What is protein?
As one of the building blocks of life, protein is found in every cell of your body. It is made up of chains of amino acids, sequenced together to form different proteins.
Proteins play a crucial role in the body. They assist by transporting molecules throughout the body, help repair damaged cells and regenerate new ones, protect the body from external bugs such as viruses and bacteria and promote growth and development as an individual grows.
How much protein do I need?
The essential amino acids that are contained within your body can’t be produced on their own. They are found in the foods that we consume. To source the adequate amino acids, you must fill your diet with protein rich foods. Your body will naturally take the protein from the consumed foods and break them down into amino acids that can be used around the body.
The recommended daily intake of protein is approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example; a 60kg female would need approximately 48 grams of protein intake. It is important to keep in mind that these are only recommendations and actual requirements may vary depending on age, gender, medical conditions, occupation and overall health.
Due to the rapid high training volume, it is recommended that elite athletes should aim to consume at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass to facilitate the remodeling of their muscle protein. Similarly, pregnant women should also increase their protein intake to supplement their own body and support the growth and development of the baby’s essential organs such as the heart and brain.
However, it may be also necessary to reduce the daily intake of protein in your diet. If an individual has a metabolic disorder that affects the ability for the digestive system to break down certain amino acids, having a higher intake of protein may cause a buildup of these potentially toxic substances leading to potentially life-threatening complications. Hence, why increasing the protein intake may be necessary to controlling the disorder along with specialise diets, medicines and supplements.
The power of protein
Some of the best sources of protein come from milk, eggs, yoghurt, fish, chicken as well as a variety of nuts, seeds and beans. A significant portion of proteins also come from our daily intake of vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are a well-known source of protein and include spinach, asparagus, broccoli, watercress and bok choy just to name a few. Most individuals receive their daily intake of protein from eating a well-balanced diet, while others assist protein intake by taking supplements. Protein supplements are popular among body builders or people that have a protein lacking diet.
Protein has many overall health benefits including;
1. Building muscle mass
Having high amounts of protein in your diet can help in increasing your muscle mass. It is common practice for body builders and athletes to consume protein shakes to aid in improvements to muscle mass gains.
2. Boosting your immune system
Protein makes up a significant portion of your immune system, and needs a constant intake of new protein to function normally. Having adequate levels of protein in your diet means that the cells in your immune systems are constantly repairing and regenerating, meaning a stronger immune system for you.
3. Assist in the repair of damaged or strained muscles
When you are working out, your body naturally uses protein as a source of energy to support muscle contractions. When you have completed your workout, your muscles enter a recovery phase where amino acids are used in protein synthesis which helps to repair any damaged or strained muscles.
4. Boost your metabolism
Protein acts as a jump starter for your metabolism. You can increase your muscle mass through regular exercise and consuming protein can assist in building more muscle. By using a combination of regular exercise and adequate protein intake, your metabolism is able to run more efficiently to convert the proteins to amino acids to be used around the body.
5. Lose weight
Protein rich foods are linked to feelings of satiety, meaning your body feels fuller for longer. This leads to a reduction in calorie consumption as your body doesn’t feel the urge to eat due to hunger, thus you eat less, potentially leading to weight loss. It is important to remember that to have success in weight loss, it involves not only a well-balanced diet including adequate intakes of protein, but also daily exercise and good levels of sleep, relaxation and recovery.
6. Potential to lower the risk of diabetes
Research has shown that diets that are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats, which may include high protein foods, helps to lower the buildup of fat acids around the body’s organs and in turn can potentially reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. While high protein foods do contribute to a healthier lifestyle, it is important to also engage in regular exercise and get adequate sleep to also assist your body to feel its best. Managing your weight, limiting your intake of alcohol, quitting smoking and limiting takeaway and processed foods also assists in potentially lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
The role of protein during exercise
Protein is essential for exercise. This is because when you exercise, you are putting your muscles under strain, burning through your body’s energy stores and placing the body under oxidative stress. As such, proteins aid in the recovery process, assisting in the repair of muscle tissue, helping to reduce any inflammation in the muscles and boost replenishment of the body’s energy stores.
For elite athletes, having good muscle health is the key to performing at optimal level. Eating a diet high in protein is essential for muscle health and function as it promotes faster recovery and a sufficient source of fuel to assist athletes to perform. Preparation also plays an important part in assisting to boost performance in athletes. Planning suitable dietary intakes and creating an eating plan is important as is determining the optimal time to consume it. Elite athletes need to take into consideration when their body’s needs to optimise protein consumption in order to take maximum advantage of the anabolic window to enhance muscle repair.
Final thoughts on protein and protein supplements
The bottom line to take away is that having a diet rich with protein is great for your overall health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that foods don’t only contain one macronutrient like protein. When consuming high protein foods, it is essential to consider the other macronutrients that make up the food you are eating and how they also affect your body.
When considering whether protein supplements are right for you, remember it’s not always necessary as most people who have a balanced diet consume enough to meet their daily protein needs. If you are considering protein supplements, be sure to consult your dietician for their advice and also inform your other health care service providers that you are taking supplements. All of our trusted health care providers want nothing more for us to be happy and improve our general health and wellbeing.
Transcend Health are experts in exercise physiology and physiotherapy and can assist you in tailoring a plan to make you move more comfortably and make recommendations on where you can improve your health, not only with physical exercise but with eating recommendations and inspiration on creating a healthier life and making healthier lifestyle choices from the proactive team. Contact the team today to get your body moving the way you want.