Protein 101

We hear a lot about fats and carbs but what about protein? Keep reading to get the 101 on protein and how important it is in your body.

Next to water, protein is the next most abundant substance in the body. Think of the structure of a house. Before you add the walls, you have a basic framework. Protein is that framework for just about every system in the body. Without it, the body couldn’t support life.

That’s the big picture. Now let’s look at the smaller one. Protein is a building block of the body. It is found in muscles, blood cells, bones, marrow, hair, nails, organs, skin, tissues and teeth – to name a few.

Proteins are made up of amino acids. If you remember your high school biology class, then you know that amino acids are found in the body and in the food we eat. There are twenty-two amino acids that make up various proteins and enzymes in the body. The body only manufactures fourteen of them. The other eight have to come from food. What are they?

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

Without these additional proteins, functions in the body would cease. Proteins break down quickly. You need protein each day to replenish what was lost. One gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight is the minimum. If you exercise or are very active, you can add more protein to your diet.

Eating a well-rounded diet of food is essential to ingest all the amino acids needed for protein synthesis. Choosing foods high in protein is best since not all of the protein in a food is used for creating protein. Some is excreted as waste from the kidneys.

The body needs protein so it will get it from whatever sources it can. When you don’t take in enough or the right kinds of protein, it will rob it from immune system, bones and anywhere else it can get it. It will even steal it from the muscles, which means that you are losing muscle mass and gaining a higher body-fat ratio.

Lack of proper protein means that the body will show signs of deficiency. This means problems with bone cell synthesis, skin elasticity, joint function, organ function, hormones, immunity, mood and levels of neurotransmitters for brain function.

What we need is complete proteins. These are whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables. So how much do you need each day? It varies by age and gender. For children, that number is closer to between 10 and 20 grams. For men, that number can reach as high as 60 grams. For women it is slightly less at around 50 grams. During pregnancy and breastfeeding the amount is as high as 70 grams each day.

What do you know about protein? Are you getting enough? Find out what amount you need and if you are eating the right proteins.