What is Protein?

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Protein is an essential part of our diet. It is needed for the body to be able to grow and repair tissue and is the main building block of the human body. Protein is a molecule made up of 22 amino acids.

Your body can make literally hundreds of different proteins to perform various functions from these amino acids, such as:

  • Antibodies – for immune defense
  • Collagen – for supportive tissue
  • Enzymes for metabolism
  • Haemoglobin – for transport
  • Hormones

The human body can create 12 of these amino acids naturally, while the remaining eight need to be obtained by eating foods which contain them.

These eight amino acids are known as ‘Essential Amino Acids’ which include:

  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

The body’s proteins are broken down continuously, therefore our bodies needs to produce thousands of proteins every day to replace them. Basically the more active you are – the faster your proteins break down – the faster your protein breaks down – the more protein is needed to refill them. Protein needs to be replenished daily as it is unable to be stored in the body unlike carbohydrates or fats.

The body breaks down and absorbs protein to help our body in many important ways such as:

  • Balance hormones
  • Regulates metabolism
  • Builds and repairs muscle
  • Grows tissue
  • Fights against illness and infection

Did You Know?… Protein, like water, is the most plentiful substance in the body. Roughly half of the non-water mass of our bodies are made up of protein.

Parts of the body primarily made up of protein include:

  • Bones
  • Eyes
  • Hair
  • Individual cells
  • Ligaments
  • Muscle
  • Nails
  • Organs
  • Skin
  • Teeth
  • Tendons
  • Tissue

FACT: Our bodies generally require 1-2 grams of protein daily for each kilogram of body weight.

Did You Know?… Protein can also be burned as a source of calories. The amino acids that are not combined into protein are converted to calories or energy.

Will low Protein intake damage my body?

Without a sufficient amount of protein, the body will break down other muscles or tissues; or could even ‘borrow’ amino acids from the immune system or other body functions to satisfy its protein needs.

FACT: It is essential that your entire body receives enough protein from food to ensure proper growth and maintenance.

Protein is important when working out, for if you have inadequate protein in your body, you won’t have enough to rebuild your muscles and other cells and tissue, leaving you weaker and more prone to injury.

Insufficient protein can affect your health and body functions such as:

  • Bone cell construction
  • Enzymes
  • Heart cell turnover rate
  • Hormones
  • Immune system
  • Neurological system
  • Organ function
  • Range of Motion/ mobility
  • Red blood cell production
  • Skin elasticity
  • Stamina

Did you know?… An inadequate protein intake during pregnancy may cause a less than ideal body weight for the baby.

Symptoms of protein deficiency include:

  • Anaemia – usually caused by a lack of iron, it causes insufficient amounts of oxygen to be delivered through the blood to the cells
  • Oedema – is a build-up of fluids which particularly occurs in the feet or ankles
  • Slow growth – in children
  • Wasting and shrinkage of muscle tissue

Is too much Protein dangerous?

Everyone has a different opinion regarding whether or not too much protein is dangerous. If you are generally healthy, don’t have any problems with your kidneys or liver, and are not on medication, it is unlikely that it could do any harm.

What happens is when amino acids are not combined into protein, they become calories or energy. During the conversion the body separates the amino acids from their nitrogen atoms, therefore creating nitrogen waste which then enters the kidneys as ‘urea’ and gets filtered out through the body’s urine.

Too much protein can actually cause harm to your kidneys if you have reduced kidney and liver function as the build up of nitrogen waste can strain the kidneys and liver, and can cause them to further weaken.

Did You Know?… A very high protein diet can also prompt excessive mineral calcium loss.

As with anything in life, protein intake needs to be balanced. As a general rule of thumb, 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is adequate. If in doubt, it is wise to consult your Nutritionist to work out what is best for your needs.

What foods are high in Protein?

Almost every animal food including dairy products contain the most protein. If you are a vegetarian, you can easily obtain all of you protein needs by eating a diet with a variety of vegetables and grains.

Proteins rich foods include:

  • Black beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Chicken – chicken breast is high in protein
  • Chickpeas
  • Cottage cheese
  • Crab
  • Dairy
  • Eggs – egg whites
  • Fish
  • Lentils
  • Lobster
  • Nuts – Almonds, Peanuts, Cashews, Pecans
  • Orange roughy
  • Pork
  • Prawns – shrimp
  • Red meat – lean meats such as round steak, sirloin and ground beef
  • Salmon
  • Seeds – Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin seeds, Flax seeds
  • Soy beans
  • Soy bean products – tofu, tempeh etc
  • Split peas
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna
  • Turkey – turkey breast and lean ground turkey is protein rich
  • Vegetables
  • Wide variety of beans and legumes
  • Whole dried peas

Although starches and vegetables have only a small amount of protein, it adds up over the day.

Different protein sources include the following:

Casein Protein

Casein is a white odourless, tasteless combination of phosphor-proteins separated from milk by an enzyme known as rennin. It is very nutritious as it contains all eight of the essential amino acids and is also the basis of cheese. Muscles seem to love casein as they are found to use greater amount of protein through this source in comparison to others.

Did You Know?… Studies suggest casein not only assists in toning and firming muscles but can also assist in increasing muscle strength.

Soy Protein

Soy protein is made from the soybean which is native to East Asia. It is one of the very few plants which provide a complete protein source. The soybean not only provides high quality protein, it is also provides a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and is fairly low in fat content, making this protein source fantastic for vegetarians.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is a high quality protein naturally produced through cow’s milk. It contains a high source of the essential amino acids. Whey protein is one of the most widely used forms of protein as it has numerous health benefits and fitness properties.

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Source by Kimberley Potter

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