow, that’s a lot from one vitamin!

How Much Vitamin E Do You Need?

The RDA for adults (both men, women and pregnant women): 15 milligrams/day

The RDA for women who are breastfeeding: 19 milligrams/day

15 milligrams of vitamin E per day has been shown to decrease chronic disease risk. It doesn’t sound like much, but most Americans consume less than this amount.

Sources of Vitamin E

Vitamin E is found in many plant and animal foods:

  • Wheat germ oil (contains the highest concentration of usable vitamin E)
  • Vegetable and seed oils (such as safflower, cottonseed and sunflower seed oils)
  • Foods made from vegetable oils (such as margarine and salad dressings)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Strawberries, spinach and other leafy greens
  • Meat, poultry and fish

In the typical American diet, 20% of dietary vitamin E comes from oils, salad dressings and margarine, 15% from vegetables, 12% from meat, poultry and fish, 10% from cereal and 9% from fruit.

As you can see, vitamin E is widely available in things you eat everyday.

Storage and Food Preparation Concerns

Oxygen is vital for our survival as humans, but it’s destructive and attacks and destroys the vitamin E content in food through oxidation. Both light and heat accelerate oxidation.

Here are a few examples of what oxidation does:

  • Safflower oil, stored at room temperature for 3 months, loses 55% of vitamin E
  • Peanut oil, frying for 30 minutes, loses 32% of vitamin E
  • Almonds, roasting, loses 80% of vitamin E
  • Bread, baking, loses 5-50% vitamin E

Also, processing takes a substantial toll on vitamin E.

  • Processing wheat to white flour reduces vitamin E by 92%
  • Vegetable oil is a refined food. During the purifying and refining process, so much vitamin E is removed that the by products are used to make supplements.

Vitamin E Deficiency

Vitamin E deficiency is rare in North America because vegetable oils and other sources rich in vitamin E are so widely used. Those at risk, however, are infants born prematurely and those who can’t digest dietary fat.

Vitamin E deficiency causes a condition known as hemolysis (the premature breakdown of red blood cells) and an associated anemia.  This anemia is most common in premature infants because vitamin E transfers from mother to fetus in the last 2 weeks of pregnancy. Babies born prematurely are lacking this essential nutrient. In cases like this, supplements and special formulas are used to help correct the problem.

People who can not absorb dietary fat or who have rare fat metabolism disorders can develop a deficiency in vitamin E. In adults, the malabsorption would have to exist for 5 – 10 years for symptoms to surface and can result in neurological problems that affect the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

Vitamin E Toxiciy

Vitamin E is relatively nontoxic.

Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin, but unlike vitamins A and D, vitamin E does not accumulate in the liver. 90% of the vitamin E in your body is stored in fat tissue. The remaining 10% is found in pretty much every cell in every tissue in your body.

It is difficult to consume too much of this vitamin from food.

Taking high dose vitamin E supplements may interfere with blood clotting and therefore may increase your body’s vitamin K requirement.



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

All About Vitamin A

Vitamin A – How Much Do You Need?

Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin. If you’re like most Americans, you get an adequate amount in your diet. Like other fat soluble vitamins, the majority of your body’s vitamin A is stored in the liver and released into the bloodstream as needed. Once you establish your fat soluble vitamin stores, you can go up to months at a time without consuming more.

The RDA for Vitamin A:

  • for males 14 and older – 900 micrograms RAE
  • for females 14 and older – 700 micrograms RAE
  • for pregnant women – 770 micrograms RAE
  • for lactating women – 1,300 micrograms RAE

Why is Vitamin A Important?

Vitamin A is crucial for vision, for maintaining healthy cells (especially skin cells), for fighting infections and strengthening the immune system, and for promoting growth and development, including maintenance of healthy bones.

Sources of Vitamin A

Dietary vitamin A can come from both animal and plant foods.

Vitamin A in animal products

Vitamin A comes from animal food sources in the form of retinoids. These foods include:

  • Liver and fish liver oils (i.e., cod liver oil)
  • Milk fat (as in whole milk, butter, egg yolks and other dairy products)
  • Foods fortified with vitamin A: margarine, some breakfast cereals, reduced fat milk

Your body absorbs about 75% of retinoids consumed in the diet.


Vitamin A intake comes from fruits and vegetables in the form of carotenoids. The best sources of carotenoids are dark green, yellow-orange and red fruits and vegetables.  The body converts the colorful pigments into Vitamin A once eaten. Carotenoids are called provitamins because they don’t actually become active vitamins until your body absorbs them.

Beta-carotene (the yellow-orange pigment) produces the most vitamin A of any of the carotenoids, about one-third of your total vitamin A. The body absorbs provitamins less efficiently than the retinoids found in animal products.

Some good sources of carotenoids:

  • Sweet potato – baked in the skin
  • Carrots, cooked
  • Collards, cooked
  • Spinach, cooked
  • Pumpkin, cooked
  • Cantaloupe
  • Melon
  • Tomatoes
  • There are numerous others, just think yellow, orange, red and deep green

A few minutes of cooking breaks down some of the chemical bonds in food. This helps release carotenoids and makes them easier to absorb in your system. For example, you will absorb about 2 times more nutrients from a cup of slightly cooked spinach versus 3 cups of raw spinach. Be careful not to cook it too long, however, because the longer you cook it, the more vitamins you lose.

Other Cool Facts About Carotenoids

  • They are antioxidants
  • They boost your immune system
  • They can reduce risk of age-related degeneration of the eye and risk of cataracts
  • They can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Dietary fat, protein and vitamin E enhance carotenoid absorption, but dietary fiber reduces its absorption

So be sure to eat your yellow, orange, red and deep green fruits and vegetables!

Vitamin A Deficiency

Dietary vitamin A deficiency is rare in North America and western Europe, but is the leading cause of childhood blindness worldwide. Also, vitamin A deficiency has been shown to slow growth and development and leads to bone deformities.

In the United States, those at risk for vitamin A deficiency include:

  • Newborns (due to lack of vitamin A stores in their liver)
  • Those with alcoholism or liver disease
  • Those who suffer from fat-malabsorption syndromes
  • Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa
  •  Those with an inadequate intake of zinc (which is required for the body to use Vitamin A efficiently)

There are various symptoms of vitamin A deficiency, but if caught quickly they can be reversed.

  • Vision: Night blindness (the inability of the eyes to adjust to dim light or to regain vision quickly after exposure to a flash of bright light) is an early symptom. If the deficiency worsens color blindness and then permanent blindness can result.
  • SkinYour skin cells are the first line of defense protecting your body and they are destroyed and replaced rather quickly. Vitamin A is needed for this rapid cell turnover. Signs of vitamin A deficiency show up early in the skin.
  • Other CellsVitamin A deficiency can disrupt the cells ability to produce mucous.  This particularly affects the mouth, respiratory tract, urinary tract and male and female reproductive processes.  Also, if the affected cells are located near sensory receptors, you can lose your sense of smell and taste.
  • Immune Function: Vitamin A deficiency leaves a person highly susceptible to bacterial, parasitic and viral infections. People with severe vitamin A deficiencies have such impaired immune systems that simple infections can be hazardous.

Too Much Vitamin A is Toxic

It’s highly unlikely that you will overdose on vitamin A through your diet alone. A healthy diet is rich in a variety of foods and by eating many different things you will help keep all of your vitamin levels in check.

The potential for overdose increases, however, as more and more people are taking megadoses of nutritional supplements. (I’m not talking about everyday multiple vitamins, but extreme doses of Vitamin A in supplemental form). Ninety percent of the body’s vitamin A supply is stored in the form of a retinoid in the liver. (The remainder is stored in fat tissue, the lungs and kidneys).  A healthy liver can store up to a year’s supply of vitamin A, but taking large doses of vitamin A supplements can exceed this capacity and lead to toxicity.

Overindulging in vitamin A supplements is dangerous.

Toxicity Symptoms

There are a wide range of symptoms which can be short term or long term, including fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain, bone and joint pain, loss of appetite, skin disorders, headache, blurred or double vision, eye damage, swelling of the brain, psychiatric changes, osteoporosis, hip fracture, liver damage, coma, and so many more.

Vitamin A and Pregnancy

Birth defects can occur if vitamin A is taken in excess during pregnancy, especially if taken two weeks prior to conception and during the two months following. Pregnant women should take prenatal supplements containing beta-carotene as the vitamin A source and avoid retinol. Even retinoids taken for acne (both topical and oral) should be avoided at this time.  Because even the topical Retin-A absorbs through the skin and accumulates in fat stores, this type of treatment should be discontinued long before pregnancy.



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013


“Did You Know?” – Fun Facts about Health and How your Amazing Body Works

Here are some fun topics for conversation at your next cocktail party! Well, maybe not, but read on and you’re sure to learn a thing or two!

  • America’s most commonly consumed grain product is white bread
  • America’s favorite meat product is beef
  • America’s most commonly eaten vegetable is the potato in the form of french fries
  • A 12 ounce soft drink contains 10-12 teaspoons of sugar
  • Americans, on average, consume 103 pounds of sugar per year
  • Most brown sugar is really white sugar with molasses added for color and flavor
  • Prolonged Vitamin A deficiency can cause permanent blindness
  • Rice is the only starch that does not cause gas
  • The brain is 60% fat
  • Collagen is the most abundant protein in people and animals and gives skin and bones their elastic strength
  • You have almost 10,000 taste buds in your mouth. In general, females have more taste buds than males
  • When at work or play, muscles prefer to use glucose or glycogen for fuel.  This is stored carbohydrate
  • Your brain’s preferred fuel is glycogen (stored carbs) too!
  • When at rest, muscles prefer to use fat for fuel
  • Saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Butter is a great example
  • Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature, like oils
  • Dietary guidelines suggest you consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fatty acids per day. When you have a choice, choose the liquid fat over the solid fat for heart health
  • Fiber is an important part of your diet but your body can digest very little of it
  • Brain freeze, (that sharp pain in the mid-frontal part of the brain when you take a big bite of ice-cream) is caused when cold substances touch the back part of the palate, causing blood vessels to constrict (tighten). About 1/3 of the population experiences this.

Facts about the Stomach

  • Alcohol is absorbed directly from the stomach, so if you’re going to indulge at that cocktail party, be sure to eat something first. If your stomach is full, alcohol will be absorbed more slowly
  • The stomach empties in 1-4 hours depending on the amount and types of food eaten
  • Carbohydrates speed through the stomach in the shortest time, followed by protein and then fat. Therefore, a high fat meal will sit in your stomach longer
  • Digestion is started, but not completed in the stomach.  The stomach digests only 30-40% of carbs, 10-20% of protein and less than 10% of fat

Facts about the Small and Large Intestine

  • Digestion of fat, protein and most carbohydrate is completed in the small intestine
  • The small intestine packs a gigantic surface area into a small space. The length of the small intestine is about 10 feet long, but because of its many wrinkled folds and fingerlike projections, its absorptive surface area is more than 300 square yards, or the area of a tennis court!
  • Substances take 3-10 hours to journey through the small intestine
  • The large intestine is 5 feet long
  • Substances travel through the large intestine at a much slower rate:18 – 24 hours

Take Care of your Liver!

  • The liver is a detoxification center and filters toxic substances from the blood
  • The liver is a chemical factory, performing over 500 chemical functions to keep your body running smoothly
  • The liver is a warehouse that stores vitamins, hormones, cholesterol, minerals and sugars, releasing them to the bloodstream as needed



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013