Muscles require protein to become stronger.
Protein is an essential element of a healthful diet, and particularly important to those who exercise regularly. It facilitates not only the repair of damaged tissues and muscle fibers, but muscle growth as well. As an added bonus, some proteins release slowly, which keeps you feeling full for longer. Another benefit of slow-release proteins is the steady release of nutrients to your body. Some athletes consume slow-release proteins before bed to keep their body nourished as they sleep.
Casein is a family of proteins found in cow’s milk. It congeals in your stomach and takes hours to digest, providing a slow release of protein. Solid cheeses have the highest natural content of casein, followed closely by cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is typically the healthier option, as it is available in reduced-fat and fat-free varieties. Milk is another excellent option, around 80-percent of its protein is casein - like cottage cheese, it is available low fat and fat-free. Combining dairy products in a meal packs a large amount of slow-digesting protein in one sitting. For example, eat a serving of cottage cheese with a glass of milk.
Poultry, Meat and Fish
Steak, pork, chicken, turkey, salmon and sole are just some of the options for slow-release protein from the meat category. While the protein in these foods digests slightly faster than casein, meat-based protein breaks down slower than that from legumes or grains. Always stick with healthful serving sizes of poultry, meat and fish - 3 ounces is a typical recommendation. Research suggests that eating red meat three times a week is a healthy limit, as it often contains high amounts of fat. Eating fish three times weekly promotes heart health. Poultry is safe to consume three times a week as well.
Foods such as peanut butter or almond butter pack a large amount of protein, calories and dietary fiber in each serving. Fiber breaks down slowly in your stomach, causing the protein from nut butters to release slowly and prolong fullness. Peanut butter and almond butter are readily available, but many natural foods grocers offer an array of other nut butters. Be mindful of the fat content in nut butters and stick to one or two servings daily to keep these slow-releasing proteins healthful. Raw nuts are also an excellent option.
If you are pressed for time or simply looking for protein on the go, casein protein powder is a great choice. It is made from pure casein separated from dairy products by a process known as “ultrafiltration.” One 2-tablespoon serving of casein powder can deliver as much as 25 grams of protein at the cost of just 100 calories. It mixes well with water or milk, but drink your shakes right away, as it separates quickly.