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New Breakfast Option
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K Magz
(lapedestrienne) - F

Locale: somewhere without screens
aminos on 08/24/2013 08:34:04 MDT Print View

"The richest proteins for me seem to be soy-based and milk-based."

The FDA and WHO would agree with you, BG. According to their analysis of various proteins, milk, egg, and soy proteins rank highest in how well your body is able to use the protein (that is, what percentage of the amino acids is your body able to absorb and use?). Probably why these three are currently the most common bases for protein powders and supplements. That, and they're relatively low-cost and shelf-stable...

The concept of complete proteins and amino acid requirements is a pretty new one (1930s, I think?), and there is currently still a lot of revision going on to try to figure out what human bodies need. So figuring out amino requirements/net protein utilization/nitrogen balance is all kind of a big rabbit hole. Especially since each body seems to respond very differently to different types, amounts, and concentrations of protein. And different ways of processing foods probably alter their amino content (and its bio-availability) to some degree.

You can read about the protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) used by the WHO here:

If you want a headache-inducing read, the WHO has a 300-page study called "Protein and Amino Acid Requirements in Human Nutrition":

**This one is useful! The only website I know of that gives you the amino breakdown for individual foods (and a list of daily amino intake requirements) is:

What happens if you deprive yourself of any of the nine essential aminos? Commonly described symptoms are dizziness and fatigue. I think you'd have to be eating a *seriously* imbalanced diet on the trail to make a noticeable impact.

For instance, it would be very hard (for me at least) to eat 30 g of peanut butter protein without putting it on some kind of bread, which will provide a complimentary array of aminos. The not-very-scientific recommendation for vegans and vegetarians is to make sure you eat something from each of these three categories everyday: grains (preferably whole), beans, nuts/seeds.

For vegetarians the biggest limiting factor is the amino acid lysine, which doesn't occur in many plant foods. Soy has it, which is part of why it's hard to be vegan without it. Quinoa also has it. That's what makes these two "complete" proteins, which most plant foods are not.

Now, I can't claim to eat soy or quinoa on a daily basis. I'm also predominantly vegan in my habits. Does this mean I'm occasionally lysine-deficient? Quite possibly yes. Has it had a negative effect on my overall health? Not that I can tell. Maybe it explains the powerful cravings I sometimes have for Clif Bars, though. :)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: New Breakfast Option on 08/24/2013 09:06:43 MDT Print View

I have been using Quaker instant oatmeal for over 40 years. Need hot water for coffee anyway, and I am not going to change. As to protein, carbs, etc; I don't pay attention to those kinds of things. I know how much food to bring based on experience. After 7 days I need more food per day. Seems way too complicated and way too time consuming to be worrying about all these ingredients. The most important thing to me is to take food that tastes good.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: aminos on 08/24/2013 09:35:24 MDT Print View

Hmmm. Lots to read. Thanks.

Apparently you have never sucked peanut butter out of a Gerry tube.


K Magz
(lapedestrienne) - F

Locale: somewhere without screens
Re: Re: New Breakfast Option on 08/24/2013 13:49:54 MDT Print View

I tend to agree with you, Nick. Food choices *should* be based primarily in common sense, or "what works."

My interest in nutrition and the biochem behind it stems mainly from the fact that a lot of people's day-to-day diets *don't* work for them; in North America we see obesity and malnutrition rolled into one package--how is that even possible?

Plus, years of being veggie/vegan and being told I "wasn't getting enough protein" to participate in endurance sports ticked me off, so having the nutritional analysis to whip out and prove the naysayers wrong became a pet project. (It's the thru-hikers living on ramen and honey buns who aren't getting enough protein--or much else, for that matter.) ;p

For backpackers, I think the biggest hurdle is learning that expensive "supplements" like shakes and bars and sports drinks are unnecessary; all that stuff can be obtained from real foods for much cheaper (and tastier). You're lucky to have established your backpacking diet before gimmicky sports foods hit the market and before processed convenience foods became the foundation of the standard american diet.

William Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
Re: Re: Quinoa on 08/25/2013 18:10:08 MDT Print View

"Now, maybe some of the nutritionists can help with this. How complete is a complete protein? Or, what happens if it is not complete? I know that different incomplete vegetable proteins can be balanced to form a complete mixture, but I don't know how far that needs to go.

"Let's just take an example. Suppose that my body needs 60 grams of protein per day. Now suppose that I consume 30 grams of high-quality complete protein, and another 30 grams of incomplete peanut butter protein. How big of a deal is this?"

These are really important questions, maybe not so much for backpacking, but for thinking about addressing serious malnutrition issues that affect on the order of a billion people worldwide.

In almost all balanced diets that provide a reasonable number of calories, there's also going to be adequate protein to prevent an amino acid deficiency. and are useful references that show why this is the case, and discuss the exceptions.

That doesn't necessarily mean it'll be ideal, so back to your question as a backpacking question. As others have pointed out, lysine is often the limiter among incomplete plant proteins, even after they're combined. Peanut butter is a rich source of protein, but it only has about half the amount of lysine that would be ideal (some other nuts are actually ~ ideal). Dairy products, meat and fish, on the other hand, have substantially more lysine than is needed, so they'll more than make up for the relative deficiency in the peanut butter, *even if* you are only meeting your minimum requirement. In principle, some other complete proteins that have ~ the ideal lysine level but not extra wouldn't balance your peanut butter quite as well. In practice, few if any recreational backpackers are ever right on the margin, though. After looking pretty closely at my typical backpacking foods, I've concluded that I am more than safe getting the majority of my protein from plant sources with any potential deficiencies more than balanced by the milk I had on my granola at breakfast and the very small amounts of animal-based protein in other meals more as a flavoring than as a calorie source.


Bill S.

John Hillyer
(TrNameLucky) - MLife
Thanks for the info on 08/25/2013 21:26:42 MDT Print View


Thank you for the info on amino acids and the link to

btw- Eating 30g of peanut butter with no bread is easy; just mix it in with chicken flavored top ramen for a delicious Thai nutty taste.

just Justin Whitson
Re: proteins etc on 09/02/2013 16:38:58 MDT Print View

I find that my body doesn't do very well with most Soy and Cow milk based foods and proteins.

There are some exceptions. Well cultured, organic soy (nothing less than a Harvard degree will do) doesn't bother me, cultured cow milk doesn't bother me, and real whey protein doesn't (not that milk protein crap like Muscle milk that mixes the whey back with the super hard to digest casein crap, argh that gets my goat).

I usually opt for things like goat milk powder, amaranth (more nutritous and slightly more energy dense than quinoa), chia, hemp seeds, etc which for me are more innately easier to digest proteins. But whey protein is good for backpacking too.

I save protein rich foods generally for after i've done hiking, and eat more carb rich foods before and while hiking. Unless it's really cold or rather i'm cold, in that case it's a protein and fat free for all.