What Is Protein? Why Do We Need Protein In Our Diet?
The protein should constitute 12-15% of the total energy consumption in the diet, although children, adolescents and pregnant women, need a greater amount.
You may be aware of this word. I will explain here to you in more detail and friendly way. Continue reading. Learn what they are for and where to find them.
Before starting let me know you the topics which I covered in this article. Topics are:
What Is Protein, Protein Benefits, What Does Protein Do For Muscles, Protein Molecule, How Much Protein Do I Need, How Much Protein Do We Need, How Much Protein Is Too Much, Protein Deficiency, Protein-Rich Food For Vegetarians, Proteins Food, Why Do We Need Protein In Our Diet etc…
And, so I will answer all these queries here. Let’s get started.
What is Protein:
The word Protein comes from the Greek word 'proteios', meaning 'primary' or 'holding the first place'.
Proteins are large organic molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and some also by sulfur. They constitute 20% of the human body, so their presence is essential for all age group: children, adults and old age. Pregnant women need this nutrient in comparatively large amount.
The word Protein comes from the Greek word “proteios”, meaning “primary” or “holding the first place.” because it is a basic component of our body.
It is responsible for the formation of muscle or tissue regeneration. They are also present in every cell of our body and participate in the production and reproduction of new cells and hormones in the body.
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What is Amino Acid?
Protein is made up of linear chains of smaller molecules called amino acid. In total, there are 22 types of amino acids that make up plant or animal protein.
Of the 22, the body is capable of generating 13 of them, which are given the name of non-essential amino acids, while the remaining 9 are obtained from protein foods, and are known as essential amino acids.
Why do we need Protein in our Diet:
People go through different stages in their life: childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. In addition, in the case of women, you can also go through one or several pregnancies.
Therefore, depending on the time of our life, we will need a different requirement of protein. Requirements that will also be linked to the specific needs of calories that each person may have.
The necessary contribution of protein per day to follow a balanced diet is between 12-15% of the total energy. Following a simple calculation, the general rule would be between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein for each kilo of your weight.
For example, if you weigh 70 kilos, your protein needs under normal conditions would be 56-70 grams.
Children and adolescents need more protein than adults because they are in full development phase. Approximately between 1 and 1.2 grams per kilo.
Pregnant or breastfeeding women also need a higher protein intake compared to the woman who is not pregnant. Because they must meet the needs of the developing baby and make protein for the milk that the mother secretes.
Thus, pregnant women should increase their protein intake by around 1.2 grams/kilo in the second trimester and 1.5 grams per kilo of weight in the third trimester.
While the mothers who breastfeed the baby will need to double their amounts of protein ingested daily at 2 grams/kilo of weight.
Maximum of 15% of all energy should come from protein for children from 6 to 24 months. This translates to 30 to 45 grams per day, depending on the energy needs.
A 9-kilogram baby would need 14.4g of protein a day in his diet.
People who follow a vegetarian diet and do not include animal protein in their diet should increase their protein requirements to an average of 1.2 grams per kilo of weight.
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The function of Protein:
If you compare your body with a house, then the proteins would be the bricks, along with the foundations and the tiles.
The main function of proteins are structural, that is, they help us to generate, regenerate and maintain our tissues such as skin, nails, tendons, etc. So, if you compare your body with a house, the proteins would be the bricks, along with the foundations and the tiles.
However, in addition to this function, they perform other functions such as:
Energetic: When the intake of carbohydrates and fats from the diet is insufficient to meet the energy needs, in case of a prolonged fast, the degradation of protein (amino acids) will cover these deficiencies. Our body can get up to 4 kilocalories of energy from 1 gram of protein.
Regulatory: Protein helps in vital processes for any living being, such as breathing or digestion. Proteins, such as insulin or growth hormone are deeply involved in the regulation of many biochemical processes in the body.
Transport: For example, hemoglobin, is responsible for transporting oxygen, albumin, free fatty acids, or lipoproteins that drive cholesterol through the blood. Others such as glycoproteins reach the cell membranes and integrate to perform the function of receiving certain substances.
Defense: This type of protein helps the body’s defenses mechanism by protecting the body from certain foreign agents or by exterminating them. An example would be immunoglobulins, which localize and eliminate the molecules that cause infections.
Enzymatic: Some proteins perform biocatalyst work, so they make possible and accelerate in many biochemical reactions that occur in our body.
Homeostatic: These macromolecules are responsible for maintaining blood pH at adequate levels for a good health.
If you have more physical activity, then you will need more protein than an adult who doesn't have that much physical activity.
There are two protein sources are available to us. One is plant source and the other is animal protein source.
But the fact is plant protein’s biological value is low compared to the animal source. Because plant protein lacks some essential amino acids.
The adult should take protein according to their way of life. I mean if you have more physical activity, then you will need more protein than an adult who doesn’t have that much physical activity.
In the third age, there is no need to lower your protein intake, even it is recommended to increase the amount of protein because at this stage it is very important to regenerate tissues.
In addition, you must take into account the possible appearance of chronic diseases in old age that can degrade proteins.
Here I will tell you which foods are the best sources of protein:
Animal Protein Sources:
- Egg: It is a good source of protein because it contains albumin a high amount of essential amino acids.
- Fish (salmon, herring, tuna, cod, trout …).
- Dairy products, cheese or yogurt.
- Lean meat, turkey, tenderloin and chicken.
These foods contain protein with a high amount of essential amino acids, (as I mentioned earlier, those that can not be synthesized by the body, so they must be provided through the diet).
Plant Protein Sources:
- Legumes (lentils, beans, chickpeas, beans …),
- Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach …).
- Nuts and nuts such as pistachios or almonds (provided they are not fried and have little salt).
- Seitan, tempeh, quinoa, soybeans, seaweed.
Keep in mind that, plant proteins are incomplete protein. So if you are a vegetarian, you should eat different types of foods to complete your amino acid profile.
What happens if you eat too little Protein:
The lack of protein in the body can cause various symptoms such as:
- Less muscle mass
- Low resistance to infections
- Low level of energy
- The weakening of skin, hair and nails
- Slow recovery from wounds
- Greater difficulty to recover from any disease, etc.
When you have a protein deficit, your body uses the already available ones, mainly that of the muscles, with the purpose of protecting other vital organs such as heart and brain etc. In simple terms; without protein, there is no life.
What happens when you eat too much Protein:
Excess protein affects neuronal functions and causes cardiovascular and respiratory damage.
Unlike what happens with fat and carb, protein is not stored in the body, so these must be eliminated. Otherwise, our body suffers from a metabolic disorder by having a low level of pH, which influences the overload of some organs in order to protect them from the pH changes.
In less confusing and direct terms, excess protein affects neuronal functions and causes cardiovascular and respiratory damage.
How to choose a Protein?
I have already mentioned above that protein is one of the most important molecules when it comes to producing and reproducing body tissues such as muscle. When you start the gym, one of the most important recommendations is to increase protein intake to gain more muscle volume.
These can be obtained naturally through some foods such as fish, meat, beef, or poultry, as well as in egg or lactose-rich foods. However, when it comes to gaining more lean muscle as a level of bodybuilder or fitness model, you have to supplement your body with protein.
But the problem is that at the beginning it is difficult to know which one to choose, so let’s explain it.
The most common Protein Supplements:
- Egg albumin
- Whey (does not affect people with lactose intolerance)
Although all three are very good, and already include the complete essential amino acids profile, at the same time they have little or no amounts of carbohydrates and fats, each one is used for a specific goal.
To increase Muscle Mass: Proteins with a high carbohydrate index
To tone or reduce Body Fat: Proteins without carbohydrates
Maintain Muscle Mass: Proteins with few carbohydrates
The flavor of the protein does not matter, although it is worth mentioning that there are some protein supplements available in the market that have a terrible flavor, as well as others are flavored with nice chocolate, vanilla, strawberry etc, while some come without flavor, ideal for making a smoothie.
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Recommendations when taking Protein (with or without Supplement):
- Sleep well so that the nervous system and muscles have time to recover.
- Rest properly, especially when training more intense.
- Carry a proper diet with constant meals to avoid extream hunger and because it will cause muscle loss.
- Train all the body parts in a week (biceps, triceps, abdomen, glutes, etc.) for an adequate formation of the figure.
- On days with no training, try to consume less fat and carbohydrates, while maintaining protein.
How to take the Protein?
Without proteins, there are no muscles, that simple.
To significantly increase your muscle mass, your body needs daily at least 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight (taking into account that this rule is valid for people of up to 12% of body fat).
This amount of protein should be consumed throughout the day, not at once.
In short, without proteins, there are no muscles, that simple.
Hope you enjoyed this article. There are many young adults who go to the gym and consume supplements but they have zero knowledge about what they are consuming.
So I have an obligation as a certified fitness trainer to raise awareness in our society about different types of nutrients like proteins, carbs, fats. It is also your responsibility to share this article as much as possible.
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A. R. Choudhury