Do Athletes Need More Protein?
In the first lesson we will look at what is the optimal diet for people and why the term a raw diet can be misleading.
Often when people are first introduced to the term a raw diet, they assume that it means to just eat typically cooked food, without cooking it. Immediately they begin to ask:
How do I eat raw cereals / legumes / potatoes, etc?
To resolve this confusion, I am inviting you on an imaginary walk through nature.
Before our walk, let’s acknowledge a couple of things:
- each species is attracted to its natural food in its raw, unprocessed form
- each species is equipped with its anatomy to obtain and digest its natural food in an efficient and relatively easy way
With this foundation of understanding, we may embark on our imaginary walk.
We come across:
- A rabbit – does the sight of a rabbit make you salivate and do you get a desire to tear it apart? Or rather, are you attracted to pet the rabbit?
A wolf would have a different answer to yours, but since you do not belong to a pack of wolves, you do not have the same appetite or nutritional needs. Wolves and similar predators are far different from humans in their anatomical and physiological characteristics that dictate their optimal food.
The features of natural carnivores are:
See in the dark for the sake of efficient hunting,
Don’t see colors, unlike the fruit-eating species,
Have claws and canines for easy prey killing,
Drink blood before they eat their victim,
Have short bowels so that high-fat and high-protein fiberless foods could pass quickly,
Have the ability to synthesize vitamin C because they evolved on a diet that lacks this vitamin.
I hope that we have established significant differences between the biological nature of humans and carnivores, so we can check out our next potential food.
- A field of grains – Are you attracted to collecting grains and eating them? What would happen if you tried that? Sticky gluten or similar sticky proteins in grains would just form something like a chewing gum in your mouth, which you would spit out.
However, birds would have a different experience because birds also have a different anatomical structure of the digestive system. Unlike humans, birds have an organ before the stomach, called gizzard that allows digestion of raw grains. Humans are not equipped with this organ and cannot digest grains without processing them. Just having to process something to make it edible, indicates that it is not our natural food.
The features of grains are:
- Do not have vitamin C,
- Are not the fruits of the plants, but the seeds of the plants,
- Contain antinutrients with which plants naturally defend their seeds,
- They are full of hard-to-digest starch and sticky proteins such as gluten and avenins.
So if we have passed the grains as well, we go further in our walk and reach the next point.
- A grass lawn – if it is neat and tidy, it will most likely attract you to stretch yourself on it and watch the clouds. 🙂
But it is very unlikely that you will get the urge to eat the grass, and your anatomy wouldn’t help you in that regard either.
Notice how horses, cows, sheep, and similar ruminants all have long necks that allow them to lower their mouths down to the grass. In addition, they have four stomachs that allow them to digest cellulose foods. You will agree, people have completely different anatomies, and it is natural that we do not see grass as food.
Granted, grass has been put down as an inedible option, so we go on and get to…
- A field of root vegetables – unless you already knew this was a field of root vegetables, it would be hard for you to find this out, since all those roots are not visible above the surface of the Earth. And even if you knew, you would hardly be attracted to dig those roots out and eat them.
Unlike you, a pig for an instance, would cherish this game of digging roots. But even if you dug out a root, what do you think? Would it really attract you to eat it, covered with earth and without attractive shape and color?
You can find far better…
And so we passed the roots and we finally reach…
- A fruit tree – imagine a tree of your favorite fruit. Imagine standing in front of this tree, looking at its treetop. Fresh and ripe fruits are visible among the green leaves and you can almost taste the sweet juicy flavors.
You are probably aware that children feel real excitement at the view of a fruit tree, or better yet, the opportunity to climb a tree and enjoy its sweet fruits.
The evidence that you are a fruit eater is:
- Your anatomy gives you the perfect opportunity to climb a tree relatively easily,
- The dexterity of your hands is ideal for picking fruits,
- The dental formula of your teeth is perfectly suited to bite on fruits,
- Your long and curvy intestines allow easy passing of only foods rich in water and fiber,
- All of your cells prefer simple sugars as fuel,
- High water content in fruit hydrates your body cells,
- Fruit provides enjoyment when eaten as it is a nutritional support to your body without harmful ingredients and metabolic end products.
And so we have come to the very food that attracts us in its natural form, gives us pleasure and the necessary nutrients. In addition to fruits, we can also be attracted to young, tender greens, as well as nuts and seeds.
As for the nuts and seeds, we can notice that they are found in shells that are not so easy to open. As many nuts and seeds we would get with the time and effort we would be willing to devote to opening them with bare hands, is an appropriate amount to eat. In the presence of our preferred food – fruit – which requires minimal effort and time to eat, nuts and seeds would play a small role in our diet.
I hope this lesson has taken you a step further in understanding what is the optimal diet for people.
- It sure does! Yet still… what about the saying One should eat the food of the area where one lives?
Let’s address this topic in the next lesson.
There is a long held belief that athletes need more protein than an average person. This would be true and would be scientifically supported only if athletes had a different digestive system and physiology than an average person.
True, athletes spend more calories than average people. Do athletes therefore need more protein? Or do they simply need more calories? If they spend more calories, we are talking about calories here, not proteins, then they also need more calories.
All the answers are in nature, so let’s find the answers to this topic as well. Let’s take two horses for example. Horses are extremely strong and muscular animals that choose grass as their food according to their anatomy and physiology. Now, let’s add another element to this picture: one of these two horses spends most of its time resting, while the other spends most of its time training for horse races. Would it be appropriate and responsible to feed the racing horse with some additional food that is protein rich, perhaps even with animal proteins? Remember, the optimal food for horses is grass. What do you think, how would adding some dead animals, a high protein food, to this horse’s diet, affect this horse health-wise?
It is true that the racing horse spends more calories than the horse who is not racing. So, their diets will differ… quantitatively, not qualitatively.
The same goes for every species.
This romantic myth that proteins build muscles can be finally left behind the sane thinking, because if that was true, then the standard diet alone would result in strong and muscular people.
Muscle fibers are torn apart during exercising and built during resting provided sufficient calorie intake.
And of course, we cannot make a human body accept more proteins than it was designed for. The liver takes up as much protein as it is appropriate for the human body, and uses the rest to make urea that the body expels out through kidneys. The constant filtration of proteins through kidneys weakens the kidneys over time and thus the kidney cells, nephrons, lose their function.
In conclusion, athletic performance indeed requires some dietary adjustments, but in terms of quantity, not the content.