Quality control

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Do you need "high-quality" protein?

  • Beating the blues

  • Recipe of the week

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Does Protein Quality Matter?

The debate about protein superiority usually focuses on the speed of digestion, rate of absorption, amino acid content, or being "clean." But all of these claims might be a distraction from what really matters.

New research suggests that if you're eating enough protein, the quality isn’t as important as you've been led to believe.

Many people believe that if you want to grow muscle, you need a fast-absorbing protein with high digestibility. But there hasn’t been much research asking a more practical question — if you eat more protein, can you worry less about the quality?

The new study — which reviewed existing protein research — found that the quantity of protein you consume determines the need for quality. In other words, if you want to eat less protein, it's best to focus on more premium protein. But, if you prefer eating a higher protein diet, then it's OK if you're not always consuming the highest absorbing options.

This is because protein consists of amino acids, the building blocks of your cells and muscle. And you need essential amino acids because your body can't make them. Low-quality proteins have fewer essential amino acids or can be missing some of them completely. And that's why some proteins really are "better" than others.

But if you eat more protein (a minimum of 1.6g/kg per day of protein, according to the research) -- even if it's not the best option -- the quantity compensates for the lower quality, your body fills the amino acid gaps (assuming you're eating a variety of protein sources), and your body gets what it needs to build muscle, help you recover, and support your overall health

Of course, there are other considerations when choosing protein. Calories still matter, so if selecting a “lower quality” protein source means loading up on unnecessary calories, that could impact your results. But the protein itself — as long as you eat enough — will not hold you back.

If you want some guidelines or count your macros, here's a simple example to show how it works. Let's say you're 175 pounds. If you're eating only high-quality options (such as whey, beef, egg, soy, or milk — all have high digestibility), you could see results with only 80 grams of protein per day. But, if you eat roughly 175 grams of protein daily, you can eat some lower-quality forms of protein such as peanuts, wheat, or beans.

Beating The Blues

When life gets extra hard, a little exercise can lift your mood. But choosing the right type of exercise can help determine if you also have a great workout.

New research suggests that mental fatigue does not limit strength or power-based workouts as much as it does your endurance.

In the study, mentally exhausted participants could bench press and jump just as well as they could when feeling their best. The catch? Your max strength might not be harmed, but it doesn’t mean your entire workout will feel amazing. Other studies have found that you’re likely to do fewer reps. And that lack of endurance applies to long-distance running or endurance-based activities, such as swimming.

While more research is needed to determine exactly why endurance exercise is affected by mental fatigue while strength is not, there is some evidence that it's about cognitive demand. A long run or higher-rep sets of an exercise requires more mental energy.

Bottom line: when you’re feeling beat, any exercise can help you recharge. But if you want the workout to feel great, opt for shorter, more intense activities.

Recipe of the Week

We know eating enough healthy foods, such as vegetables, is hard. So this week, we're offering a simple salad option that tastes much better than your traditional salad. You can keep it light, enjoy it as a side or snack, or toss in extra protein. We know vegetables aren't exciting, but this only takes about 10 minutes to make, tastes great, and your body will thank you for giving it something nutritious.

Avocado Herd Salad

Makes 5 to 6 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes (assuming the protein is already cooked)


  • 2 pints grape tomatoes

  • 1/2 English cucumber, diced

  • 6 fresh basil leaves or small parsley sprigs, or a mix, finely chopped

  • 1/2 cup small-diced red onion

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 lemon, juiced

  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

  • Optional: Cooked protein of your choice (such as chicken, fish, or steak)


1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the feta, avocado, and protein. Toss to mix well. Add the feta and avocado and lightly toss.

2. Serve with your favorite source of protein to make it a complete meal. You can store this salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.

Chef's tip: If you plan on making this in bulk and eating throughout the week, leave out the olive oil, feta, and avocado until you’re ready to eat. This prevents it from becoming soggy and helps it last longer.