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Fuel The Fighter: Top Protein Myths Exposed

Every serious MMA athlete knows that protein is an essential part of a fighter's diet. The amino acids that make up proteins are involved in building and maintaining strong bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Endurance athletes regularly weight training should aim for up to.77grams of protein per lb of body weight [1]. Hydration with lots of water is also a vital part of processing higher protein intake. Keep your body in peak condition by choosing the right amount of protein and by weeding out nutrition fiction that circulates around the gym.
    Weight (lbs) Daily Protein Needs (g)
    135 105
    145 113
    155 120
    165 128
    175 136
    185 144
    195 152
    205 159
    215 167
    225 175
    235 183
    245 190
    255 198
    265 206

Myth #1

Raw eggs are a great protein source

In addition to the risk of food poisoning, long-term ingestion of raw egg whites increases the risk of becoming deficient in biotin, an important nutrient. Biotin can become bound to avidin, which is found in raw egg whites. Simply cooking eggs thoroughly will allow the body to benefit from the protein found in eggs without the risks [2].

Myth #2

Animal protein is always best

While it's true that animal protein like meat, milk and eggs are complete protein sources and are a bit easier to digest than plant protein [1], it's important to have a balance between these the two. Some studies have shown that diets mainly consisting of animal protein can cause a significant increase in blood acidity. In response to this, stored calcium from the bones leaks out into circulating blood to act as a buffer. Make sure to include plant protein to help keep bones at their sturdiest. [3]

Myth #3

Soy is the best form of plant protein

Excessive soy intake can actually slow down protein digestion by interfering with important enzymes. Soy has the ability to halt production of thyroid hormones that oversee many aspects of metabolism. Soy products may also interfere with hormones in the body since they contain phytoestrogens, which mimic the human hormone estrogen. No need to give up soy, just be sure to balance soy foods with other plant proteins [3].

Myth #4

The more protein I eat the better for my endurance and recovery

More isn't always better! Since the body has no way to store the nitrogen found in proteins, it must be processed and excreted in urine. Processing large amounts of protein puts added stress on the liver and kidneys. Also, eating a diet with unusually high amounts of protein will result in greater calcium loss in urine. This is not the ideal situation to maintain optimal bone status [2].

Myth # 5

It doesn't matter when I eat protein so long as I get enough.

Making the time to include high quality protein as soon as possible after a workout will definitely pay off. This is exactly the time when the body needs the protein, since the post exercise period is when repairs start to take place. As part of this repair process, existing bodily protein can be burned to help rebuild. By making the effort to give your body fresh protein to work with, muscles will be able to grow [5].

Cole's Top Protein Picks

Mix and match animal and plant protein for a balanced diet

    Animal Protein Calories Fat (g) Protein (g)
    6 oz cooked shrimp 170 2 36
    6 oz lobster meat 170 1 35
    6 oz Alaska king crab 165 2.5 33
    6 oz scallops 150 1.5 29
    3 oz roasted chicken breast 140 3 27
    3 oz broiled lean top sirloin 160 5 26
    1 cup nonfat cottage cheese 120 0 25
    3 oz lean broiled filet mignon 160 7 24
    3 oz broiled lean pork tenderloin 140 4 24
    4 oz 90% lean ground beef 200 11 23
    6 egg whites 100 0 22
    3 oz wild Alaskan salmon * 155 7 22
    1 cup nonfat plain yogurt 140 0 15
    2 whole hard boiled eggs 150 11 13
    8 oz glass of skim milk 90 0 9

* Avoid farm raised and Atlantic salmon as well due to high levels of the toxin PCB

(Tuna contains high amounts of mercury and should not be consumed regularly)

Plant Protein Calories Fat (g) Protein (g)
1 cup cooked lentils 230 0 19
1 cup cooked kidney beans 200 1.5 13
12 oz (1 bunch) raw spinach 80 1 10
4 oz low fat tofu 60 2 10
3 oz edamame (boiled soybean in pod) 120 4.5 9
2 slices 100% whole wheat bread 200 4 8
1 oz dry roasted peanuts (no salt) 160 14 7
1/2 cup instant oatmeal 155 3 6.5
1 oz dry roasted almonds (no salt) 170 15 6
1/2 cup garbanzo beans 140 1.5 6
1 cup light soymilk 70 2 6
1/2 cup cooked quinoa grain ** 130 2 5
1 cup brown rice 215 2 5
2 cups cooked cauliflower 60 2 5
1 cup chopped broccoli (cooked) 55 0 4

** Quinoa grains, like animal products offer a complete source of protein

This article appears in FIGHT! Magazine and is republished with permission.




  1. Manore, M., Thomspon, J., (2000). Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance

United States: Human Kinetics

  1. Gropper, S.S., Smith, J.L., Groff, J.L., ( 2005). Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism (4th ed.)
  2. Sellmeyer DE, Stone KL, Sebastian A, Cummings SR. A high ratio of dietary animal to vegetable protein intake Increases the rate of bone loss and the risk of fracture in postmenopausal women. Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group. Am J Clin Nutr 2001; 73: 118-22.
  3. Daniel, K.T., (2007). The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing Inc.
  4. Koopman, R., Saris, W. H. M., Wagenmakers, A. J. M., & van Loon, L. J. C. (2007). Nutritional interventions to promote post-exercise muscle protein synthesis. [Review]. Sports Medicine, 37(10), 895-906.

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