Q: I'm trying to gain a lot of muscle mass by consuming plenty of protein in the form of steak, peanut butter and whole eggs. Comments?
A: The protein in human muscle tissue can be broken down into building blocks called "amino acids." Of these 22 aminos, eight "essential amino acids" must be taken in the form of the food you consume. Your body can't synthesize those eight. Your body can, however, manufacture the 14 other "nonessential aminos" from the food you eat.
Obviously, a bodybuilder should eat foods high in essential aminos, and most of these should come from animal sources such as fish, egg whites, skinned poultry breasts, lean ground beef and nonfat milk products. Soybeans come close to being a complete source, but they have too-low levels of some essential aminos. Among vegetarian sources, sprouted seeds produce protein of high biological quality (with all eight essential amino acids present), so if you fail to sprinkle sprouts on your salads, you're missing a good thing.
I suggest consuming one complete protein food with a complex carbohydrate source at each meal. Here are three examples:
- Baked fish and brown rice
- Lean ground beef and dry baked potato
- Skinned turkey breast and yams
It's better to consume four to six of these types of meals per day than two or three huge meals, because smaller portions digest more efficiently and make more protein available for assimilation into solid muscle tissue. It's also possible to "complete" an incomplete protein food by combining it with a complete protein source. Here are three good examples:
- Whole-grain toast and cheese
- Corn tortillas and chicken
- Peanut butter sandwich and nonfat milk
The combinations can be endless, but it's still best to always have complete protein at each meal. The human body is able to digest and make ready for assimilation into muscle only 20-25 grams of protein per meal. So four to six meals per day makes the most sense if you're trying to increase muscle mass.