What do proteins do?
Proteins are a vital part of the human body, they make up every living cell and they are used by the body to make many different body tissues. Proteins help make up skin, hair, muscles and tendons, they also help to keep our bones and teeth healthy. As you can see, proteins are essential for the normal growth and repair of the body.
Proteins also make up hormones, which are chemical messengers that pass information from one part of the body to another. A very important hormone is Insulin, which helps removing glucose (sugar) from the blood stream and stores it in the liver.
Are there different kinds of proteins?
Proteins can be divided into two groups and they are known as complete and incomplete.
-Generally speaking we could say that Complete Proteins are obtained from animal sources such as but not limited to:
Red meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
-Incomplete proteins are coming from Plants and they are found in:
Cereals, Legumes (peas, beans etc…), fruits, and vegetables.
The terms complete and incomplete refer to how the proteins are made, in fact, proteins are made by little building blocks, like bricks in a wall, and they are called Amino Acids.
What are amino acids?
In nature there are 20 different building blocks, amino acids, which make up all proteins in our body.
Amino acids can be divided into two groups:
Essential amino acids
Non-essential amino acids
Only 8 of the 20 amino acid are essential and the remaining 12 are not essential.
But what does this mean?
The body cannot produce essential amino acids and they HAVE TO be consumed through our diet.
Now… if a protein contains all the essential amino acid, it is considered “complete”.
So you may ask… if complete proteins are mainly found in animal products, how do vegetarians and vegans survive?
There are some vegan products that contain complete proteins, for example Soya beans.
Also remember that there are 8 essential amino acids and some incomplete protein may have only one amino acid missing. So with a balanced and varied diet, we can give our body only incomplete proteins but with all the essential amino acids it needs, a kind of mix and match for the body.
I heard about peptides, what are they?
Peptides are simply the chain of amino acids that eventually creates proteins.
2 amino acids chained together are called a Dipeptide (di meaning 2)
3 amino acids linked together are called a Tripeptide (tri meaning 3)
4 to 9 amino acids linked together are called an Olygopeptide (Olygo meaning a few)
10 or more amino acids linked together are called a Polypeptide (Poly meaning many)
Protein storage? No way!
When proteins are digested they get broken down into amino acids and they enter the blood stream.
Unlike Fats and Carbohydrates, there is no storage space in the body for Proteins, so it is important to eat proteins regularly in your nutrition plan and in the right quantities. If more protein than required are ingested, then they can be eventually turned into fat!
So how much protein should I eat so that they are not turned into fat?
On average you should eat 0.8 grams of proteins for each 1 Kilogram of body weight. If you weight 100 Kg then you should have 80 grams of proteins per day (100 x 0.8 = 80)
How to measure the consumption of proteins is a common mistake, people believe that a 100 grams of high protein food, such as tuna, will give you 100 grams of proteins, unfortunately this is not the case as foods are very hydrated, (contain lots of water) and only provide about 20% of the proteins.
OK… Let’s put science aside… how does this affect my training?
Exercise increases the demand of proteins the body needs.
—–Endurance sports. The level of protein needed during endurance exercise (i.e. marathons) increases from 5% all the way up to 15% after just 1 hour of continuous sport. It is therefore suggested to have between 1.2 and 1.4 grams of protein per 1 Kg of body weight every day.
—–Strength training requires higher intake, it is suggested to take between 1.4 and 1.8 grams of proteins per 1 Kg of body weight daily.
—– Muscle growth (hypertrophy) requires the greatest amount of protein, between 1.8 and 2 grams per 1 Kg of body weight and the timing also becomes important, for the best results it is advisable to have a mix of protein and carbohydrates within one hour of the end of the training session. Carbs and Proteins together after a workout stimulate the release of insulin and the growth hormone which will induce muscle growth.
So can we drink too much protein? And is it bad?
If we drink more proteins than our body needs, we will get rid of some of them via our urine, this is not bad but it puts extra stress on the kidneys which have to process this as waste. The breaking down of proteins also produces ammonia, which is toxic, so it is important to eat the correct amount of proteins that our body needs.
What about protein shakes then, are they bad?
Proteins shakes have only become popular in the last 20 years amongst people who want to increase the size of their muscles; this is because of the continuous pressure from health magazines and media advertising. As this trend has only been popular in the last 20 years, there hasn’t been a chance to test results on the long-term use and effects of consuming the products for a long period of time.
Overall, it has been suggested to use natural or animal proteins instead of shakes where possible.
Written by Omar