I’ve been tasked by Brave with the job of explaining protein and boy do I love this topic! Most of us know by now that protein is an important component of a balanced diet (obv.). What most of us don’t know, is that not all protein sources are created equal. I’m here to explain!
First, let's define a protein.
Proteins are a chain of amino acids. When we eat proteins, they get broken down into individual amino acids.
Okay, so what makes a high quality protein source?
The quality of a protein has to do with the presence of amino acids occurring in the food. A high biological value (HBV) protein contains all nine essential amino acids; these are typically found in meat sources as well as dairy and soy.
So, do I just eat meat, dairy and soy?
No, we don't need to solely rely on HBV proteins. We can have a mix of HBV proteins alongside lower biological value proteins (missing 1 or more amino acid) to have complete proteins in our diet. The name of the game? Vary your protein intake, rather than relying on the same foods all the time! This is especially important for those adopting a plant-based diet or have dairy and/or soy allergens.
One very important caveat: protein powder.
Whey protein powder, for example, is a complete protein, providing all essential amino acids. However, supplements are not regulated by an agency such as the FDA. While we can be sure that our food is held to set standards, supplement quality varies tremendously. Unless third party tested, there is no way to confirm the quality of the product you're receiving!
Including whole food-based protein in your diet is a helpful way to ensure you're receiving quality nutrition without concern for additives, toxins, and metals that may be in supplemental protein.
Is more protein always better?
Not quite. While protein, an essential building block, is vital for recovery and satiety, more protein doesn't necessarily equate to bigger, better health. An excess of protein will still be stored as a fat in the body. Identifying how much protein your body needs for your specific activities, potential goals, and current health conditions is best.
Protein is a crappy fuel source! Your body relies on carbohydrates for fuel, followed by fat for longer duration activities and periods of time without food.
By eating more whole foods rather than relying on supplemented products, you're able to reap the benefits of the carbs, fats, and micronutrients in those foods as well!
What about plant-based proteins, like chia seeds, hemp hearts, almonds, pea protein etc.?
Chia seeds and hemp hearts are complete proteins! Exciting! They also provide fat and fiber, which helps us sustain our energy levels and stay fuller for longer. They're micronutrient rich and incredibly versatile. Nuts such as almonds, while not a complete protein, can provide branched-chain amino acids important for stimulating muscle protein synthesis. BCAAs are amino acids your body cannot make on its own. Same goes for pea protein assuming it is sourced from a reputable supplier!
So, if protein isn't everything, what should I be striving for in a balanced meal? Why?
Especially for breakfast, you want that first meal to provide nutrition that keeps you full. Folks who miss out on enough calories earlier in the day may have a tendency to graze or binge later. When breakfast provides protein, fiber, fat, and carbs, you're setting yourself up for success: long-lasting energy, satiety, and nutrition that supports an active brain and body.
For most New Yorkers, weekend outings are a must. They take the train to the Hudson River Valley and Long Island to escape the concrete expanse.
Ella Genasci Smith, Team USA Triathlete, full-time ‘techie’ at Spotify, and Brave Squad member escapes on the weekends on a slightly different mode of transportation: her road bike. Ella rides 50+ miles from her apartment in Brooklyn out to Coney Island, The Rockaways, and back.
Ella wakes up anywhere from 5-6 am, about an hour before she hits the road. This gives her time to roll around in bed for 10 minutes (a must), have a cup of coffee, and do a light stretch and activation routine.
“Sometimes it’s tough getting up that early on the weekend, but racing through the empty boardwalks of Coney Island is totally worth it. I find exploring New York before the hustle begins endlessly interesting. There’s something about removing the normal amount of stimulation that makes you see things differently – I love that.”
The ride takes a total of about 3 hours. “Immediately after, I make a big protein, peanut butter and fruit smoothie or eat a Peanut Butter Banana Overnight Breakfast topped with peanut butter and bananas (as you can tell, I like peanut butter).”
“While I eat my breakfast, I sit in my Air Relax leg sleeves for about 40 mins. By that time, it's 11 am or so and most of my friends will be up and ready to hang out 🙂.”
Follow Ella on Instagram if want to learn more about her journey around New York City, athletics, and all around badassness. And if you’re looking for workout music inspo, her Spotify playlist is a must-follow.
We were inspired by our recent feature in Elevation Outdoors Magazine to quickly talk about the best ways to bring Overnight Breakfast with you while car camping, base camping or on long car rides to your next adventure.
1. Use water if you need to. Just add 3/4 - 1 cup water and activate overnight per usual.
2. Bring a cooler. Any cooler will do. This is where you'll store your Overnight Breakfast as it's activating overnight. You can also leave it outside if you're at high enough elevation that critters won't bother you!
3. Warm it up. If it's a cold morning out there and you want something warm, Overnight Breakfast is delicious hot. Activate overnight as normal and heat on your stove top until warm throughout.
Enjoy those summer outings!
PS. One Brave customer recently said they activated their Mocha Chip with cold brew coffee before a hike. Apparently it was delicious and they got to the top of the mountain in record time. Might be worth a try 🙂