Saturday, December 15, 2012

Four for the Core

 When I am out and about around town I routinely like to stop and look at the current issues of health and fitness magazines.  Not for knowledge and information, mind you, but more for entertainment.  I liken it to watching a Monty Python's film, it is a good laugh.  So just this week I was flipping through one of the magazines and saw an article about abdominal exercises.  The article showed the pictures of three different celebrities with their shirts off and proceeded to describe which exercises you should do to make your abs look like a particular celebrity's.  It was ridiculous and comical, and a little sad.  Ridiculous in that they were just assigning random exercises to these celebrity pictures, and sad in that there are people who read these magazines and believe the information.  
   So lets set the record straight.  No particular exercise is going to make your abs look like Ryan Reynolds's or David Beckham's.  Each person's muscles are arranged in a way specific to that person.  The only power you have is to make a muscle bigger or smaller.  You can also make your abdominals more visible by decreasing your body fat percentage. But you cannot change the shape or arrangement of your muscles.  This is the body that God gave you so accept it.

  So now that I am done with that rant I would like to talk about training what I call the "Core". Depending on who you talk to there are many different definitions of the core muscles.  In my definition I define the core as the muscles that connect the lower body to the upper body.  I define the core this way because (1) there are a lot muscles in that area, (2) most of the muscles work together to perform movements or to stabilize, and (3) it establishes the idea of a group of muscles and not just a single muscle.  All of the core muscles work together to protect the spine and internal organs, transfer force throughout the body, stabilize the torso, and provide a stable base for the extremities.  Having a strong core is important for health and longevity, reducing risk of injury, and also maximizing performance in almost all activities.  In many strength and conditioning programs the focus is placed upon building core strength first then moving outward.  If your body was a house then your core muscles would be the foundation.  If your core is weak it effects everything else.  So what is the best way to train your core muscles?
  There are endless ways to train the core muscles and no way is the absolute best.  What works for one person could cause injury in another.  Regardless of the routine though, the focus of any program should be to maximize safety and optimize performance.  So with that is mind the easiest and most basic way to train the core to perform functional exercises.  This includes exercises performed standing on your feet, exercises without seats, benches, or stable surfaces, and exercises that utilize large muscle groups.  Examples of these exercises include squats, lunges, deadlifts, pushups, pullups, rows, and shoulder presses.  If you performed nothing but these exercises, with proper form, while standing and without assistive devices (seats, benches) then you would have a reasonably stable core.  However, if you have the time and the energy it is a good idea to focus on specific core exercises to optimize strength and stability.  

  So here are four movements/exercises that address all of the core muscles and planes of movement within the body.  Since a key function of the core muscles is to resist movement many of the exercises require you to hold the torso rigid and in a neutral position while the extremities move through space.  This is a very safe and functional way to train that addresses the two program factors mentioned previously.  So let's do it.




Plank
This is the most basic of all the core exercises. It is considered an anti-extension exercise because your muscles are preventing your spine from extending. I love it because it is safe and effective, hits all of the core muscles, and requires no equipment.  Just remember to keep a straight and rigid body through out.  Do not let the hips sag down as this places stress on the lower back. If you do feel the hips lowering then terminate the set at that time.  Start with 15 second sets and gradually increase to 90 second sets.




Weighted Carry/Farmer's Walk
This exercise is probably the most functional and transferrable to daily activities.  It is considered an anti-lateral flexion exercise because your muscles are preventing your spine from bending/flexing to the side.  You simply pick up in object, hold to your side in one hand, and walk a determined distance.  Twenty five to fifty yards is sufficient enough.  Just remember to tighten the core muscles like you are about to get punched in the stomach, stand up tall while walking, and work both sides.  You can use dumbbells, kettlebells, or even buckets of sand or water.  




Pallof Press
This is a great anti-rotation exercise.  It does require some equipment, though, so you will need either a cable machine or a resistance band.  To perform this exercise you stand perpendicular to the cable/band and hold it at chest level with both hands.  From there you press straight out from your chest.  The further out you press, the more the resistance will try and rotate your torso.  The objective is to maintain a tight and rigid torso, and do not let the resistance rotate you.  Start with a low resistance and work your way up to a challenging 12 reps per side.  This exercise can be done standing or kneeling.




Leg Raise
This is an exercise that actively contracts the abdominals and the hip flexors.  It is a very challenging exercise that places a good amount of stress on the core while keeping the spine in neutral position.  There are many progressions of this exercise so any one can use it regardless of strength level.  Beginners should use what is called a roman chair and should bend the knees to around 90 degrees each rep.  Remember to not swing the legs at the bottom. Use a slow and controlled descent.



To progress from there you can simply keep your legs straight on each rep.


The final progression is to perform the exercise from a hanging position without back support.


There you have it.  Four great exercises that will build a strong core, help prevent injury, and not damage your spine.  My recommendation for implementing these exercises is to focus on one exercise each time you workout.  Simply rotate through each exercise each time you hit the gym and do between 3 and 4 sets per workout.  For example, if you go to the gym on Mon/Wed/Fri, you could do planks on Monday, farmer's walk on Wednesday, and the pallof press on Friday.  The next week you just start Monday with leg raises.  One last word of caution, if something hurts or doesn't FEEL right to you then don't do it.  These exercises are considered safe but every person is different so please use common sense.

 Stay fit,

  Amerson fitness

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Have Washcloth, Will Workout

 
  It is that time of the year again.  The last six weeks of the year just might be the most hectic of them all.  You are traveling and visiting with family, spending large amounts of money on vacations and presents, wrapping up end-of-the-year duties, and typically eating yourself comatose with comfort foods.  There is no doubt about, to survive and succeed during this busy time you have to prioritize and schedule most activities.  Sadly during this process one of the first things people throw out is working out.  No time for the gym and no time to cook homemade healthy meals.  If you slack in these two areas, however, you could set yourself back significantly.  And, it will surely take more than six weeks to undo the damage.  So with that in mind I wanted to make a post that lays out a simple and effective workout that can be implemented during this holiday season. 



  
As the name of this post implies all you need for this workout is some old wash clothes that you have around the house.  If for some reason you don't have any lying around you can purchase some for probably less than $2.00.  This workout uses just your bodyweight as the resistance so no equipment is needed.  The wash clothes are used to decrease friction between you and the ground allowing for various sliding movements.  Simply find an open area with a hard, slick surface such as wood or tile, and you are ready to go.  So let's get to it:


The first exercise is the sliding lunge.  It works the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and is also a great exercise that increases balance.  Focus on sliding smoothly, pushing through the heel of the front foot, keeping the front knee and shin over the front foot, and squeezing the muscles at the top of the movement.  Perform all repetitions on one leg, then switch legs and repeat.  Focus more on form and muscle activation instead of just grinding them out.  





Next is the Atomic Push Up.  This is a great exercise the works the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.  Keep the elbow at about a 45 degree angle from the body,      
maintain tight abdominal muscles (Don't let your hips sag), and bring the knees all the way to the chest on each rep.  Again, focus on form and movement, not quick reps. If you cannot perform full range pushups then drop to you knees and perform the movement.  Full range of motion on your knees is better then partial range off your knees.



Moving on we have the Side/Lateral Squat.  This is essentially a standard squat on one leg while the other leg slides out to the side.  Your level of flexibility will dictate how far out to the side you slide so be careful and go slow.  You will feel a good stretch in the inner thigh.  Focus on keeping your toes pointed straight ahead and try to limit side to side movement of the working/squatting leg. Remember to work both sides.





The next exercise is the Mountain Climber.  This exercise works the chest, shoulders, core, quads, and lungs.  This is the only movement where you can just crank out as many reps as possible during a set.  It is typically used as a conditioning exercise and after an intense bout you will feel it throughout the whole body.  Keep the arms and core tight and pump the legs back and forth rhythmically.




Now let's hit the posterior side of the body.  This exercise is the Sliding Leg Curl.  It really isolates the hamstring muscles, but you also work in the glutes and lower back muscles.  Be warned, hamstring cramps are common with this exercise so stay in a modest rep range.  Start by lifting your hips off the ground and maintaining a straight and rigid body from head to toe.  Then slide your heels toward your butt.  If you cannot perform the movement then just hold the rigid, straight position for time.





This last exercise I like to call the MerMan.  I call it so because this is how I imagine a Merman would get around if you were stranded on dry land.  It is a tremendous core exercise and also hits the shoulder muscles nicely.  Be sure to keep a tight and rigid core throughout and be sure to go both forward and backward.  To prevent too much stress on the shoulders use small steps with the hands and do not reach too far forward.  If you have wrist pain/issues, this may not be the best exercise for you.



So there you have it.  Six great exercises that you can do at home before shopping, between meals, first thing in the morning, or even on a lunch break.  You can incorporate the exercises however you like but my recommendation would be to perform a timed circuit of all the exercises.  A good workout would be to perform each exercise for 40 seconds, rest 20 seconds, then move on to the next exercise.  I listed them is order of the best sequence to perform.  Depending on time and fitness level you can repeat the circuit 3 to 4 times.  That means you can get in a pretty intense workout in just 18-24 minutes.  Hope you enjoy and Happy Holidays.

  ,Amerson Fitness





Tuesday, August 14, 2012

5 Health/Fitness things I like.


Today’s post is simply a list of health and fitness related things that I like.  I use or advocate everyone of these things on a regular basis.  So here they are...





Boar’s Head Deli Meats and Cheeses

I know that there are healthier options out there for eating quality and nutritious lunches but I still like a good old fashioned sandwich.  It is easy to prepare, you can take it anywhere, you don’t need to heat it, and it is cheap.  I make sure my sandwiches have meat, cheese, lots of lettuce, and some dressing(usually mustard and miracle whip). So when it comes to choosing the meat and cheese I always go with Boar’s Head.They use no fillers, gluten, artificial colors or flavors.  A lot of their meats are also backed by the American Heart Association as heart healthy.  They have tons of variety and some really awesome flavors.  Right now I am eating the fiery chipotle chicken breast with swiss cheese.  Even though Boar’s Head is healthier than other deli meats, it is still a deli meat.  So I would limit consumption to once a day.  Other meat servings throughout the day should be from fresh sources.  



TRX Suspension Trainer
I can sometimes get carried away with this piece of equipment.  If you have never heard of it or never used it, then google that sh*t.  It is awesome.  It just might be the most versatile piece of equipment on the market.  I use it with many new clients and enjoy using it often in my own workouts.  It utilizes the user’s bodyweight as resistance, which I highly advocate, and teaches the body to move and stabilize in all planes of motion.  One of the company's slogans is," All core all the time."  It only takes about one minute to get what they are talking about because with every movement you are bracing your core to stabilize your body.  It is extremely functional, easily transported, and really fun.  There is no one piece of equipment that completely does it all, but this one comes close.



GNC Amplified Wheybolic Protein
I like protein shakes for their convenience, low sugar and high protein content, and taste.  They make it easy to ingest good calories to maintain or gain weight without having to eat solid meals all the time.  They are also a post workout staple.  I have tried various proteins and this one seems to taste the best.  I don’t really believe all the hype on the label about how it is 1000% better than other proteins and is endorsed by Chuck Norris himself.  I just want a simple whey protein that tastes good and this one does the job.  It is more expensive, but if you get a GNC member card and buy it the first week of the month it is a good price.  


Foam Roller
A foam roller is a device than can cause just as much pain as pleasure.  You simply place it on the ground and roll your body over it to release tension in your muscles.  You can use it on just about any body segment but my favorite spots are the IT band on the outside of the thigh and hip, and the thoracic spine behind the shoulder blades.  After I taught one client how to roll his upper back he said he stopped going to his chiropractor.  It is that good!



Adidas Samba Shoes
I love things that are classic and this shoe first debuted in the 1970’s... so I would say it is a classic.  I like them because there is not much to them.  They have a thin, flat sole, are made of leather, and are plain black with white stripes.  I am not really into the new fad of displaying an array of neon colors on my feet.  Lately there has been a boom in minimalist shoes that promote natural movement patterns and increase foot and ankle strength.  I think the vibram five finger shoes are a good idea but I cannot stand material between my toes.  So I think these shoes are a great alternative and serve a similar purpose.  They are ideal for weight lifting and general cross training, but I would not log many miles in them.  

So there you have it.  Five things that I like and use.  If you have a list of five things hit me back with them.  Until next time.


 Stay fit,

      Amerson Fitness

Monday, August 6, 2012

To Run or Not to Run

  Running is sometimes a controversial topic in the world of health, fitness, and weight loss.  On the one side you have the meat heads that scoff at the mere thought of running, declaring that is eats away valuable muscle and leaves you looking like skeletor.  Then you have the running purists who praise running as the gold standard for sports, fitness, and life.  Now to some extent both parties are right and both are wrong.  In this post I will discuss the pros and cons of running, who should do it, and offer my recommendation for participation.  
  First, let's talk about the pros of running.  Running is ingrained in our DNA.  It is a fundamental movement pattern that everyone learns at a young age.  In ancient times it allowed man to travel distances quickly and also evade predators.  Today it is the most widely used mode of exercise to gauge cardiovascular fitness.  In almost all academic settings the go-to test of cardiovascular fitness is the Bruce Test which uses a treadmill and running.  To date it is the most valid and reliable test there is.  But, running also has many other benefits.  When done correctly, the mechanics of running promote mobility and flexibility, and also increased coordination and proprioception, or body awareness.  Physiologically running makes a body more efficient at transporting and utilizing oxygen throughout the body.  This translates to less exertion for a given task.  Take for instance walking up a large flight of stairs, say ten stories.  If you are a conditioned runner than I would expect you could make it to the top with minimal discomfort.  However, if the last time you ran was to get the last donut then you would probably be hurting.  
  Next, lets discuss the cons.  As I said previously running is a basic movement pattern that we all learn.  However, most people stop running by adulthood and actually forget how.  They lose the strength, flexibility, and mobility that is required for proper mechanics.  So when Mr. Joe Schmoe decides to lose weight and takes up a running program, he just ends up getting hurt and quitting.  Also, people tend to get carried away with running.  They run and do nothing else... they go all Forest Gump on it.  This leads to overuse injuries, muscle imbalances,  and incomplete overall fitness.  Lastly, the meat heads are partly right in the statement that running eats away valuable muscle.  When someone runs for an extended period of time, like a marathon, the body runs out of energy and starts using stored energy in the muscles.  It is not quite as dramatic as some would have you believe but it does happen.  
  So with these things in mind, who should run?  Well... everybody.  I truly believe that if you do not have an injury or disability that prohibits you from running then you should.  Now, I don't mean that you should train for a marathon but you should run at various speeds and distances on a regular basis.  If you are young and still running regularly then continue to do so.  If you are older and have not run in years then get professional advice before you start.  You can speak with running coaches or talk to people at your local running speciality store.   
 Finally, my recommendation for running is not very scientific.  It is not meant to improve your 5k time or train for any particular distance or event.  It is meant to improve, or maintain, overall fitness, promote weight loss,  and prepare your body for the unexpected.  I tell my wife that I want her to train with sprints and intervals because if she is ever attacked I want her to be able to outrun her attacker.  So here it is in a nutshell:

  Run three times per week.  You can omit or add a day depending on your preference, schedule, and goals.  One of the runs should be a long and steady run of between 1.5 to 3 miles.  That does not mean slow.  It means finding the fastest pace that you can maintain for the duration without slowing down.  The second run of the week should be intervals that last between 1 and 3 minutes.  Again, run the fastest pace you can maintain for the time duration.  A little bit of slowing down it alright but don't over do it. Rest for about 60-90 seconds between intervals.  Continue in the fashion for 10-20 minutes. The third run of the week should be fast sprints.  Find a flat, preferably soft terrain, and run about 100 to 150 meters.  About the size of 1 to 1.5 football fields.  If sprinting hurts that you can run uphill.  This will decrease the velocity of the running but still maintain the intensity.  The sprint should be less than 30 seconds in duration and you should rest 45-90 seconds between repeats.  Do between 5 and 10 total repeats.  

  This is a simple template that you can use to incorporate running into your exercise program.  Just remember that this is just one piece of the puzzle.  I highly recommend various modes of exercise and variety. So get out there and , "Run, Forest, Run!"

Amerson Fitness

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Create Your Own Strength Training Routine

  In this article I would like to share how one can create their own strength training routine.  Unless you are still living in the age of aerobics and jazzersize, you have probably heard that you should be doing strength training on a regular basis.  There are numerous benefits associated with this type of exercise that include increased muscle mass, decreased body fat, increased metabolism,  improved balance and coordination,  and an increase in health enhancing hormones and enzyme activity.  So now that you know the why, lets discuss the how.  
  Depending on your particular goal or sports activity there are limitless ways to structure a strength training routine.  Bodybuilders like to TRY and isolate particular muscles (I don't really think you can ever isolate a muscle), powerlifters stick mainly to the power lifts and accessory lifts, and athletes work movements that will enhance athletic performance by mimicking the same movement patterns of their sport.  At times this can be an extremely complicated process and there are people who get paid lots of money to design routines for top level competitors.  But just because it CAN be complicated doesn't mean that it HAS to be.  If your goal is to lose weight, maintain health and longevity, improve fitness, or simply look good in a bathing suit, then a simple and effective routine is all you need.  So here it is:

 This template is based around basic movement patterns that when put together will stress every muscle in the body.  Muscles do not know what exercise you are performing, they just know that they are contracting and your body is expending energy.  So if you just perform certain movements the muscles will take care of the rest.  And, those movements are push, pull, and squat.  
PUSH
The push movements effectively work the chest, shoulders, and triceps.  If you do this exercise with enough intensity than you do not have to worry about doing three different shoulder exercises and five various triceps exercises.  My favorite options for the push category include push-ups(and all their variations) and dumbbell shoulder presses.




        
PULL
The pulling movements effectively work the muscles that oppose the pushing movements.  These muscles include the back muscles, biceps, and rear shoulders.  Again, if you use enough intensity then don't worry about specific exercises like bicep curls or rear deltoid flyes.  These are my two favorite pulling exercises. The pull up and the inverted row. 



                           
Squat
The squat movement is a little more tricky but is probably the most important.  The legs are the largest muscles in the body and so they have the most potential to gain strength, build muscle, and burn calories.  If you are new to exercise though, it can be a hard exercise to execute.  So a few of my favorite squatting movements are the goblet squat and the walking lunge( the lunge isn't technically a squat but your thighs and butt muscles won't know the difference). 

So there you have it.  Those three different movements are all you need to get in an effective strength training routine.  Now, let's talk the specifics of performing your routine.  You should do strength training on at least two, preferably three, days per week.  Space the days out so that you have a day of recovery in between workouts.  On the "recovery" days you can do other activities just limit the strength based activities.  Since there are two options for each movement I would alternate the movements in each workout.  That way you are performing a variety of movements and avoiding overuse injuries.  As far as set and reps, start out with 2 sets of 10-15 reps, and as you progress you can build up to 4 sets of 5-10 reps.  Just make sure that you are challenging yourself and working at a high intensity( not just going through the motions).  So a simple, basic routine would look like this:


 Monday:  Push up, Inverted Row, Goblet Squat : 2 sets, 12 reps each exercise
Thursday:  Shoulder Press, Pull Up, Walking Lunge: 2 sets, 12 reps each exercise
Remember, this is a basic beginner routine. If you have been strength training for a while you can still use this template, but you should add more movements, add more sets, and use heavier weights.  Good luck.
 Amerson Fitness





















Monday, April 23, 2012

Burn, Baby Burn....Calories!

When one is trying to lose weight there are many different tactics that can be employed. Of the various methods that can be used, there is one common factor that will dictate whether you lose any weight or not.  That is caloric expenditure versus caloric intake.  In other words, to lose weight you must burn more calories than you take in.  There is not way around it.  So with that in mind, I want to post about the various processes that burn calories and how the amount that you expend can be maximized.
  To start, there are three different processes that burn calories in your body and throughout the day.  The first process is basal metabolic rate, or BMR.  This is the amount of calories you would burn if you laid in bed all day and didn't move.  It takes energy to keep you alive and maintain all the systems in the body.  It is kind of like keeping you car in idle, you are not doing anything but you are still burning gas.  Your BMR makes up the largest percentage of calories burned throughout the day, and accounts for about 60-70% of caloric expenditure.  The best way to increase your BMR, thus increasing the amount of calories you burn at rest, is to increase your lean muscle tissue.  Muscle tissue takes more energy to maintain than fat tissue, so more muscle equals more calories expended at rest.  And, the best way to increase muscle is through progressive strength training programs.  So hit the weights a couple of times per week and build some muscle.
  Next, you burn calories by eating food.  That sounds contradictory, but let me explain.  Your digestive system goes to work when you eat food, and all the processes that go into digesting that food require fuel in the form of energy.  So you actually burn calories when you are digesting and absorbing foods.  This is called the thermic effect of food, or TEF.  It accounts for the smallest percentage of calories burned throughout the day at about 5-10%.  There is not too much you can do to manipulate this factor, but there are a few tips that can help.  Protein takes more energy to digest than other macronutrients, so by consuming more lean protein you can get a greater thermic effect.  You can also eat foods that require a lot of digestion, but few calories.  This usually comes in the form of green, leafy, and cruciferous vegetables.
  The final process that burns calories is the thermic effect of exercise, or TEE.  This is the process that you have the most control over from day to day, and can account for as much as 30% of total caloric expenditure.  It includes the calories you burn during structured exercise, as well as the calories you burn during physical activity such at walking around and doing chores.  You can maximize this effect by exercising everyday and being more physically active by walking more, taking stairs, doing manual work, etc.  Keep in mind that the calories you burn are in relation to the amount of time your heart rate is elevated.  So the longer, and higher, you keep your heart rate elevated the more calories you will burn.  Another way to maximize the thermic effect of exercise is by doing high intensity, strenuous exercise, as it increase your excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC.  If you are not familiar with EPOC, then read one of my previous posts on the subject...it is riveting.
  In conclusion, the amount of calories you expend throughout the day is a product of your BMR, TEF, and TEE.  They can all be manipulated, just some more easily than others.  So think about what you can do to maximize each area and start losing weight.  Until next post.  Thanks.

  ,Amerson Fitness

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Super Supplements

  Yesterday I went to the grocery store and noticed that a new "nutrition" store had just opened up next door so I decided to go in and take a look.  Right away I was surprised because this "nutrition" store had nothing but pills and capsules lining the shelves.  Nutrition has been defined as the sum total of processes involved in the intake and utilization of food substances by living organisms.  Notice the word "food" in that definition.  I find it disheartening that society now believes that proper nutrition comes from pill bottles and pharmaceutical labs.  I am in my last semester of gaining a bachelor's degree in exercise science so I consider myself to have a pretty good base knowledge when it comes to health, exercise, and nutrition. However, when I stepped foot in this store I was completely lost.  The only substance that I actually recognized was creatine monohydrate. That got me thinking that if I am this confused, " What does the average person think when they walk in here?"  I am guessing that they choose the supplement package that promises the most weight loss, the most potential to lose fat and gain muscle, or just ask the guy sitting behind the counter.  All of which are pretty poor choices.
  Now when I was in the store I actually started talking to the guy that worked there.  He seemed like a nice guy with good intentions, and also seemed pretty knowledgable.  He said that "their store" was different from the others because all of their products are created by a doctor and all of their employees have to have science related bachelor's degrees.  It kind of bothered me though that he said he had a degree in exercise science yet he was pushing all of these different supplements.  Research has consistently shown that the proper way to lose weight, gain muscle, and enhance health is through a proper diet, a progressive exercise routine, and smart lifestyle choices.  An exercise educated person should know that.
  I have to admit that I am writing this with somewhat of a biased.  I firmly believe that all exercise related goals can be achieved through the consumption of whole, natural foods.  The only "supplement" that I take, or recommend to my clients, is protein.  I know that some studies have shown success with others, such as creatine, but I am still weary about putting certain substances in my body.  The only other time that I would recommend a supplement is if you know that you exclude a certain food, or food group, in your diet.  For example, if you know that you do not eat fish than you could take a fish oil capsule to reap the widely known benefits of fish oils.  That being said I certainly do not think that anything is necessary, just optional.
  I guess that I should probably get to my point.  The take home message here is that people should not feel that they have to spend money on supplements to get the results that they want.  It is expensive and ,in some cases, hazardous to your health.  You can achieve any goal by manipulating the ratios of macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs) in your diet.  So please do not fall for the advertisements that promise rapid, muscle building, fat scorching, testosterone boosting, energy enhancing, health improving weight loss in a pill form.  Not gonna happen!

  , Amerson Fitness

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Protein Conundrum

Some questions that I receive often are, " Should I take protein?", or " Does protein really work?"  The former question doesn't really make sense because you eat protein everyday in a variety of foods and it is necessary for life, so yes you should "take" it.  The latter question also does not make sense because protein is not some magic pill that you take to lose weight or gain muscle.  Because I hear these questions quite often I decided to go ahead and write an article on protein.  So lets begin....
  Protein is one of the main macronutrients that we receive from the foods that we eat.  The other two are fats and carbohydrates.  You need all three for health and proper functioning and all three can be utilized as a fuel source for the body, though the body does prefer certain macronutrients for specific tasks.  For now, we will just look at the main roles of protein.  Protein plays a vital role in tissue synthesis, maintenance, and repair.  So eating enough protein will help your body recover after a workout and also aid in maintaining your muscle mass.  That is one of the main reasons that you should eat protein but there are other reasons as well.  Typically, high protein foods are low in sugar(carbs) and therefore cause a decreased insulin response when eaten.  Controlling your insulin will help in controlling your weight over the long run.  High protein foods also have a high thermic effect.  When you consume food it takes a certain amount of energy to break down and digest that food.  Proteins, compared to fats and carbs, are harder to breakdown and therefore burn more calories in the process.  Now that you know the benefits of protein lets look at the types.
  Protein can be classified as either complete or incomplete.  The protein number you see on the wrapper of a granola bar (incomplete) is not the same as the protein you get from a piece of chicken (complete).  Without getting into a lot of details you want to base your diet around complete sources of protein.  This includes meat, fish, dairy, and protein powders (either whey or casein).  The powders are not necessary they just make it easier to get the proper amount of protein without eating an entire chicken.  But what is the proper amount of protein?
  Most texts will say that the human body need 0.8 grams per kilogram (or 0.36 g/lb.) of bodyweight for normal functioning.  That is assuming complete sources and little, or no, exercise.  Many fitness and strength coaches advise 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.  So I would say a good rule of thumb is to shoot for between 0.5 and 1.0 grams per pound.  Closer to 0.5 if you are trying to lose weight or just maintain, and closer to 1.0 if you are trying to build muscle or you are participating in intense exercise. Now for these numbers to be of any use you need to keep track of what you consume.  Below are some estimates of the amount of protein in common foods.

1 oz. of meat (poultry, beef, etc.) - 10 grams
1 oz. of cheese - 7 grams
1 whole egg - 6 grams
1 cup milk - 9 grams
1 scoop protein powder - 20 grams(typically)

  Just remember that you should always eat a variety of foods and you should not omit any one of the macronutrients.  Protein is very important but it is still only a piece of the puzzle.  Hopefully this information will help guide you in your diet journey.  Until next time...

 Amerson Fitness