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Boost Your Performance the Natural Whey

(ARA) - Over the past decade, Americans have become increasingly interested in healthy lifestyles. We're exercising more and paying more attention to our diet. Whether you're a daily exerciser, weekend warrior, or endurance athlete, your body needs extra protein to meet the nutritional demands that come with increased activity levels.

Protein is a key component of muscle tissue, making up 15 to 20 percent of its composition. Exercise breaks down muscle tissue and a lack of the right nutrients to rebuild lean muscle tissue may result in reduced strength and endurance. One key to optimum fitness is making sure you get enough high quality protein.

What if you could find a nutritional protein supplement that was versatile, rich in essential amino acids, easy to digest and an excellent source of energy to support your fitness goals? Whey protein, a diary protein making up approximately 1 percent of milk, is just such a product.

"Whey protein is one of the highest quality proteins available," says Carla Sorensen, director of the Whey Protein Institute. "In addition to being easy to digest, it also contains one of the highest concentrations of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) available from any natural food protein source."

The body prefers to use BCAAs during periods of exercise as a source of energy, she explains. The muscles break down the BCAAs into glucose, which passes directly into the skeletal muscles from the bloodstream. Low levels of BCAAs may lead to increased fatigue, especially during endurance exercise.

An added benefit of whey protein is the enhanced production of glutathione, one of the body's natural anti- oxidants. During times of stress, including exercise, there is often a decrease in glutathione levels. Whey protein in the diet helps maintain adequate glutathione levels to aid the immune system and increase muscle stamina. Whey protein has also been shown to help increase fat loss while building lean muscle tissue in comparison to dieting alone.

For all these reasons, whey protein has long been a preferred ingredient in sports drinks and nutritional snack/energy bars. Whey protein is also a smart addition to healthy and nutritious homemade snacks. These snacks provide a lower-cost alternative to commercial products, particularly for recreational athletes. You can add whey protein to liquids, such as low fat milk, fruit juice or smoothies; or you can also use it in baked goods like cookies and snack bars.

Here are several delicious, easy-to-make snacks that can help you increase your whey protein intake.

Crispy Peanut Butter Whey Protein Bar

1/4 cup light corn syrup 1/3 cup honey 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter 1 3/4 cup whey protein powder 1 1/4 cup crisp rice cereal 1 1/4 cup chocolate coating (simply melt chocolate chips or chocolate bars in a microwave or double boiler)

1. Place corn syrup, honey and peanut butter into mixer with paddle attachment. Blend for one minute on medium.

2. Mix together whey protein and crisp rice. Add to peanut butter mixture and mix on low speed until well blended.

3. Press mixture firmly and evenly into a lightly greased 9-inch square pan. Let sit one hour.

4. Cut into 12 bars. Dip bars into melted chocolate coating and place on wax paper-lined pan. After all bars have been coated, place pan in freezer for three to four minutes to harden coating.

Nutritional information per bar: 200 calories, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 14 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat. Dietary Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 medium fat meat.

Frozen Fruit Protein Twist

1 ripe banana, chopped 1/4 cup sugar (or Splenda) 1/4 cup orange juice 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup evaporated milk 1/4 cup whey protein isolate 1/4 cup water

1. Add all ingredients to the blender and mix on high speed for 30 seconds or until well blended.

2. Pour into ice cube trays, or other freezer-safe container and freeze for approximately four hours until firm.

Number of Servings: 3.3

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates, 9 grams of protein, 1.5 grams of fat. Dietary Exchanges: 2 fruit, 1 lean meat.

Whey protein is readily available in health food stores, natural food stores, and many fitness centers. For more recipes and information contact the Whey Protein Institute at www.wheyoflife.org or call their toll-free number, (866) WHY-WHEY.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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