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The best way to keep your muscles strong and toned as you age.

It's normal for our muscles to lose tone and become flabby as we age. But just because it's normal doesn't mean it's good. Not only are flabby muscles unsightly, they're an indication that we're losing strength. And all of us would like to stay strong and vital as long as possible.

To stop or reverse this progression, many of us turn to exercise. While a consistent weight lifting program or workouts at a gym is important, it's not enough. In addition to exercising our muscles, we need to feed them. The best food for muscles is protein. The older we get, the more we need to eat sufficient protein to keep muscles from atrophying, and the harder it is to get enough.

The problem is twofold. We tend to eat less protein as we get older, and the protein we do eat is not digested as well as it was when we were younger. Poor digestion means poor absorption. So you may be eating plenty of protein and still not get enough into your muscle tissues.

That's why I suggest you add a protein shake to your daily diet and exercise program.

However, not all protein shakes are created equal. And trying to choose the right protein powder can drive you crazy. So I did the work for you. I did a lot of digging. And what I found can end your confusion--and help restore some of your lost muscle tone.

When it comes to building or retaining muscles, you need a well-absorbed complete protein with all the necessary beneficial fats and amino acids. The top two sources are eggs and dairy. And of these two, whey protein from milk is my top pick.

It's also the top pick of athletes and bodybuilders, who have to keep their muscles toned. So we know it works. And I can tell you it's the best absorbed.

But just as protein shakes aren't equal, neither are all whey products. Most whey protein powders don't pass my criteria. That's because not all whey protein powder is safe and effective.

Most contain hormones

To increase milk production, the majority of dairy farmers give their cows injections of rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin, an artificial growth hormone). The FDA insists that rBST is safe. But Samuel S. Epstein, MD, in his excellent book What's in Your Milk? (Trafford Publishing, 2006), documents the dangers of growth hormones. They include increasing our risk of various cancers and compromising the health of dairy cows. We know that rBST increases infections in cows' udders and results in a shorter lifespan. If a dairy product--including whey--is organic, it contains no rBST. So use only rBST-free whey products.

But even organic whey doesn't mean it's good for you. Conventional whey proteins can be toxic and low in valuable nutrients. One manufacturer of whey products explains, "Cheap whey protein is like eating a wall. You'll get some minerals from it, but it's not a good source of nutrition."

The best whey protein ...

So what should you look for in your whey protein? These are the most important factors in healthy whey:

Should be a concentrate, not an isolate. Bodybuilders will argue with me. They prefer whey protein isolate because it's slightly better absorbed. But only slightly. And the isolate form is less balanced. Whey protein concentrate, on the other hand, is less processed and contains all the co-factors that make it a complete and more natural immune-boosting product. I choose less processing over slightly better absorption. Whey protein concentrate is a whole food, not an over-processed supplement ingredient.

Should be cold processed (undenatured)). Cheap whey protein lacks some of the important nutrients you want from your whey protein powder because they're heated. Heat destroys toxins and bacteria. But it also destroys some of the most important nutrients whey has to offer. These include ALA and CLA (beneficial fats) and 1-cysteine, an amino acid that prevents your muscles from wasting. These are nutrients that promote muscle growth and muscle tissue repair.

Should be from grass-fed cows. Most dairy cows live in crowded, unsanitary conditions spending their days walking around on dirt and manure "pastures." They eat hay, not grass. No wonder they're given antibiotics to prevent diseases. Grass-fed whey, on the other hand, contains higher amounts of immune-supporting nutrients like alpha and beta lactalbumin.

Should be free from toxins including pesticides and chemicals. It's impossible to escape environmental pollution. But cold-processed whey should undergo microfiltration. This will remove impurities and preserve those fragile immune-supporting fats and proteins I mentioned earlier. The filtration used in whey processing should remove all impurities. Manufacturers of cheaper products process their whey with acids. The residue from the acid filtration can be toxic. Only buy products guaranteed to be toxin-free and, whenever possible, organic.

Should come from A2 cows ONLY. This is where most whey protein products fail my serutiny. And it separates the most beneficial from other forms of whey that are less effective and even harmful. I explained some of the problems with Al dairy products and the benefits of A2 dairy in my September 2009 article. This is a "must read" article if you want to understand how critical it is to avoid Al products. You can read it on my website.

Originally, many people believed that all cows gave good quality A2 milk. Then, some of the cows mutated and produced Al milk. Now, almost all dairy cows in this country give Al milk. The herds producing milk containing the beneficial A2 casein are limited to a small number of cows in Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Whey from Australia or New Zealand commonly comes from A2 cows.

Today, Al dairy products are common in most parts of the world. But A2 dairy is rare--and more expensive. The Al protein has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and digestive problems. The A2 protein has not been associated with any illnesses.

Most--but not all--Guernsey cows (the beautiful brown ones) produce A2 milk. Holsteins (black and white) produce Al milk.

If you can't find A2 milk, there's another source--sheep and goats. Both animals give A2 milk, as well. So in addition to the whey protein you buy, make sure any yogurt or cheese you eat comes from sheep or goats.

Buy quality whey protein powders

If you want to stop the flab of aging muscles and increase your strength, you want undenatured whey from grass-fed cows from A2 milk. The best quality whey protein powder I've found is the Fat Flush Whey Protein from UniKey (800-888-4353). It's a whey concentrate that comes from grass-fed New Zealand cows. While not all cows from New Zealand are guaranteed to give A2 milk--unless they have been certified through expensive DNA testing--90% are.

If you want to feed your muscles and lose weight, have a protein drink instead of a meal. Need to gain weight? Have a drink in addition to your meals. And if you simply want to preserve your muscles, have a protein shake after you exercise--preferably every day.

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Publication:Women's Health Letter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2010
Words:1170
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