Any of us whove put an ounce of thought into the process of growing and maintaining our muscles have also downed more than our fair share of poultry, beef, eggs and tuna and for many, the routine has gotten a tad bit tiresome by now. Sure, the majority of use eat to live (or better put, "eat to get jacked"), but variety is the spice of life, and who doesnt enjoy a little extra flavoring now and then?
Fortunately there are a number of protein sources available to us today, and many of them are of as high a quality in terms of their muscle-building properties as the old standbys. Consider spicing up your diet with these protein alternatives from time to time...
During the 1960’s and 70’s soy protein was a popular, inexpensive supplement popular with budget-minded bodybuilders looking to expand their range of protein sources. By the 1980’s, however, it fell out of favor with those who feared its estrogen-like compounds, called isoflavones. Concerned that soy might force them into women’s competitions, male bodybuilders shunned this vegetable protein.
A study presented at the 2005 Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, California, revealed that not only did test subjects on soy protein grow as much muscle as their whey-consuming brethren, they showed no decrease in serum testosterone levels. Boys will be boys, even on soy.
Fortunately for you, soy is as plentiful as more traditional bodybuilding staples tuna and chicken, particularly at natural food grocers like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Next time you’re in L.A. you can satisfy your Jones for soy at Real Food Daily, which serves a tasty tofu wrap, along with a host of other grain protein dishes.
Although this impressive ungulate was hunted to the brink of extinction 115 years ago it’s since made an impressive comeback, both on the American Great Plains and Americans’ plates. Packing a protein to fat ratio similar to tuna and skinless chicken breast, buffalo is tastes a bit like beef, but it is a little drier, due to its lower fat content.
Bison meat, unlike some of the other protein sources to follow, is fairly easy to get, be it in the Trader Joe’s frozen foods section, Whole Foods or at your local butcher’s shop. Or, the next time you’re in Manhattan, New York, you could stop by one of the six Heartland Brewery locations for a hearty, free-range, grass-fed bison burger to go with a microbrewed pale ale.
Most of us think of crustaceans either as sea bugs or things to be savored on first dates and business dinners. Fact is though that lobster, shrimp and crab can provide a great protein-rich boost to your humdrum diet.
For example, a 100-gram serving (about 3-1/2 ounces) of shrimp will yield you 21 grams of protein and just a single gram of fat, with no calories to count for your ketogenic diet. Crab and lobster are similarly stocked with that most potent of muscle-building nutrients.
If cost is a consideration (for whom isn’t it?) we suggest you check the freezer of your local supermarket where you can find 3 lb. bags of frozen shrimp at a price comparable to chicken breast. And the next time you find yourself with a hankering for crustacean be sure to get yourself to the nearest Chart House (there are 27 across the country), where you can savor mouth-watering lump crabmeat, shrimp cocktails and lobster tail. Who said protein had to bore the palate?
Ostrich meat has a taste unto itself and, like bison, is exceptionally high in bodybuilder-friendly protein. Although the ostrich is clearly a bird (albeit a very, very large one), its taste more closely resembles that of beef than chicken. Ostrich steaks turn a rich reddish hue when cooked and they often have a speckled appearance from the insertion points of their large feathers.
Ostrich isn’t as readily available as bison, yet most quality butchers should carry filets and/or ground meat. You could also stop by Catelli Ristorante and Cafe in Voorhees, New Jersey, which serves ostrich both as an appetizer and an entrée. Because of its red meat taste, we suggest that you try it with a nice shiraz. Buon appetito!
Venison, a.k.a. deer meat (elk is also referred to as venison), has a long history of sustaining man, most notably woodland-dwelling Native Americans, for whom it was a staple. Leaner than beef and generally more tender, venison can be used to make sausages, jerky, roasts and filets.
While venison is widely available throughout European supermarkets, it’s less readily available in the United States — although specialty butchers and sites like venisonsteaks.com and elkusa.com can meet your deer meat needs. For the hardcore venison aficionado, a trip to Banff, Alberta’s The Grizzly House might be in order. There you can not only order a seven ounce venison steak, but get your fix of frog, shark and boar, too — all excellently exotic sources of protein in their own right.
Approximate Nutritional Comparisons of Various Protein Sources
* in grams † in milligrams