The majority of us out there have very little understanding of what a Protein is…let alone why we need them. We all hear about the high protein diets, the importance of protein post work out, and the benefits of protein when it comes our health but we really don’t fully understand the role that this macronutrient plays within our bodies.
What is Protein?
Protein is by far the most important macronutrient you can eat, and is present in almost every inch of your body – from your hair, to your skin, your eye balls right down to your toe nails. Protein is a combination of many amino acids, which are building blocks for all bodily functions. In all, there are twenty-two different amino acids and of those, only eight are known as “essential”, meaning your body cannot produce them, which means you need to get them through the foods that you eat (the rest are produced by your body).
Why is Protein so important?
Protein builds the framework of your body, including muscles, organs, bones, and connective tissues. In the form of enzymes, it assist the body with the digestion of food. As a hormone, it lets your body know when to use food as energy and when to store food as fat. As and antibody, it protects you from illness when bacteria and viruses attack, and it assist with the transport of oxygen through you blood to all your organs and muscles. Protein is also key to any weight loss program, foods that are high in protein require a lot more energy (Calories) for digestion, so in essence you are increasing the number of calories you burn the minute that protein is inside your stomach! Protein is also key in the building a repair of muscle tissue post work out, and the greater you lean muscle mass the more calories you are burning at rest!
A complete protein contains an adequate amount of all of the essential amino acids that are needed to build new proteins, which generally come from animal and fish products. A complete protein must not lack even one essential amino acid in order to be considered complete. Some examples of a complete protein include: Meat, Fish, Poultry, Cheese, Eggs, Yogurt, and Milk
An incomplete protein is any protein that lacks one or more essential amino acids in correct proportions. Some examples of an incomplete protein include: Beans, Grains, Nuts, Peas, Corn.
How will I know if I am getting enough protein?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day—that’s about 58 grams for a 160 pound adult, if you are very active or looking to increase your muscle mass it has been suggested to use a factor of 1.8 vs 0.8. The easiest way to ensure you are getting what your body needs is to ensure you are getting a minimum of 25g of complete protein in every meal…it’s really not that hard I promise!