Home | Supplements | eBooks | DVDs | Articles | Forum
Truly Huge Bodybuilding and Fitness

Click Here for Free Bodybuilding and Fitness Magazine Subscription

Protein Utilization: How Much is Absorbed

By Franco Columbu

As a bodybuilder, you must consider the net protein utilization (NPU) or rate of protein absorption into the bloodstream. For those who are trying to shed pounds this should be highlighted because some meat items are much higher in fat than others. For example, beef and chicken both have an absorption rate of 68 percent, yet chicken has the advantage of easier digestibility and contains almost half the calories of an equal weigh of beef, pork or lamb.

The protein utilization rate of some common foods follows.

Food NPU
Eggs 88%
Fish 78%
Dairy products 76%
Meat 68%
Soybeans 48%
Natural brown rice 40%
Red beans 39%
Coconut 38%
Nuts 35%
White beans 33%
Maize 25%
Whole wheat bread 21%
White bread 20%

The average person needs a daily quote of 1 gram of protein for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. Adult males should consume 75-100 grams per day; however, an extra allowance of protein is required to build muscular weight for those in heavy training. The food intake tables found at the end of this chapter were calculated to accommodate both male and female bodybuilders whose goals range widely from training for good health and a vigorous appearance to entering competition at championship levels. My own intake of protein is high due to a schedule of heavy weight training, so I always take care to choose the best sources. In addition to eating only prime cuts of meat and making a point of having fresh fish, I also include eggs in my daily food intake since they have the highest protein utilization rate, as noted above.

When the consumption of protein is increased, the body does not automatically secrete more hydrochloric acid (HCI) to aid digestion. Therefore, if you are in heavy training and have increased your intake of protein it may be necessary to take HCI and digestive enzyme supplements. The role of enzymes during the digestive process is discussed in greater detail later. Most importantly, you must learn to judge what is best for your own body because it is essential to the learning process, and you learn to see yourself as a unique individual, a point of great value when you are in competition, standing on that stage and posing for those judges.

Protein foods from animal and plant sources are listed in the appendix. Study these charts carefully, particularly noting the fat content of different food items. Those having problems with excess weight should select items high in protein but low in fat. For instance, there is little difference between the protein content of sirloin and round steaks, yet sirloin contains approximately 2.5 times more fat. Bear in mind that not all fat in meat is visible and that some cuts may contain over 40 percent fat even if you have been very careful to trim it off before beginning to eat. Hamburgers sold in fast food chains have a notoriously high fat content, which may be the reason you feel more satisfied after eating one out than after eating one at home. Being more difficult to digest, fat remains in the stomach longer and gives a feeling of being full for an extended period of time.

Regarding foods from plant sources, keep in mind that only soybeans contain a significant amount of essential amino acids, but their balance is not the same as that found in meat, eggs, and fish. Since they have a limited amount of methionine, one of the essential amino acids, more grams of soybeans than meat are needed to furnish the complete protein necessary for building muscle tissue.

If a favorite fruit or vegetable is not listed with protein foods, refer to the tables of carbohydrates in the appendix. Many produce items contain less than 3 grams of protein, so they cannot be considered an efficient source of this nutrient.

Be advised that I do not recommend all the foods listed in the tables, but many popular food items are given so you may see my reasons for excluding them from my diet programs. Frozen breaded fishsticks, for example, do not meet my requirements for high-quality protein, no matter what the manufacturer has chosen to claim on the label. Fresh food in its most natural form always takes first place. Also, it is doubtful if an 8-ounce package of fishsticks actually contains 38 grams of protein from the fish itself. More likely, a high percentage of this amount comes from substances used for breading. The tables are intended mainly to provide an awareness of protein sources, and my preferences are stated clearly throughout the book.

In summary, the best bodybuilding foods from animal sources are fish, meat, eggs and poultry. Dairy products like cheese are high in protein but also in fat, which tends to form fat deposits under the skin, causing loss of definition. The best foods from plant sources are beans, nuts, seeds and grain products.

Click Here for a Chance to Win Free Bodybuilding Supplements