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Understanding Protein and Its Importance
The word “Protein” comes from the Greek word “Protos” which means “First important”. Protein is the main building block of the human body, if you were to compare your body to a building, protein would be the raw material. Like fats and carbohydrates, proteins are made up of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon. The real difference between protein and the other two macro-nutrients is the presence of nitrogen. Scientists use nitrogen tests to compare the use of proteins in the body by comparing the amount of nitrogen consumed with the amount excreted through urine, feces, and sweat.
Your body is a very complex machine that is constantly changing, evolving and adapting to the conditions you put it through. In fact, physicists have proven that your body changes or replaces 98% of its atoms within 1 year, this means that molecularly speaking, you are not the same person you were a year ago, you may feel like you are does”. It hasn’t changed, but your cells, tissues, and organs are made up of completely new individuals.
Protein plays a key role in these processes as it is what your body uses to replace damaged or dead cells within it. Where does all that protein come from? The answer is from the food you eat, hence the saying “You are what you eat”, and that is no exaggeration.
The smallest protein units are called amino acids. they are the “bricks” that make up protein blocks.
Proteins are made up of multiple amino acids linked together. There are 20 essential amino acids required for the development of the human body. From these 20 basic amino acids, tens of thousands of different building blocks of proteins can be formed. Just as bricks are used to create different building structures (walls, roads, chimneys, furnaces, etc.), amino acids are used to create proteins designed for different purposes within the human body.
Amino acids can be broken down into essential and non-essential amino acids. The human body is able to produce 11 of the 20 amino acids. these are called “Optional”. The remaining 9 amino acids are called “Essential” as the body must be supplied with them through food.
The list of “Essential” and “Non-Essential” amino acids includes:
Essential (essential) amino acids:
Non-essential (analogue) amino acids:
When you eat food, the body uses the amino acids in the food to make the proteins needed for its different metabolic processes, but when one or more of the non-essential amino acids are missing, the body must make them in the liver.
To prevent the body from breaking down its own protein, you must provide it with foods that contain all 20 amino acids. These food sources are called “Complete Proteins”. Most of these proteins come from animal sources such as meat, milk and eggs.
Vegetables, legumes and grains are considered “Incomplete Proteins” because they lack or have more amino acids. For example, beans are very high in protein but lack the essential amino acid Methionine. One way to overcome this is to combine “Incomplete protein” sources together to create a “Complete protein” source. Rice and Beans is a prime example of this.
Protein cannot be stored for later use, unlike carbohydrates. This makes eating at least one complete source of protein with each meal of the utmost importance to avoid negative nitrogen balance or muscle tissue breakdown.
As with the other two macronutrients, there are better sources of protein than others. A basic guideline to follow is to make your protein source as lean as possible.
o Chicken breasts
o Turkey breasts
o Lean cuts of red meat
o Low-fat/non-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt or cheese
o Fish and other seafood.
All of these sources will provide you with all the essential amino acids required by your body without the saturated fats associated with other animal protein sources.
When it comes to combining “Incomplete Proteins” to create “Complete Proteins”, there are a few simple guidelines to follow:
o Combine legumes with grains
o Combine nuts with cereals or legumes
o Combine any animal protein with any incomplete protein
The question of how much protein a person who wants to gain muscle mass should take is a matter of great debate. There are those who believe that a high protein/low carb diet with over 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is the way to go, others argue that much less protein is needed and that 50-60 grams per day is all a healthy adult needs .
However, to increase muscle mass, the most widely accepted guideline for active men is to get at least 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.
A better approach to calculating total protein intake is to use macronutrient ratios. This means determining your total daily caloric needs and dividing the calories that come from the three main macronutrients into percentages.
So, for example, a 190 kg man needs 3000 calories to maintain his weight, he wants to add muscle mass, so he eats an additional 500 calories, bringing the total to 3500 calories per day. Of those 3500 calories, 30% will come from protein, 50% from carbohydrates and 20% from healthy fats.
Protein and carbohydrates both contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram. So, if we do the math, we get:
3500×0.3=1050 – 1050 calories from proteins
3500×0.5=1750 – 1750 calories from carbohydrates
3500×0.2=700 – 700 calories from healthy fats
1050+1750+700=3500 – Grand total 3500 calories per day
If you want to know how many grams of each macronutrient you need per day, just divide the total calories from protein or carbs by 4 or fat by 9.
1050/4=265.5 – 265.5 grams of protein
1750/4=435.5 – 435.5 grams of carbohydrates
700/0=77.7 – 77.7 grams of fat
Using these simple formulas we not only know the amount of calories needed from each macronutrient, but also the amount of grams.
Summarizing the article, I would like to mention the following points:
o Proteins are the necessary building materials used to rebuild all the tissues of the human body.
o The protein building blocks necessary for human development are made up of 20 amino acids, which can be arranged in tens of thousands of ways to make the necessary proteins in the body.
o Animal protein sources are a typical example of “Complete Proteins” that contain all 20 amino acids.
o Vegetables, legumes, and nuts are all “incomplete proteins” because they lack one or more essential amino acids.
o It is vital to provide the body with complete sources of protein in order to avoid negative nitrogen balance and the breakdown of muscle tissue.
o The most widely accepted guideline for the daily recommended intake of protein is 1 gram per 1 kg of body weight in men.
I hope that by reading this article you will gain a basic understanding of what protein is and why it plays such an important role in your body.
With that in mind, remember to always train hard, eat plenty, and rest to grow!
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