Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. These body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. When we eat protein, our body through digestive process breaks down the protein we eat into smaller molecules known as amino acids. These amino acids are used to replace these proteins in our body.
Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids. Think of amino acids as the building blocks. Out of 20 amino acids our body can only make 12 of them. These 12 which our body can make are called non-essential amino acids. The other 8 which the body cannot manufacture are called essential amino acids and these must be supplied by food.
Non-Essential Amino Acids: Alanine, Glutamic acid, Aspartic acid, Glycine, Serine, Proline, Glutamine, Asparagine, Cysteine, Tyrosine, Histidine, Arginine
Essential Amino Acids: Lysine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Valine, Threonine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan
Proteins are responsible for growth and maintenance of all body cells and structures, like bone, muscle cells, cartilage, blood cells, skin, nails and hair. Our body needs proteins to produce important molecules in our body like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and antibodies. Enzymes are responsible for some important chemical reactions in our body such as digestion and metabolism. Hormones like insulin, thyroid, estrogen, testosterone are required to function properly, their lack or imbalance will cause our body to cease functioning . Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals involved in the brain’s network. Antibodies work as a part of the immune system to destroy abnormal or foreign cells and fend off common illness like the flu or a cold and also protecting us against other major diseases. That being said, Protein is the raw construction material for the body cells and its importance is paramount. Next to water Protein is the most abundant substance in our body.
Complete protein sources contain all 20 amino acids, and are also called high quality proteins. Foods that contain a combination of all the essential and nonessential amino acids in the exact ratio and amounts required by your body for growth are called complete proteins. Eating complete protein (containing all amino acids) will help ensure that you do not become deficient in essential amino acids.
Incomplete protein sources do not have all 20 amino acids, and are also called low quality proteins. Foods that are low in one or more of the essential amino acids are called incomplete proteins. However, by combining foods from two or more incomplete proteins, a complete protein can be created.
Protein in our diet can come from two different sources: plant based (such as soy, nuts and beans) and animal based (such as meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs). Only animal based proteins contain all of the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. Plant-based proteins do not contain all the essential amino acids, and some of them may even be in insufficient amounts to meet our dietary requirements. If you do not eat animal-based products, you can combine different types of plant proteins to ensure that you get all the amino acids that you need.
Exercise – especially strength training – increases protein needs. Without protein, building muscle and burning fat efficiently would be impossible.
Protein is an excellent workout partner, and when consumed as part of a resistance training program, it can help you meet your goal for more lean muscle. To maintain the ideal environment for muscle growth, all the amino acids must be available simultaneously. If any is missing, your body will break down its own proteins to obtain it. To avoid the catabolic muscle breakdown, you need to consume several small meals of complete protein every day and not go several hours without it.
Your metabolism increases by 20-30% every time you eat protein. Raising protein amount during weight loss program can improve your body composition and help you get leaner by increasing thermogenesis - protein burns more calories while it is being digested and also decreases hunger, being the most filling macronutrient.
Protein needs vary from person to person depending on various factors such as age, gender, weight, goal, but the most important factor is your activity level. The basic recommendation for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight in untrained, generally healthy adults. However, this amount is only to prevent protein deficiency. It’s not necessarily optimal, particularly for people such as athletes who train hard regularly. No single rule of protein intake applies to everyone. Protein must always be customized for each individual keeping in mind everyone’s needs and goals.
The idea that a high protein diet is harmful to a healthy person is myth unless you have pre-existing health problems such as kidney disease. Generally speaking in healthy people having healthy kidney function, normal protein intake or even a fairly high protein intake does not seem to be a problem.