A Basic Explanation of Proteins
Let’s take a moment to talk about protein. Proteins are essential to our well being and a fundamental component of our diet. We require them to survive and a high protein diet is essential for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In other words, the more you know about protein, the more you will appreciate its importance in your life.
The first thing you should know about protein is their technical definition. Proteins are made up of individual amino acids, of which there are 20. All living organisms use these 20 amino acids and put them together in chains to create different proteins. Think of like how you use an alphabet, you take individual letters and put them in a specific order to make a specific word. Proteins work in a very similar way. The individual amino acids are composed of an amino group (-NH2) and a carboxylic acid (COOH). These are chemistry terms and not really important for the average person to understand, so I won’t dwell on them.
Dietary proteins are one of 3 macronutrients, the other two being carbohydrates and fats. Protein should make up a meaningful portion of your diet. If you’re physically active, your total protein intake is even more important. What your body does with these dietary proteins is digest them in your GI tract by breaking them down to those basic amino acids. This makes them easier to absorb and allows your body easily use them to produce the types of proteins it needs.
There are animal sources and plant sources of protein. Good dietary sources of animal protein include things like dairy, eggs, poultry and fish. Good dietary sources of plant plant protein include beans, quinoa, spinach and nuts. Obviously, there are many more sources of both. You can also buy concentrated protein powders from things such as a whey or soy.
Once these dietary proteins enter your body, they become the building blocks for the various types of protein that your body needs. There are special molecules in your body called enzymes that put these amino acids in a specific order so that your body can utilize them. Every single part of your body uses them, from head to toe and including every organ, muscle, skin and bones. For physically active individuals, it is important to increase your total dietary protein in order to facilitate skeletal muscle protein growth. If you don’t eat enough protein, your body wont have the amino acids available to make that skeletal muscle. Depending on your level of physical activity, the recommended amount of protein is somewhere between 1.0 and 2.0 grams/kg of body weight.
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