Variety of Proteins Compared in Taste and Nutritional ValueLeave a Reply

The key to gaining strength and mass is really no secret: In a nutshell, you need to train smart and eat smart. That's why serious bodybuilders make sure they exercise correctly and eat plenty of high-quality protein. What isn't so obvious is the fact that eating a variety of protein is as important as doing enough repetions. I'll explain why, plus give you all the information you need to expand your nutritional horizons with emu, buffalo, ostrich and a host of other nutrient-packed, perfomace-enhacing proteins.

Variety Energizes Mind and Body

"Even though we know certain foods are healthful, we haven't identified all the beneficial substances in foods, so eating a varied diet is an insurance policy for good health," says Nancy L. Cohen, PhD, RD professor of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. "People who rely on supplements, or eat the same foods over and over, are more likely to miss out on beneficial but unidentified compounds, and consume too much or too little macronutrients (protein, fat and carbs) or micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

You might think that pro bodybuilders eat only chicken and tuna, but most know that consuming a variety of protein-rich foods helps them do two things. It allows them to not only ingest a wide range of valuable bodybuilding nutrients – including some that we don't even know about yet – but consume enough protein, about 1 gram per pound of bodyweight daily for muscles repair and growth. Many pros eat much more than this daily amount.

Nutrient & Taste Comparison

Muscle cannot grow by protein alone. That's why the "Nutrient Comparisons", in addition to indicating each food's protein content, shows whether it's a good source of three key bodybuilding micronutrients: Vitamin B6 to turn food into fuel, iron to carry oxygen to muscles, and zinc to promote growth. But taste counts, too, so a group of athletes sampled the protein foods on our list and ranked buffalo, duck and emu as their top three favorites. Bon appetite!

Beef

Beef is a good source of Vitamin B6, iron and zinc, but most cuts are loaded with fat. For leaner beef with all the vitamins and minerals, buy round tip, which has less fat than sirloin, and "select" cuts, which are leaner than "choice" cuts.

Buffalo

Technically called North American bison, this meat was hailed the winner by each of our tasters. Try it just once and you'll know why It provides as much B6 and iron as beef, but has a richer flavor and less than half the fat. What's more, it's reasonably priced: steaks start at $7 per pound, ground meat costs much less, and jerky for pre and postworkout snacking runs just 79 cents to $6.90 per package.

Chicken

What can we say about its taste and nutritional profile except ho hum?

Duck

This was the surprise third-place winner because our tasters expected something stringy and greasy Yet the White Pekin breasts lightly drizzled in marmalade sauce were delicious and lean, with a firm, almost spongy texture (one taster enthusiastically called it succulent).

Turns out that over the last decade, the White Pekin duckling producers, who raise about 95% of the ducks for consumers, developed a leaner, more nutritious bird. They're now available in most supermarkets under the Maple Leaf Farm label and cost about the same as buffalo.

Egg Whites

This superior source of high-quality, easily digestible protein has no fat or cholesterol. Problem is, egg whites lack vitamins minerals and other beneficial nutrients bodybuilders need, like essential fatty acids, so don't rely exclusively on egg whites to meet your protein requirement.

Emu

After buffalo, emu was our tasters' favorite. Fillets have a rich, dark taste (probably because they're loaded with iron) and a firm, but not tough, texture. What's more, emu has the least fat of any meat protein on our list, with the exception of turkey.

Speaking of turkey, we also tried spicy emu-turkey sausages made by Emu Enterprises Inc., an emu ranch in Northern California. Tasters loved them; one called the sausages great and another said they have a delicious, spicy flavor.
Emu is so lean, it's easy to overcook; the solution is to sear fillets quickly over high heat in a lightly oiled nonstick pan. Or you can marinate fillets and then cook about five minutes in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Cook emu sausages like any other sausage. Prices for emu are comparable to better-quality beef.

Lamb

We put lamb on the list to demonstrate that some commonly eaten meat are surprisingly fatty and low in micronutrients. Save lamb only for special occasions.

Ostrich

Like emu, ostrich is packed with protein, low in fat and a good source of iron. It has a milder flavor than emu, so you'II want to add it to soups and stews or flavor it with a marinade instead of eating it straight up. Ostrich costs about $12.95 per pound for fillets and $4.50 a pound for ground meat.

Pheasant

All of our tasters liked pheasant for its flavorful, juicy meat. Unfortunately, this bird isn't a nutritional powerhouse a serving provides much less vitamins and minerals than most other meats. Still, it provides for variety from the monotony of chicken and turkey, and you can find pheasant in the freezer case of most supermarkets. Make sure to buy breasts only; the whole bird is significantly more fatty.

Pork

The "other white meat" has come a long way in the past decade. While ranchers were breeding leaner White Pekin ducks, some pork producers developed leaner hogs. The first pork certified by the American Heart Association, Smithfield Lean Generation Pork tastes good and is up to 98% fat-free. It also cooks about 20% faster than regular pork; many dishes can be ready in just 15-20 minutes.

Quail

This small bird got mixed reviews. Some liked the dark-meat taste, others didn't like it at all. A good source of iron and zinc compared to pheasant and chicken, each bird has a surprisingly generous amount of meat; two or three would make a meal for the average bodybuilder. You can find quail in the freezer case of most supermarkets.

Salmon

This fish is one of the few foods containing a significant amount of linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid. We don't know how much linolenic acid humans require, but we do know that it has many functions of interest to bodybuilders: It maintains nerves that make muscles contract, keeps cells healthy and may reduce inflammation in hardworking joints. Eating just one serving of fish a week (but not taking fish-oil capsules) has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden-death heart attacks. You can reduce salmon's fat content by poaching it in boiling water (but then you'll lose some of the benefits of linolenic acid).

Tofu

Although tofu is squishy and bland and a poor source of B6, iron and zinc, it's a versatile alternative to animal protein. What's more, soy foods like tofu (but not soy sauce) have a high concentration of a cancer-fighting compound called
genistein. So drop tofu into soups, stews, pasta sauces and smoothies for a low-fat, cholesterol-free protein boost. You can buy tofu in nearly every supermarket; choose low-fat and light varieties that have less fat than regular tofu.

Tuna

Water-packed, canned tuna has plenty of protein, it's easy to carry and store, and it contains heart-healthy linolenic acid. Unfortunately, tuna's a poor source of vitamins and minerals so don't become overly reliant on tuna for protein.

Turkey

Versatile and ultra low-fat, turkey offers a decent amount of iron and zinc compared to the other birds on our list. Unfortunately, it's almost flavorless. For more taste and a whole lot more vitamins and minerals, try eating buffalo or emu occasionally instead of turkey.

Venison

Our tasters weren't too excited about this meat; one called it too gamey and another said it had a heavy, unpleasant flavor. Another downside is its price: Lean cuts will set you back about $15 per pound. Still, venison is a good source of iron and zinc, so you may find it's worth getting used to.

Reindeer

Not one of our tasters liked the overwhelmingly gamey flavor of reindeer (also called caribou). Besides assaulting your taste buds, one reindeer steak will take all night to chew and could cost up to $21.95. Stick with buffalo and emu when you crave red meat.
Note: No nutrition information was available, though reindeer is probably comparable to venison.

If you're stuck in a training rut or just want to take your physique to the next level, make sure you consume enough protein and get it from various protein-rich foods. After all, variety is the spice of life and the foundation of a smart bodybuilder's diet.

Meat
Cal
Pro
Fat
Chol
Fat
B6
Iron
Zinc
(g)
(g)
(mg)
Cal
(mg)
(mg)
(mg)
Beef (round tip, select)
186
28
7
81
34
0.5
3
7
Beef (sirloin, choice)
230
30
12
89
47

0.4

3
6
Buffalo (North American Bison)
143
28
2.5
82
16
0.4
3.5
4
Chicken (breast, no skin)
165
31
3.5
85
19
0.6
1
1
Duckling (White Pekin, breast)
140
28
2.5
143
16
n/a
4.5
n/a
Egg whites
50
10.5
0
0
0
0
0
0
Emu
109
23.3
1.7
57.5
14
n/a
5
n/a
Lamb (New Zealand, leg,trimmed)
234
25
14
101
54
0.1
2
3.5
Ostrich (fillet, no skin)
140
27
3
83
19
n/a
3
n/a
Pheasant (raw breast, no skin)
133
24
3
58
20
0.74
0.8
0.6
Pork (sirloin, trimmed)
138
22
4.8
62
31
.054
2.5
2.7
Quail (breast, raw)
123
23
3
58
22
0.53
2.5
2.7
Salmon (coho)
178
24
8
63
40
0.57
0.4
0.5
Tofu (Mori-Nu lite, firm)
37
6.3
0.8
0
20
0
0.75
0.33
Tuna (white, canned in water)
128
24
3
42
21
0.22
1
0.5
Turkey (breast, no skin)
135
30
0.7
83
5
0.56
1.5
1.7
Venison (deer, fillet, no skin)
158
30
3.2
112
18
n/a
4.5
2.8
  • Numbers are for 100 grams (about 31/2 ounces) of cooked food (except egg whites)
  • n/a = information not available

Information primarily from the food composition database at the National Agricultural Library United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), wwwnal.usda.gov/foodcompl; plus the American Ostrich Association and Emu Ranchers Inc.


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