Aging is rough on the skin. You’ve seen it. And while we all need to use the best skin care products on the outside, one of the biggest causes of wrinkles and sagging skin is on the inside – it’s your muscles.
It’s normal for our muscles to lose tone and become flabby as we age. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s good. Not only are flabby muscles unsightly, they’re an indication that we’re losing our strength. And all of us would like to stay strong and vital as long as possible.
To stop or reverse this progression, many of us turn to exercise. While a consistent weight lifting program or workouts at a gym is important, it’s just not enough for many women. In addition to exercising our muscles, we need to feed them. But not all food is the same. Here’s what you need to know to keep your muscles, your skin, and your overall health in tip-top shape….
The best food for muscles is protein. The older we get, the more we need to eat sufficient protein to keep muscles from atrophying, and the harder it is to get enough.
The problem is twofold. We tend to eat less protein as we get older, and the protein we do eat is not digested as well as it was when we were younger. Poor digestion means poor absorption. So you may be eating plenty of protein and still not get enough into your muscle tissues.
That’s why you may want to add a protein powder to your daily diet and exercise program.
However, not all protein powders are created equal. And trying to choose the right protein powder can drive you crazy.
All Protein Is Not Created the Same
When it comes to building or retaining muscles, you need a well-absorbed complete protein with all the necessary beneficial fats and amino acids. The top two sources are free range eggs and ‘clean’ dairy. And of these two, whey protein from milk is my top pick for most people.
It’s also the top pick of athletes and bodybuilders, who have to keep their muscles properly fed and toned. So we know it works. And it’s been shown to be the best absorbed.
But just as protein shakes aren’t equal, neither are all whey products. Not all whey protein powder is safe and effective.
Most Contain Hormones
To increase milk production, the majority of dairy farmers give their cows injections of rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin, an artificial growth hormone). The FDA insists that rBST is safe. But Samuel S. Epstein, MD, in his excellent book What’s in Your Milk? (Trafford Publishing, 2006), documents the dangers of growth hormones. They include increasing our risk of various cancers and compromising the health of dairy cows. We know that rBST increases infections in cows’ udders and results in a shorter lifespan. If a dairy product – including whey – is organic, it contains no rBST. So use only rBST-free whey products.
But even organic whey doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Conventional whey proteins can be toxic and low in valuable nutrients. One manufacturer of whey products explains, “Cheap whey protein is like eating a wall. You’ll get some minerals from it, but it’s not a good source of nutrition.”
The Best Whey Protein…
So what should you look for in your whey protein? These are the most important factors in healthy whey:
Should be a concentrate, not an isolate. Bodybuilders will usually argue with me. They prefer whey protein isolate because it’s slightly better absorbed. But only slightly. And the isolate form is less balanced. Whey protein concentrate, on the other hand, is less processed and contains all the co-factors that make it a complete and more natural immune-boosting product. Choose less processing over slightly better absorption. Whey protein concentrate is a whole food, not an over-processed supplement ingredient.
Should be cold processed (undenatured). Cheap whey protein lacks some of the important nutrients you want from your whey protein powder because they’re heated. Heat destroys bacteria. But it also destroys some of the most important nutrients whey has to offer. These include ALA and CLA (beneficial fats) and l-cysteine, an amino acid that prevents your muscles from wasting. These are nutrients that promote muscle growth and muscle tissue repair.
Should be from grass-fed cows. Most dairy cows live in crowded, unsanitary conditions spending their days walking around on dirt and manure “pastures.” They eat hay, not grass. The nutrition in hay can’t be compared to fresh wild grown grass. No wonder they’re given antibiotics to prevent diseases. Grass-fed whey, on the other hand, contains higher amounts of immune-supporting nutrients like alpha and beta lactalbumin.
Should be free from toxins including pesticides and chemicals. It’s impossible to escape environmental pollution. But cold-processed whey should undergo microfiltration. This will remove impurities and preserve those fragile immune-supporting fats and proteins. The filtration used in whey processing should remove all impurities. Manufacturers of cheaper products process their whey with acids. The residue from the acid filtration can be toxic. Only buy products guaranteed to be toxin-free and, whenever possible, organic.
Try dairy from A2 cows. If normal dairy protein causes problems for you, try dairy from A2 cows. A2 refers to the type of proteins a cow produces. All milk contains casein-based proteins, but not all of these proteins are the same. Some can contribute to disease. Researchers from New Zealand uncovered an important difference in two milk proteins. They’re either A1 beta-casein or A2 beta-casein. A1 is what we normally find in America, and A2 is a protein from cows in New Zealand and a few other countries. Whether or not the milk you drink contains A1 or A2 is determined by the genetics of the various herds of dairy cows.
Here’s why the differences between A1 and A2 milk are important. As your body digests A1 milk, it forms a tiny protein fragment called beta-casomorphin-7, or BCM7. BCM7 is the culprit that makes A1 milk into a disease-promoting substance for some people. This peptide, not found in A2 milk, is actually a narcotic. And this narcotic can cause various illnesses, including heart problems and metabolic disorders. But not for everyone.
Originally, many people believed that all cows gave good quality A2 milk. Then, some of the cows mutated and produced A1 milk. Now, almost all dairy cows in this country give A1 milk. The herds producing milk containing the beneficial A2 casein are limited to a small number of cows in Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Whey from Australia or New Zealand commonly comes from A2 cows.
Today, A1 dairy products are common in most parts of the world. But A2 dairy is rare – and more expensive. The A1 protein has been linked to metabolic disorders, heart illnesses, and digestive problems. The A2 protein has not been associated with any illnesses. But it doesn’t help everyone. Some people feel better on A2. Some people don’t.
Most – but not all – Guernsey cows (the beautiful brown ones) produce A2 milk. Holsteins (black and white) produce A1 milk.
Just remember that cow’s milk originating in this country contains the A1 protein – unless it specifically says it doesn’t. If you can’t find A2 milk, there’s another source – sheep and goats. Both animals give A2 milk, as well. So in addition to the whey protein you buy, make sure any yogurt or cheese you eat comes from sheep or goats. Sheep’s cheese is more likely to be safer to eat than cheese made from cow milk, especially if it comes from the U.S.
You can find milk, yogurt, and both hard and soft cheeses from goat’s milk in gourmet groceries and health food stores. Goat milk products don’t have a strong goat taste or smell. One good brand is Redwood Hill Farm. They make a variety of goat milk yogurts, kefir, and cheeses that are certified grade A and delicious.
If you’ve had problems digesting dairy and it’s not due to lactose intolerance, some dairy products could be safer than you thought. Researchers are just beginning to explore this issue of casein digestion.
For more information on the dangers of A1 dairy, pick up a copy of Devil in the Milk by Keither Woodford (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007). You’ll get an in depth look at the politics of dairy and the science behind this discovery. In the meantime, try A2 if regular dairy gives you problems. Try the A2 for a month or see how you feel.
Buy Quality Whey Protein Powders
If you want to stop the flab of aging muscles, increase your strength, and tone your skin, you want undenatured whey from grass-fed cows. The best quality whey protein powder I’ve found is Advanced Protein Powder. It’s a whey concentrate that comes from grass-fed New Zealand cows.
If you want to feed your muscles and lose weight, have a protein drink instead of a meal. Need to gain weight? Have a drink in addition to your meals. And if you simply want to preserve your muscles, have a protein shake within 30 minutes after you exercise — preferably every day.
Pea protein is another good protein supplement source for those who do not want to use whey. In one 12-week study, weight-lifting men who consumed 50 grams of pea protein per day gained the same amount of muscle as those taking whey protein. You can find pea protein in BHU Fiber Bars, which contain a healthy portion of protein.