In this article, I would like to touch upon a subject that is one of the most popular ones in the fitness industry. This post focuses on a macronutrient that enjoys a celebrity status in the fitness world and has definitely enjoyed the spotlight for a considerably long time. Yes, I am talking about “PROTEIN”
PROTEIN
The word protein is derived from the Greek word “proteios” which means “primary” or “of prime importance”. The name clearly shows how important this macronutrient is for us.
Proteins are essentially bio-molecules that are made up of smaller units called “amino acids” that are linked together to form polypeptide chains.
Protein is present in our skin, hair, callus, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Proteins hold together, protect and provide a definitive structure to the body.
From the perspective of health and fitness, there are things about protein that are important for us to understand.
i) Functions
ii) Amino acids
iii) Sources of protein
iv) How much protein to consume?
v) Negative effects of consuming too much protein
i)Functions:
Protein being a macronutrient is a source of energy for the body. In case one’s carbohydrate intake is not sufficient, the body resorts to protein to provide energy to the body. However, this is not the prime function of protein. The primary functions of proteins are:
Growth
Tissue repair
Immune system function
Hormone and Enzyme production
Lean muscle mass and tone maintenance
Regulation of metabolism
Maintaining acid balance in body
Since proteins support all these functions, they are called the “building blocks” of our body.
ii)Amino acids:
Just as Proteins are the building blocks of our body, amino acids are the “building blocks of protein”.
Amino acids are the structural units that make up proteins. There are 20 natural amino acids that constitute various types of protein in different ratios.
Amino acids are classified into two types:
a)Essential amino acids
b)Non-essential amino acids
This classification does not reflect the importance of the amino acids belonging to each.
Essential amino acids are those that cannot be synthesized by the human body and therefore must be obtained from food
Non-essential amino acids are those that can be synthesized by the human body.
The list of essential and non-essential amino acids are given below:
Essential:
Isoleucine
Leucine
Valine
Lysine
Tryptophan
Methionine
Phenylalanine
Threonine
Non-essential:
Alanine
Asparagine
Glycine
Aspartic acid
Proline
Cysteine
Glutamine
Glutamic acid
Selenocysteine
Histidine
Taurine
Tyrosine
Arginine
Serine
Ornithine
It is crucial for the body to get adequate amounts of each of these amino acids in order for it to function properly.
iii) Sources of protein:
Foods that contain each and every one of the aforementioned essential amino acids are called complete sources of protein.
Foods that lack one or more essential amino acids are called incomplete sources of protein.
This is the single most distinguishing factor between vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources of protein.
All meat and other animal products are sources of complete protein.
For example:
chicken, beef, lamb, pork
poultry, eggs
fish, shellfish
milk and milk products
Vegetarian sources:
Nuts
Soy foods (not recommended as they are toxic and produce estrogen in the body)
Sprouted seeds (each type of sprout differs in nutrient proportions, so eat a variety)