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Where’s the beef?

Yeah, back a couple of decades ago, there was a Wendy’s commercial with a little old lady demanding “Where’s the beef?” as some restaurants had taken to using things other than 100 percent beef in their burgers…, which leaves me wondering, what WERE they using? Horse meat? Cats? Sawdust?

ANYWAY, this month I want to talk to you about something that I only RECENTLY took to heart and really became aware of. Protein. I recently learned that I was chronically protein deficient and it could well be causing my fatigue problems.

My guess is that many of you are protein deficient as well.

Let’s take a look. According to almost all the research I’ve found on it, a normal person should get about 56g of protein a day. Uhhh, that in itself, isn’t all that easy to do, if you’re not aware of what you eat. Also, what’s a normal person? Well, normal is the average male and female height and weight…so, if you’re a shorter person, your protein needs are probably a little less, if you’re a taller person, slightly more. Now, if you’re heavy/overweight, that doesn’t mean you need more protein . . . we’re talking muscle weight here (for example, a body builder would have vastly different protein needs than a person of the same height and weight who was a couch potato). Anyway, 56g of protein a day is considered maintenance.

BUT what if you’re NOT normal. Say, you’re a runner and do a little cross training as well? Then what? Your protein need increases because when you exercise, muscles are being torn down and rebuilt…rebuilt with protein. If you’re not exercising, there’s no need for the additional protein (as you’re not tearing down and rebuilding muscle). If you are exercising, then there is a need.

What happens if you don’t get enough protein? No problem. Your body simply STEALS protein from your already existing muscles — arms, abs, legs . . . heart. Heart. That’s the one I’m really concerned about. Your heart is nothing but muscle — and a huge source of protein for the protein-deficient body.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m still in the process of experimenting with higher amounts of protein in my diet, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to add up how much protein I’m getting in a day. Prior to this diagnosis, I would say I got MAYBE 40 to 50g of protein a day. That’s on the short side of maintenance. Tack on the marathon training and cross training I was doing on top of that and I was dreadfully short.

But how do you get the protein into your diet without all the additional fat and calories? I mean, eating fast food burgers isn’t what you want to start doing all the time. Well, it has changed the way I shop. I look for high protein foods. Don’t get me wrong, this is NOT the Adkins diet thing where all you eat is protein, this is just increasing the number of protein-rich foods I eat. My doctor said for me (6 foot 4 1/2 inches), I should be getting around 120g a day!

I start with a protein bar in the morning (15g) along with yogurt (5g…looking for a higher protein yogurt right now) along with 14 almonds (which is not quite a serving, so 5g) there. At lunch, I frequently have a fresco bean burrito (11g) from Taco Bell and add chicken to it (estimated 15g). Okay, you can see, that even with all of that, I’m just getting to 51g. So, for supper, it’s whole wheat with chicken or buffalo meat . . . and with double servings, I’m starting to get close to the 120g I need.

Yes, this is a big protein change in my diet. But it has made me aware of how little protein I was eating. Prior to this, I was eating a lot of fruits and vegetables during the day (what I like to snack on) and most of my protein in the evenings.

Of course, some of you may be thinking my doctor is a quack and I’m a duck. : ) Well, read this Runner’s World article and see if it doesn’t cause you to grow a few feathers as well : ),7120,s6-242-300–12554-0,00.html.

Oh, keep in mind that ratios used in this article are for runners not carrying a lot of extra body weight.

Anyway, honestly, I’m not sure if I can keep this rate of protein consumption up, so I’m looking at investing in some low calorie protein powder to mix with milk or put in my yogurt or something. I’m not sure what the overall results will be, but this has been a bit of a wake-up call. I really didn’t know I should be eating that much protein (though you still need fiber, fruit and veggies too : ).

However, be careful that you are careful about cholesterol, fat and calories when increasing your protein consumption. Lean meats (including fish) are your best bets, though really, protein powder may be where I end up to help me make it to 120g or more a day.

Well, whether you decide to follow this or not (hey, if you have questions, check online for yourself and with your doctor), at least you have something to think about if you start battling unexplained fatigue — it could just be you’re not eating enough protein! Of course, my thought is, why wait until you ARE fighting fatigue? Eat right now and avoid what I’ve been going through the last 18-plus months! : )

Have an awesome run today!

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