Protein Pendulum

“Don’t blame the holidays, you were fat in August”. I am sure we would all admit the phase of life where we work head-over-heels to achieve our life long “New Year” goal of having the physique we all dreamt of. *Sigh* Men hope of flaunting their pectoral muscles with “under-construction six packs” and women ostentatiously displaying wash board abs tending to size “zero”. But most of our stories end at well begun half done. The point where egg whites in the morning and steamed veggies at noon just seem the worst enemy, while you enviously eye your teammate devouring plates of biryani like there is no tomorrow.

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Photo Courtesy: fitnessadvice24.com

“Before – After” images from TV commercials and flashy magazines have haunted us for years. Lost 10 pounds in 2 weeks, dropped from  size 14 to size 6, put on muscle mass in 30 days  are myths we all fall for at least once in our lifetimes. Do we all recognize this Dabba? The one which we buy with a lot of hope, happiness and vigor which gradually starts getting pushed to the shelf behind the rice and pulses, then to the loft and one day in maid’s hand given away by mother as a storage box. Sounds familiar. Read on…

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As the title suggests, the Protein Pendulum swings in all our lives swaying us in the direction of less carbs, more greens and minimum fat. But have we ever thought how did protein get its much needed buzz? Especially the herbivores would agree: their constant woes of finding  protein rich food not masked by excessive fat and carb content. We weren’t talking about protein 10 years ago. We were happy eating our curd rice with pickle and extra cheesy garlic bread. Then when did the pendulum swing?

Its interesting to share that bodybuilding  culture can be tracked  back to 11th century India where boulders and rocks were used as dumbbells  by those wanting to develop their physique. Gyms  or ‘akhadas‘ were commonplace in India during this period. Men while traveling from town to town would challenge fellow men to out-lift anything ranging from bullock carts, blocks of wood  to animals to showcase their braun. In the west, especially in US the body building craze caught fire with Arnold Schwaznegger being crowned three times Mr. Oylmpia in the 1970s. As the muscular men started grabbing eyeballs the gym business became more lucrative and protein became a household name.

The food marketing industry have always been ahead of the race. They know what sells and how to work their way through our minds. Well, who cares about our body?? With the advent of superfoods like acai berry juice, chia seeds, hemp and flax seeds, loaded with Omega-3 and low glycemic index, our fridges and palette are loaded with these buzz foods…but we  still are clueless! I am sure they sound fancy and the packaging they come in make us feel half healthy. But what are they made of ? Do we really know.

Always Complete. From A to Zinc || Nutrition for sustained energy|| #cheat clean || 20g protein. 0 sugar. 0 guilt || The Energy Bar Nature Intended || Fresh food -To Go||

We are all familiar with the energy and protein bars and we take to them as kids to chocolates. Crunchy, chewy, gooey or nuts and spices they have them all. But, what caught my attention was slogan from Kind Bars : Ingredients You Can See and Pronounce. If you cannot pronounce an ingredient it shouldn’t go into your body and as a first step not into your pantry. I found it very apt and reassuring. In my opinion, food is something that should satisfy more than just taste.

Science has mixed opinion always. One day you would learn soy is the holy grail for vegetarian diet and the very next day its known to boost estrogen (female hormone) in men. Similarly, the revered chia seeds are rich in fiber, help with weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and fortify bones is what research says on Day 1. Just when you thought of them as your “cure all” for all your health issues and end up buying a family pack of chia from Costco you read: its a blood thinner and lowers diastolic blood pressure. Bam! Dare you give it to your hemophiliac (blood doesn’t clot soon after a cut) son, you will risk his life! and to  someone with low BP, is going to be all dizzy and droopy. So, where does the research end? As a consumer, I have always felt as a guinea pig , to be experimented upon. By the time I realize a health benefit I am plagued by its ill effects and thanks to Google a minor symptom of headache if searched will always tell you that you have tumor or cancer! “Phew”.

So after all this charades, I decided I will cook my own meal and no more packaged or fancy food comes my way. Just when I thought I was off the hook I got sucked into the diet facade by my coworker. Stephanie ran up to me at lunch and tells me “I am on Atkins diet and it is the way to go! It controls insulin in my body and burns fat constantly. But, the only downside is my husband stays away from me. The diet works by burning fat rapidly, called “ketoses” which results in bad breath and insomnia. I am up all night, but I think I am looking slim. Don’t you think? This is the diet Kardashians follow.” Of course, she looked beat with bags under her eyes and sunken cheeks. But I just smiled reassuringly.

Soon I decided to check out these diet plans just out of curiosity. I found a ton of them burgeoning the internet. The famous ones being Zone Diet (where you consume 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat), SouthBeach diet, Raw food diet, Mediterranean diet so on and so forth. My mind was boggled again. I have to now look up a chart and timetable before I decide to put a  morsel in my mouth? To top it all I came across this Ayurvedic supplement.

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Courtesy : Brahman Whey

Brahman Whey: to unleash the ancient muscle building secret.  That was the last nail in the coffin.  It described the use of ‘Ashvagandha‘ for stamina ‘Gokshura‘ for fertility and other herbs and minerals prescribed by our forefathers. On a lighter note, this supplement is ‘soldout’ and requires pre ordering.

I decided to do my own research into the world of proteins and amino acids. Amino acids are nothing but the building blocks of protein. They are the be-all-and-end-all of human existence. Just like our chemistry periodic table the essential and non essential  amino acids have their own significance.

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Source : Ion, LLC

The essential amino acids being can be remembered using the pneumonic  PVT TIM HALL.

However, there are several reasons that can be attributed to the lack of absorption of these amino acids into our body. With the increasing  levels of pollution in  water and air,  umpteen number of  hormones injected into cattle each day followed by intensive use of fertilizers on all our crops and rampant introduction of GMOs into the ecosystem prevents our bodies from fully using what we eat.

These amino acids not only regulate our physical growth but also our mental well being. They are precursors for some of the important hormones in the human body: 

Serotonin which regulates our mood and social behavior. Remember, when you feel extra good after eating a large chunk of chocolate or feel extra grumpy on some days its all play of this hormone. 

Melatonin is the ‘clock’ hormone which starts working as the sun goes down and induces sleep in our body. So the days one burns the midnight oil one is frantically fighting the melatonin production in our body.

Cortisol is the stress  hormone which reacts immediately by shutting done the immune system and fat burning tendencies in the body the minute it is faced with stress. Hence, leading the body to store more fat in time of distress. 

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Photo Courtesy: Loretta Breuning, PhD

I felt a sense of bitter sweetness after all my reading and research. On one hand we have science and technology probing into all the cure for any disease man has faced till date and on the other hand adulterating our food using mutation and array of chemicals.

My after thoughts: Lets not make eating a mere exercise or an addiction. May it not be a crutch to our emotional pendulum or seen as foe during weight loss regimen. Lets eat the right amount and prepare our food with the right emotions. At the end of the day we are eating our emotions our happiness while cooking can enrich our soup or our rage can flatten our bread. With the increase in price index each day and lack of hygiene at most food joints- having a home cooked meal is a luxury. Every step of life has some hurdles and issues but we have to spot the silver lining. Don’t the say “Living on Earth is expensive.. but it does include a free trip around the sun every year..”

Lets get WHEYstead Cheers!

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