Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids joined together by chemical bonds and then folded in different ways to create three-dimensional structures that are important to our body’s functioning.
There are two main categories of amino acids in the body. Essential amino acids-those that the body can’t manufacture and we must consume in our diets and we also have nonessential amino acids- those that the body can usually make for itself. Examples of essential amino acids are Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine and Lysine. Examples of nonessential amino acids are Alanine, Asparagine, and Aspartic acid.
During digestion, the body breaks down proteins we eat into individual amino acids which contribute to the plasma pool of amino acids. This pool is a storage reserve of amino acids that circulate into the blood. The amino acid pool in the bloodstream trades with the amino acids and proteins in our cells, providing a supply of amino acids as needed and is continuously replenished.
That is if you have protein with every meal. Without adequate daily amino acid intake small daily losses from amino acid breakdown will eventually put us in a net negative protein balance. This is why taking protein with each meal is such a good idea and taking a protein shake. While carbohydrates, and especially fat content of the body are fairly well maintained, it’s actually quite difficult to maintain a consistent amino acid pool without dietary intervention.
John Berdardi from Precision Nutrition has an excellent reference explaining this – it’s like keeping a sink full without a drain plug.
Consuming protein can also increase levels of the hormone glucagon, and glucagon can help control body fat. Glucagon is released when blood levels go down. This causes the liver to break down stored glycogen into glucose for the body.
Consuming more protein may help maintain an healthy body composition and a strong immune system, good athletic performance and a healthy metabolism. It also may promote satiety (make you feel fuller longer) and it turn help you manage your body weight.
Another reason how protein can help with weight loss, besides satiety, is the thermic effect, which is the amount of energy required to digest, absorb, transport and store protein. It is a lot higher than that of carbohydrates and fat. To give you an example 30% of the protein’s energy goes toward digestion, absorption and assimilation, only 8% of carbohydrate’s energy and 3% of fat’s energy do the same. So in layman’s terms your body works harder to burn protein then it does of carbohydrates or fat.
Protein plays an important part in the media and rightfully so, there is plenty of scientific research on the benefits of protein. Protein plays a key role in weight management, muscle building, appetite control and preventing lean body mass and osteoporosis.
There is evidence that consuming a moderate amount of high- quality protein (25-35 grams) during each meal stimulates muscle protein synthesis (think of your muscles rebuilding), promotes muscle health and preserves lead body mass as we age.
There’s a myth about taking too much protein is harmful on the kidneys and that is not true. In healthy people, normal protein intake pose little to no health risk. Even a high protein intake- up to 2.8 g/kg, does not seem to impair kidney status and renal function in people with healthy kidneys.
If you don’t feel like counting how many grams of protein that you should have for each meal, I have something better. Look at the palm of your hand. Ladies should have 1 serving size of protein the same size as their palm and for guys they should have 2 palm sizes of protein per each meal. This is roughly 20-30 grams of protein and right in the ball park figure of the amount of protein you need per meal.
If you know that you are not getting enough protein in your diet, then I highly suggest getting a protein supplement. I would suggest Whey.
Why Whey? Because it goes into your bloodstream really fast and if you are exercising, you need something for your body right away especially after your workouts. I really recommend EXOS, check these guys out here!