In the next few blog posts I'm going to discuss nutrients and their role in the amazing machine called Your human body. Todays starts with protein. This is not a nutrition biochemistry article and will just cover the key elements to help support you in your knowledge to enable you to make more informed choices about the food that you provide to your body.
What is Protein?
ALL parts of your body not just your muscles are made up of protein. From hormones, to hair, to skin, to the lining of your stomach. Your heart, liver, lungs and brain- the list is endless. So basically protein is a building block for life.
Proteins are made up of Amino Acids
These are the foundations of protein, they join together to make protein molecules. which then make the muscles and other body parts in our machines. The process of digestion breaks down the protein we eat from food into amino acids which are then assimilated back into different body proteins. Its magical!
What is the function of Protein- or the amino acids?
Daily living uses up protein. We need protein in our diets in order to keep replacing those amino acids lost throughout our daily activities. The key functions of protein are to build muscles ( and other body tissues,) and repair- not just when we are injured, but in every day living (the constant building and breaking down as we grow)
The amazing human body is made up of 22 amino acids but there are 9 which we have to take in as food. These are classed as Essential Amio Acids-and have to be taken in as a food source. If our diets if we are over fed but under nourished then some of the essential amino acids may be diminished which may lead to niggling health issies.
The essential amino acids are
methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, valine and histidine.
If a food contains all the essential amino acids it is referred to as a complete protein. If a food has one or more of the essential amino acids missing it is known as an incomplete protein. Complete proteins have a high BIOLOGICAL VALUE
If one or more of the essential amino acids are missing then the protein food has a LOW BIOLOGICAL VALUE.
However nature is very clever and often when foods with one of the essential amino acid is missing is eaten, it is often eaten with another food which is high in this amino acid.
When a mixture of low and high BV proteins are eaten together this is termed protein complementation.
Examples are beans on toast, nut butter on bread, rice and bean salad
The main sources of protein and hence the amino acids in our diets are: Meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts, pulses, lentils, soya, tofu, But vegetables also contain some protein. Mushrooms, root vegetables and grain products all contain some protein.
The essential amino acids play specific roles in our bodies for example,
Here is just an overview of what some of the essential amino acids key functions in the body are.
Methionine Is needed for muscle growth and formation of bone cartilage and
It has been shown to improve skin tone, hair, and nails in strengthening nails and is really important in helping the liver with detoxification.
Read more on how your body gets rid of toxins here
Leucine For muscle strength and growth, Leucine helps regulate your blood sugar and regulates insulin levels during and after exercise. It is essential to help in the formation of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. So no wonder poor diets make people feel fatugued!
Isoleucine Another amino acid specifically for muscle strength and tone.
Lysine is needed for growth and helps with converting fat to fuel, It helps with lowering cholesterol and calcium absorption and collagen production.-both needed for bones and skin.
Phenalynaline – Essential for brain development and nerve impulse transmission. It also gets converted to tyrosine once ingested.
Threonine is vital in supporting a healthy immune system, the nervous system ,a healthy heart and liver, assists in overall repair, energy, and growth,
Tryptophan is known as the relaxing amino acid and is essential for a healthy nervous system, along with good sleep & for maintaining brain health.
Trytophan is converted to serotonin once it is in the brain, which creates that happy feeling and helps to lower stress and depression.
you can read more about tryptophan and sleep here
Histadine: helps to transport chemical messengers called neurotransmitters to the brain It also helps in the detoxification process for the body and it makes up some of the red and white blood cells that are vital for overall health and immunity.
How much protein do I need?
Your daily protein requirements are mainly determined by factors, such as your weight, age, gender, height, and physical activity.
In the UK, average intakes of protein are above the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) - what generally we need to maintain good health - this includes vegetarians and vegans.- But unfortunately here in the UK we are often over fed but under nourished! So although we are over eating protein we often lack the key vitamins & minerals required to ensure the proteins work optimally in our bodies.
Men need slightly more than women
56g/day for men and 45g/day for women (depending on bodyweight).
For greater precision this can be calculated at .75g of protein per Kg of body weight.
So for example someone weighing 60 kg would need 45g protein, someone weighing 85kg would need about 64g.
However we are all unique and the most important thing is to ensure that you eat a varied and nutritious diet that is as natural as possible.
Protein and physical activity Protein is needed for both building and repairing muscle and therefore is needed when we embark on exercise. Muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein breakdown is a continuous process
Exercise stimulates an increase in muscle protein synthesis, which can last for at least 24 hours. Weight training specifically causes muscle cells to increase in size. But you don't have to throw around heavy weights. body weight training done correctly is really excellent to increase tone and muscle mass. (Called Hypertrophy ) However, be aware of taking on too much protein to build muscles. especially if you limit carbohydrate. It is known that excess protein - more than what the body needs’ is used for energy and the excess is eliminated. Therefore, even in active people, very high protein intakes above their requirements will not necessarily be converted to muscle.
On the opposite side of the spectrum to this, individuals who are consuming too little energy in the form of carbohydrate and taking on board lots of protein will not always build muscle and may eventually lose muscle tone, skin tautness, hair loss and possibly succumb to injury more readily as well as being compromised with poor immunity and energy. As here the protein will be used initially for energy by the body.
A good reflection here if you are very active but succumb to injury regularly, or get niggly illnesses - look at your nutrition!- If you train regularly you may need to look at your protein intake as well as your overall nutrition. You can not out exercise a poor diet.
Research suggests taking onboard protein after exercise can help build muscle as this is the time the body is ready for protein synthesis. So possibly a good quality protein intake just after exercise would help to promote muscle building and aid recovery.
Nuts, fish, lean chicken, tuna, eggs, pulses, cheese, nut butters or milk are all examples of food-based protein snacks that could be consumed.
If you do not eat animal products you can still obtain great sources of protein from nuts, vegetables, pulses, and beans. A hand full of mixed nuts as a snack or some peanut butter with a piece of fruit is quick easy and nutritious.
So a quick delve into protein- If you would like more information as to how I can help you achieve optimal health or please book a discovery call