Saturday, November 8, 2014


A Personal Trainer Speaks: Moving from High-Carb to High-Protein

Welcome ! From the perspective of a personal trainer, this article explores the benefits of protein for those interested in optimal benefits from their exercise routine. This article will explore:
The results of various health studies on the protein requirements of active people 

How consuming enough protein benefits active people 

The components of an optimal sports nutrition plan
We also will discuss how you can develop your own sensible eating plan to provide all the energy and support you need for your active lifestyle.

What You Will Learn 

By the time you finish this article, you will have a better understanding of:

The benefits of protein and its role in recovery, strength, body composition and immune system response to illness
The role of amino acids in muscle protein synthesis and body composition
How exercise causes a dramatic increase in an individual's protein requirements
The difference in quality of various proteins
How to develop a sensible eating plan that provides all the energy and support you need for your active lifestyle
How This Will Work 

The Live Discussion Groups and Message Boards are a key aspect of your learning experience. The more you participate on the Message Boards--sharing questions, concerns, ideas and your own personal experiences--the more both you and our online community will benefit.
Now let's get started!

Protein is the building material for your body. It's essential for everyone due to its role in muscle growth and maintenance, but it's especially important for active people because protein repairs muscle damage due to training.

Understanding Amino Acids and "Complete Proteins" 

Protein consists of chains of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids required for tissue growth, and the body can make 11 of these. These are the non-essential amino acids. That leaves nine amino acids that cannot be produced by the body--they are called the essential amino acids, and they must come from food. A complete protein is one that has a balance of all 20 amino acids. The complete proteins are the ones that come from eggs, milk, poultry, fish and meat.

Protein is essential in the building of muscle tissue and in rebuilding muscle tissue that has been damaged (from training, exercise or physical exertion). In addition, protein is necessary for many other functions, including making red blood cells, hormone production, healthy immune system function, and healthy skin, hair, connective tissues and nails. Proteins are the basis for the major structural components of human tissue.

Studies have shown that active people and, of course, athletes, do require more protein than sedentary individuals. When you exercise, protein stores are broken down and used for fuel. This process is called gluconeogenesis. It has been shown that when athletes consume a low-protein diet, there is decreased whole body protein synthesis, which indicates a breakdown of muscle tissue--very counterproductive for the active person.

Take a Look at the Research 

More and more studies are confirming the benefits of higher protein. Let's take a look at one study that compares the effect of a high-protein food intake with a "normal" protein intake.

Fourteen men were placed on a standardized eating plan and exercise regimen for six days. Then, six of the men were placed in a "high-protein" group, lowering carbohydrate content from 58 percent to 33 percent, so that they consumed 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight. The other eight men were placed in a "normal-protein" group; they consumed 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. All the subjects exercised for 90 minutes each day on a stationary bicycle. On days when their blood was tested, subjects engaged in two 90-minute bike workouts.

The blood tests revealed that the high-protein, lower-carbohydrate group used more protein for energy during exercise. Also, subjects in the high-protein group used more fat for energy during exercise as well as during recovery and at rest, compared with the lower-protein group. In addition to burning fat for energy, subjects on the high-protein, lower-carbohydrate program also were in positive nitrogen balance, which prevents the body from breaking down body tissue, such as muscle.

The findings of this study clearly support the high-protein component of the Atkins Advantage nutrition principles. By consuming higher-protein and lower-sugar foods while exercising 90 minutes per day, subjects were able to stay in positive nitrogen balance. These subjects also used more fat for energy during exercise, during recovery and at rest than the lower-protein group.
You can read about this study and others in the Research Library.

Next Up 

The importance of a healthy nitrogen balance. 

In this section, you'll learn about the importance of two kinds of balance related to protein: maintaining a healthy nitrogen balance, and balancing your protein intake for optimal energy and stamina.

The Importance of Nitrogen Balance 

If you're a physically active person concerned about healthy nutrition, you need to understand the role of nitrogen balance and protein. The presence of nitrogen in protein differentiates protein from fats and carbohydrates. Nitrogen intake and output can be measured, as you learned when we discussed the research results earlier. This measurement indicates whether new muscle is being built or if existing muscle is being broken down.

A positive nitrogen balance occurs if the intake of nitrogen is greater than the output. This indicates that new muscle is being built. 

A negative nitrogen balance indicates that more nitrogen is being excreted than is being consumed. This indicates that existing muscle is being broken down. 

It's important to consume protein frequently throughout the day to maintain positive nitrogen balance. When protein, or nitrogen, is low, your muscles lose mass and begin to atrophy. The best way to maintain a positive nitrogen balance is by eating protein with every meal and supplementing with protein between meals.

Breaking down protein takes more water, so be sure to consume extra water when eating a higher-protein diet to avoid getting dehydrated.

Maintaining Balance 

Since protein cannot be stored in the body, it must be consumed frequently: every three to four waking hours. This can take a little planning, but you'll find the payoffs enormous. To keep your protein intake balanced and even, follow these tips:

Eat protein with every meal 

Use protein shakes or nutrition bars after hard workouts as supplemental protein
Keep protein shakes and nutrition bars at work and in your car
The Protein in Atkins Advantage® Nutrition Bars and Shakes 

In line with the Atkins goal of providing great-tasting products that provide you with the optimal mix of essential nutrients, we use a mix of soy, whey and dairy protein. This creates an optimal blend with a broad range of amino acids that provides you with the essential amino acids you need to build muscle.

More tips for balancing your proteins

Why the Recommended Daily Allowance of protein may not be enough for active individuals on a rigorous exercise routine. 

As people become more active, the question often arises: "How much protein do I need?" Look at the Nutrition Facts label on any food product and you'll find grams of protein listed, along with a percentage indicating how much of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein the product supplies. The RDA is a government guideline established by the National Research Council; it is based on body weight and is set at 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.

Here's a very important fact to note: The RDAs were set for the "average" sedentary person to avoid nutritional deficiency, not for athletes or individuals who follow an active lifestyle.

To find out your recommended individual protein requirement according to this guideline, simply perform the following calculation:

Body weight (in pounds) X 0.36 = recommended protein intake 

What does this mean for you as an athlete, exercise enthusiast or someone interested in becoming more physically active? In a nutshell: A higher-protein, smarter-carbohydrate eating plan is much better for decreasing body fat, increasing muscle mass and helping you achieve your physical goals. There are dozens of published studies on protein needs and protein metabolism in bodybuilders and other hard training athletes. These studies show numerous benefits of increasing protein intake above the RDA.

Increasing protein intake above the RDA will help reduce body fat by increasing lean muscle mass. This will help bodybuilders and competitive athletes, as well as anyone leading an active lifestyle, to achieve their goals.

When you lose muscle, your metabolism slows down--so your goal should always be to decrease body fat and increase (or maintain) lean mass if you are trying to lose weight. If you are not trying to lose weight, then your goal should be to increase or maintain lean mass for maximum health benefits.
The Importance of Small, Frequent Meals 

It takes energy to digest and use the food you eat. Eating small, frequent meals instead of two or three large meals a day can increase your metabolism by around 10 percent. Frequent protein intake is a good idea--the body will more efficiently use protein because the body taps into the blood for amino acids on an as-needed basis.

Protein has a thermic effect--which means it requires more energy to digest. Eating smaller meals more often, instead of the standard "three squares a day," helps you get maximum benefit from your protein.
So far in this lesson, we've focused on your body's need for protein: what you need, how your body metabolizes it and how you can get maximum energy benefits of protein by exceeding the RDA for protein and eating smaller, more frequent meals. Now let's take a look at burning fat more efficiently.

When you eat lots of sugar and high-glycemic-impact foods, the sugar you don't use to meet your energy requirements will be stored as fat. To meet the body's protein requirements, it will take protein from muscle tissue and burn it. This is the worst possible scenario for any active person! When you lose muscle, your metabolism decreases and fat will be stored more rapidly. Consuming foods high in sugars and high-glycemic-impact carbohydrates creates a vicious cycle. You work out harder to compensate for the fat increase, and that causes even more muscle to be burned and more fat to be stored.

Whether you are exercising at the gym or competing in a race, you want to be able to burn fat efficiently. A higher-protein, lower-sugar eating plan allows your body to go into fat-burning mode rather than sugar-burning, fat-storing mode. Your goal should be to fire up your fat-burning engine; in other words, to shift your metabolism from one that burns fat preferentially over sugar. In order to do this, you should embrace a higher-protein, lower-sugar eating plan that also includes healthy fats, such as olive, canola and grapeseed oil. Following the Atkins Advantage nutrition principles of high protein, high fiber and low sugar will prime your body to use fat for energy. Once the metabolic shift has been made, your body will prefer utilizing fat stores for energy.

Making the Shift 

It can take two to eight weeks on average to make the full metabolic shift to fat burning.

Research studies are useful to know about, but sometimes it's more inspiring to read about a real person's journey to good health.

Greg's Story 

Two years ago, Greg was a 39-year-old truck driver who wanted to get in better shape. He was not physically active outside of work, and he weighed just over 300 pounds. He had a family and was concerned about his long-term health. Greg was eating lots of sugar and fast food meals on the road. 

After doing a lot of research on nutrition and weight loss he opted to combine a high-protein, high-fiber and low-sugar eating plan with weight training and cardio workouts. He soon learned the value of protein in his diet as the fat began to melt off and his muscles got stronger. Today he weighs in at 179 pounds with 7 percent body fat and is considering getting ready to compete in a bodybuilding show.
Judy's Routine 

Here's a first-person narrative from the trainer and sports nutritionist who wrote this course:

I have found that the best way for me to get into fat-burning mode is to do a cardio workout first thing in the morning before eating. I usually feel that I am burning more fat all day after that. I always make sure to consume easily digestible protein immediately after this workout. Most experts agree that the best way to burn fat by doing cardiovascular training is to do it early upon arising in an unfed state. If you're doing cardiovascular training in conjunction with weight training, then it's better to do the cardio after the weight training. That way, most glycogen has already been used during the resistance training; therefore, more fat will contribute to the cardiovascular session. In this case, consuming a light meal beforehand, such as an Atkins Advantage® nutrition bar or shake, is a good idea. 

Now I normally start my day at 6 a.m. with my morning cardio workout. Then I train clients for one or two hours. After that I go to my full-time job, where I work from seven to nine hours per day. Then I usually run or do my weight training after work. Following the high-protein, low-sugar eating plan gives me all the energy I need to maintain my active lifestyle. It will do the same for you! 

Moving On 

This article has covered some important basics about protein based on scientific research as well as personal experience. Next we will delve deeper into some of the topics that have been introduced in this lesson. You'll learn more about the importance of amino acids and how they can lead to optimal health and energy.

Before moving on, be sure to come to the Live Discussion Boards to meet your instructors and the online community, as well as ask any questions you may have.

The first section of this article gave you an overview of research on protein intake versus performance and recovery. You learned how to turn on your fat-burning engine for a more stable energy supply and better endurance. You also studied the problems caused by eating excessive sugar and high-glycemic carbohydrates, which leads to fatigue rather than increased energy. 

In this next section, you'll learn about the role of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) during periods of exercise and resistance training. You will explore the importance of amino acids, the building blocks of protein that are key components in promoting muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth, for active people. You also will learn about glutamine and other amino acids that provide support to the immune system. By the end of the article, you will have a better understanding of how protein supports muscle strength and increased muscle mass, and improves body composition.

Why BCAAs Are Important 

Branch chain amino acids, or BCAAs, are critical for athletes and active people who want to enhance immune function. They are considered essential amino acids because human beings cannot survive unless these amino acids are present in the diet. BCAAs help the body repair itself after intense resistance training, as well as prevent the breakdown of lean muscle tissue. BCAAs are especially important for active individuals since they are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and are the first ones used during periods of exercise and resistance training.

BCAAs include the following amino acids:

Leucine builds muscle tissue and promotes the healing of wounded bone tissue and skin.
Valine promotes muscle recovery after physical exercise. It plays a role in wound healing and the growth of new tissue. 

Isoleucine is essential to help maintain nitrogen balance, which we discussed in Lesson 1. Also, isoleucine is necessary in the formation of red blood cells. 

Important Facts about BCAAs 

Here are some good reasons to eat foods that contain BCAAs:

BCAAs make up 35 to 40 percent of the essential amino acids in body protein and 14 percent of the total amino acids in skeletal muscle. 

The use of supplemental BCAAs has been researched for a variety of purposes, particularly in the treatment of liver failure and other catabolic disease states (i.e., diseases in which metabolic function breaks down), and also as a means to improve exercise performance. 

There is a significant decrease in plasma leucine levels after aerobic, anaerobic and strength exercise. This is due to increased BCAA metabolism in muscle tissue. Getting sufficient leucine or BCAAs in both the short and long term prevents this exercise-induced decline in plasma BCAAs and increases concentration of BCAAs in muscle. 

It is critical that BCAAs are accessible to the body during and after strenuous physical activity in order to reduce or eliminate the breakdown of muscle tissue for protein. 

Increased availability of BCAAs also will increase production of other amino acids, such as glutamine. Studies have indicated that increased glutamine can decrease the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections in endurance athletes. (You'll learn more about glutamine later in this lesson.)
Where to Find BCAAs
Clearly, BCAAs offer several benefits to the active person. How can you make sure you're consuming adequate amounts?

Dairy products and red meat contain the greatest amounts of BCAAs, although they are present in all protein-containing foods.
Whey protein and egg protein supplements are other sources of BCAAs.

You also can increase BCAAs by taking supplements, which typically is a strategy that bodybuilders and endurance athletes use. You will get enough BCAAs when you include adequate amounts of protein in your diet.

Next Up 

Just as protein is the building material for muscle, amino acids are the building blocks for protein. 

You learned about essential and nonessential amino acids, but now it's time to explore them in more detail and examine their role in exercise and nutrition. Amino acids often are referred to as the building blocks of the body. In other words, they are responsible for building cells and repairing tissue. Finally, amino acids are helpful in helping you get through intense physical workouts.

The Amino Acids Your Body Needs 

For the record, let's list the various amino acids.

The Essential Amino Acids 

These are the 10 amino acids you must include in your diet because your body can't make them on its own:



The Non-Essential Amino Acids 

Your body can manufacture these 10 amino acids under normal conditions, so you don't have to ingest each of these:

Aspartic acid
Glutamic acid

Another Category: Conditionally Essential Amino Acids 

If your system is out of balance, these seven amino acids become essential and you must get them from food or supplements:


Physical exercise affects protein turnover and net gains in body protein. The most critical time to ensure that you have plentiful amino acids in your system is the period immediately following a workout. Consuming dietary protein and amino acids immediately after training and for the next 36 hours will help your body maximize protein synthesis and minimize protein breakdown.

Next Up 

The amino acid glutamine supports so much--let's look at it in greater detail. 

The most abundant amino acid in the body is L-glutamine, or glutamine. It is extremely important for your digestive system. Glutamine helps the intestinal lining from deteriorating, and it's also a primary source of fuel for the immune system. Without an adequate supply of glutamine, your immune system cells cannot defend your body against infection and disease. Glutamine keeps the immune system working at maximum capacity and stimulates the production of antioxidants.

A digestive tract that is not healthy can cause nutrient deficiencies and decrease the body's ability to function efficiently. Numerous studies show that glutamine is needed to keep the digestive tract healthy.
Here are some more good reasons why you need to get enough of this important amino acid. Glutamine:
Acts as a nutrient for the lining of the digestive tract 

Is required for the synthesis of glutathione, a major liver antioxidant

Plays an important role in cell proliferation, growth, wound healing and tissue repair
Is required for brain function; it improves memory and cognitive skills
Helps control sugar and alcohol cravings 

Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid (building block of protein) in the bloodstream. It is considered a "conditionally essential amino acid" because it can be manufactured in the body, but under extreme physical stress the demand for glutamine exceeds the body's ability to synthesize it. Most glutamine in the body is stored in muscles, followed by the lungs, where much of the body's supply glutamine is manufactured.

The Role of Ammonia and Glutathione 

Glutamine is also important for removing excess ammonia, which is a common waste product in the body. In the process of picking up ammonia, glutamine donates it when needed to make other amino acids, as well as sugar and the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that is responsible for preventing the breakdown of cells due to stress. Glutathione levels decrease with age, and low levels of glutathione are found in people suffering from immunodeficiency diseases. Maintaining adequate glutamine levels in your body can help increase glutathione levels.

Causes and Effects of Lowered Glutamine Levels 

When the body is stressed--whether from injuries, infections, burns, trauma or surgical procedures--steroid hormones, such as cortisol, are released into the bloodstream. Elevated cortisol levels can deplete glutamine stores in the body. Since glutamine plays a key role in the immune system, a deficiency in this nutrient can slow the healing process significantly. Studies have shown that glutamine enhances the immune system and reduces infections--particularly infections associated with surgery. Glutamine also may aid in the recovery of severe wounds or trauma.

Athletes who train excessively also may deplete their glutamine stores. This is because they are overusing their skeletal muscles, where much of the glutamine in the body is stored. Anyone who is performing strenuous physical exercise needs to ensure they are getting enough glutamine.

Sources of Glutamine 

Fortunately, glutamine is found in all of these foods:

Beef, pork and poultry
Milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
Raw spinach, parsley and cabbage 

Next Up 

Protein supports your muscle strength and improves your body composition. 

Our discussion of BCAAs and various amino acids has highlighted the concerns of protein deficiencies. While a deficiency probably will lead to a loss in muscle mass and/or a loss in athletic performance, eating just enough protein to prevent a deficiency may not exactly lead to the best possible performance. A number of well-controlled research studies have been done to determine the exact amount of protein needed in athletes to achieve nitrogen balance.

As you learned in the previous section, nitrogen balance occurs when the amount of protein that goes into the body is equal to the amount that leaves the body. What this means is that high-protein diets aren't necessarily excess-protein diets. In fact, according to several recent studies, high-protein diets in athletes are just enough to get these individuals to nitrogen balance. So by definition, it cannot be an excess of protein.

Protein Quality 

The quantity of protein you consume matters, as we've discussed throughout the last two lessons. But the quality of protein is essential as well.

How Protein Quality Is Measured 

Protein quality is measured in many different ways. Two of the most common are biological value (BV) and the protein digestibility corrected amino acids score (PDCAAS).

The BV score gives us an indication of how much of the protein you eat remains in your body; the rest is excreted via sweat or your digestive processes. Since the BV score is measured relative to a high-quality "test protein" (usually egg protein), the test protein is given a BV of 100. A BV score of 70 percent or greater usually is considered good quality protein.

The PDCAAS measures the individual amino acids in the protein. A deficiency in only one amino acid may cause severe negative consequences, as we have discussed. This measure of protein quality examines the essential amino acid content of the protein in question and compares it to the human requirement for essential amino acids.

How Various Protein Sources Stack Up 

Wheat protein is known to be a poor-quality protein due to the fact that its limiting essential amino acid is lysine. Since the lysine content of wheat protein is only 8mg/1g protein, while the human requirement for lysine is 19mg/1g protein, this protein source only provides 42 percent (8 divided by 19) of the necessary lysine for growth and repair.

Animal products score better on both the BV and PCDAAS scales. This is why animal proteins typically are the proteins of choice for athletes. Other protein sources, such as beans, grains and peanuts, can be eaten, but they are usually insufficient to provide the body with the amino acids necessary for growth.
Due to the high-quality protein in animal sources, various researchers have examined the question of whether animal protein is better for getting stronger, gaining mass and losing fat than vegetarian protein. From these studies, it has been concluded that an omnivorous diet containing protein from several sources, including various meats, eggs and dairy, is superior to a vegetarian diet containing no meat and only a small amount of dairy and eggs.

For athletes interested in increasing lean body mass while minimizing fat mass, higher protein intake above "need"--the amount you need to avoid protein deficiency--may be extremely beneficial. This additional intake can increase metabolism relative to other nutrients, prevent insulin-related fat gain, optimize anabolic hormone levels and improve cardiovascular risk profiles.

Moving On 

We've discussed how branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are used during periods of exercise and resistance training. You learned about the importance of amino acids--the building blocks of protein--for active people and how they play key roles in promoting muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. You also looked at glutamine and other amino acids that provide support to the immune system. Then you learned how protein supports muscle strength and increased muscle mass and improves body composition.

In the next section, you will learn about the importance of consistency in your eating plan. You will investigate various strategies for increasing protein intake throughout the day. Finally, you will explore your options for supporting your active lifestyle with high-protein nutrition shakes and bars.

Meanwhile be sure to join your instructors and the online community on the Live Discussion Boards to share questions, answers, tips and experiences.
In order to meet your fitness goals--whether they involve strength, endurance, body composition or just staying healthy while becoming more active--you will need to develop a consistent eating plan as well as a consistent training plan.

Lessons 1 and 2 gave you an overview of the many benefits that consuming adequate protein can offer you. You must be consistent with your protein intake in order to reap the benefits of protein that we have discussed earlier in this course. And as you've learned in the previous two lessons, there are many advantages to eating smaller meals more often. Doing so delivers protein in small amounts your body needs and helps your blood sugar levels stay even as well.

When Do I Need to Eat Protein? 

This is a question that personal trainers hear a lot. Realistically, your schedule, health and fitness goals, nutritional needs and lifestyle may affect how often you eat, but in general these are the protein consumption times that active people should strive for:

First Thing in the Morning 

When waking up in the morning, your body has just been through a fast. During this overnight fast, the body has been using up its stored energy by slowly sending nutrients out from the liver, fat cells and muscle cells. The body does this in order to keep blood sugar constant and to fuel the brain and other tissues during sleep. In the morning, the best thing you can do for your body is to consume a relatively quick-digesting protein source. One good way to accomplish this is to drink an Atkins Advantage® nutrition shake immediately upon waking.

Immediately After Exercise 

Your muscles need protein after a workout in order to rebuild and repair so you can come back even stronger for your next workout! This is a great time to consume a quick-digesting protein.

With Every Meal During the Day 

When you start enjoying the benefits of a higher-protein way of eating, it goes without saying that each meal should include protein, especially breakfast.

Immediately Before Bed 

Before you lie down and enter dreamland, you should consider taking in a final meal in anticipation of the six- to eight-hour fast ahead. You want to prevent the body from using all of its stored energy during the night. This would be a great time for a slow-absorbing protein, since the slow proteins release their nutrients over several hours. Before going to sleep a milk protein isolate/concentrate blend with whey and casein is appropriate. An Atkins Advantage® nutrition shake, with its blend of four proteins, would do the job nicely.

Next Up 

We'll give you some ideas on how to consume protein throughout the day.

If you have a job or lifestyle that requires you to live on the go, always plan ahead so you'll never be forced to consume foods that aren't in your eating plan.

In order to reach your goal of increasing your protein intake at every meal, you should rely on a variety of protein sources: fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy, as well as protein supplements in the form of ready-to-drink shakes or nutrition bars that are high in protein and low in sugar. (This is, of course, in addition to low-glycemic vegetables and fruits and lots of water.)

Even if your schedule is very hectic, try to have at least two whole-food meals per day. They should include animal-source protein, natural fats and lots of high-fiber vegetables.

Using Nutrition Bars and Shakes 

Other questions that personal trainers often hear are: "What about these nutrition bars and other products? How do I know which ones to use and how to use them?" These tips will help you make smart choices:

As a rule, meal replacements are best utilized as an adjunct to an optimal nutrition plan. They should not be a substitute for whole, natural, unprocessed foods. Combining nutrition bars or shakes with natural foods is the best way to satisfy all of your nutritional requirements. 

Always read labels carefully--it's amazing how many products geared toward active people are low on protein and fiber and full of sugars. Always study the Nutrition Facts label as well as the list of ingredients, and take your time choosing your products. 

When traveling or working long hours, have some Atkins Advantage® nutrition shakes and bars available. Then you can supplement your other meals with these convenient on-the-go options. By using these convenient, portable nutrition options you will never have to worry about getting enough nutrients or protein to fuel your active lifestyle and help you recover from your training. 

How Can I Be Sure to Get Enough Protein? 

Even though you know that it's important to eat regularly, you may simply not be that hungry first thing in the morning. If so, an Atkins Advantage® nutrition bar or shake or an Advantage Morning Oatmeal Raisin bar is a great way to get the protein and other nutrients you need.

What's the Best Kind of Protein? 

The current process of rating protein is called the Protein Digestibility-Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA). This test rates the protein's amino-acid profile against the acid test; it assesses what's needed for the growing requirements of preschool-age children. Whey, eggs and casein (milk protein) all have a nearly perfect PDCAA score of 1.0. These are also ingredients that you will find in Atkins Advantage products, as you'll learn in the next section.

Following these five guidelines will enhance your health and energy levels, whether you're cooking at home or dining out:

Eat foods high in protein. Protein boosts your metabolism and provides energy for your body to build and repair muscles, bones and other tissue. 

Choose carbohydrates that maximize your intake of fiber and nutrient content, and minimize the impact on your blood sugar level. 

Select foods to maximize your intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Dark, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, are all good choices. Remember that in general, the less a vegetable has been cooked or processed, the more it retains its health-promoting characteristics. 

Avoid excess sugars, and emphasize high-fiber fruits and vegetables that have a low-glycemic impact.
Avoid trans fats, which are also called hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. 

Discovering Your Optimal Nutritional Blend 

As we have dicussed, protein provides a powerhouse of energy for the body, building and repairing muscles, bones and other tissue. Protein boosts your metabolism, as well. To make sure you get the protein you need to support your health and fitness goals, look for products using a mix of soy, whey, and dairy protein (caseinates) that provides you with all the essential amino acids.

What Kinds of Ingredients Will I Find in Atkins Advantage® Nutrition Bars and Shakes? 

Atkins Advantage nutrition bars and shakes use a blend of proteins from four sources:

Whey protein isolate
Soy protein isolate
Sodium caseinate
Calcium caseinate 

Whey protein isolate is considered the highest-quality protein after casein in terms of the body's ability to use it. It has been shown in studies to possess immune-boosting capabilities because it increases cellular levels of what is arguably the body's most important antioxidant, glutathione. Soy protein isolate has been shown to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, increase HDL ("good") cholesterol and actually inhibit the progression of atherosclerosis.

Milk protein (caseinate) is not only the easiest for the body to use; it also improves mouth feel and taste. Since each type of protein has a slightly different amino-acid profile, the combination of these all-star protein sources ensures optimal amino-acid content overall.

This course has concentrated mostly on protein, but here are four more good reasons to look into Atkins Advantage products:

Fiber: Fiber will not raise your blood sugar level significantly. Fiber is satiating--it makes you feel full longer and helps cut cravings. Better yet, fiber has been proven to boost your immune system, as well as lower cholesterol. Still, most people do not get even half the amount they need on a daily basis. Atkins Advantage nutrition bars contain lots of healthy fiber. For example, the Atkins Advantage® Caramel Fudge Brownie Bar has 9 grams of fiber. 

Vitamins and Minerals: Making sure you get enough vitamins and minerals is one of the best things you can do for your health and energy levels. Atkins Advantage products are packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins for energy and calcium for strong bones. 

Low Sugar: This means you won't experience the dreaded "sugar spike and crash" that can come from high sugar-based products. 

No Trans Fats: Trans fats have no place in any healthy lifestyle, so you can rest assured that all Atkins Advantage products are free of manufactured trans fats. 

Goodbye and Good Health 

In this article you learned the benefits of protein and its role in recovery, strength, body composition and immune system response to stress. Then you looked at the role of amino acids in muscle protein synthesis and body composition. We showed you how exercise causes a dramatic increase in an individual's protein requirement. Finally, you learned strategies for developing a sensible eating plan to provide all the energy and support you need for your active lifestyle.

Before you go, please drop by the Live Discussion Boards and Message Boards to check in with your instructors and fellow online community with any remaining questions and comments.

Thanks for taking the time, and we wish you the best of success in meeting your health and fitness goals!