Powered By Protein
Can I share a little piece of my heart and soul? I hope that was a yes. It's not a depressing or consisting story. Rather a story of a young boy. Some of you may know, likely only a few, that I was raised on a dairy farm in Ohio. Others may too know that I was a nutritionist for dairy cows professionally for 13 years. Those two things intersected when I was 12 years old. My dad, besides operating a dairy farm; starting at 5 am and finishing top for the day around 730 pm- was also a nutritionist for other dairy farmers. He started this second occupation when I was 4 so you can say I grew up around nutrition.
As a lot of children do, I took interest into my dad’s career of nutrition and when I was 12, he let me learn the ins and outs of balancing diets for cows. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking - they just graze eat grass and BAM it’s done. Well, let me be the first to say it isn’t that simple. Many parts of the world, as it was in Ohio, the weather doesn’t allow for year-round grazing, so food for cows must be harvested and stored. Think of it much like a grocery store for cows! That is where the work comes in. A nutritionist surveys what is available and creates a diet that is helps cows grow and produces milk to their best possible extent. Think of this as a dietician might do the same for a triathlete or marathon runner or football player. What they eat determines how well they perform, their body composition and overall health.
Same for cows.
So back to when I was 12, my dad sat me down at our computer. He opened a computer program, like an excel spreadsheet on hyperdrive and explained to me the requirements of a growing cow-a heifer. Those requirements broken down into the simplest form was Energy (that which comes from Fat or Carbohydrates) and Protein. Those 2 points are the biggest factors to adjust around. A nutritionist works to ensure there is enough protein in the diet to encourage lean growth (tall body with good muscle tone) and limit the amount of energy so the cows would not-ok to be blunt-get too fat. For if a heifer got too fat it would stunt her growth. It would as well affect her overall life-resulting in lower milk production, lower overall health and less general well-being.
I quickly learned it was EASY to have enough energy in the diet. Fat and carbohydrates were low cost, readily available and easy to include. Protein was the challenge. It cost a lot of money and always in short supply. I found myself as did a lot of other farmers and nutritionists thinking I could skimp. If I was shooting for 16% of the diet as protein 15% would be ok. Right a little bit didn’t hurt anything. I soon learned I was wrong! Later in my life I thought about those cows that were grazing on fresh grass. I thought about those cows that had to exercise to eat, walking miles and miles each day to find enough grass to eat. To be honest they looked amazing. Think about it this way they looked like the healthiest most fit athletes, or people that you know! I decided to do some investigation. I decided to see what the nutritional content of grass was! My mind was blown. Grass was even higher in protein than what I had tried to balance diets! I learned that protein is the key. Make sure you have enough protein and the rest seems to fall into place.
For the past 8 years I’ve seen the same hold true with people. I’ve seen low carb-high carb-low fat-high fat. I’ve what almost everything. In all that I see one trend hold true: PROTEIN. Get enough protein and it seems you can have any form of energy (fats and carbohydrates) that your body prefers. It’s always been amazing to me. Now I'll admit there is more to it. There is the quality of each nutrient, macronutrients, fiber, etc; but as a foundation, get ample protein in your diet and it’s amazing what can happen!!
What’s your favorite way to add protein into your diet? Leave a comment below and let us know!
-Tyler and Kelley