An easy-to-understand guide about the basics of nutrition. If you want a healthy lifestyle, this is the best place to start from!
Welcome to the second post of Nutrition Explained! Today I will be talking about another of the main macronutrients: proteins. By the way, for those of you who missed my first post about carbohydrates, I really recommend you go have a look at it, you’re missing out on some essential information (link here)! 😉
So, what are proteins? All of you fitness lovers will probably be familiar with them, but don’t worry a little bit extra information never hurt anyone! Proteins are macromolecules that can be found in major amounts in food and each protein is made up of 50 to 1000 amino acids. Without these amino acids, the synthesis of proteins would not be possible, in other words, there wouldn’t be any proteins. There are 20 different kinds of amino acids, some of which can be synthesised in the body and are therefore called non-essential and some of which that can’t, which is why they are called essential.
There are 9 essential amino acids: Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan (yes, the one found in chocolate!) and Valine. Then, there are 2 amino acids ( Cysteine and Tyrosine), that can only be synthesised by essential amino acid precursors. All the other amino acids are considered non-essential and are Alanine, Aspartate, Glutamate, Arginine, Asparagine, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline and Serine.
Ok, enough with the names now! Essential amino acids need to be assumed through our diet and if one of them is not provided in adequate amounts, then it will not be possible to maintain a protein balance in our body and protein cannot be synthesised. What happens is that our body will be in protein deficit, as it will lose more protein than it can produce. It’s also important to remember that previous studies show that not all proteins are nutritionally equivalent. Because each protein is made up of different amino acids, some are needed more than others.
So now we know that we need amino acids in order to make proteins and that some amino acids need to be assumed through the diet in order to maintain a protein balance. But what exactly do we need proteins for?
- Structural function: Proteins support cells and give them structure. Cells also make up muscular tissue and allow us to walk and use our muscles. This is why they are very important to support all sort of fitness activities.
- Carriers: Proteins act as carriers for many important components, such as vitamins, oxygen and carbon dioxide. Look at them as many little taxis that travel around our body to transport V.I.C. (Very Important Components).
- Enzymes: in order to carry out most chemical reactions in cells and keep our body functioning properly, we need enzymes and that’s what many proteins act as.
- Antibodies: They are what keep us healthy and fight all the nasty foreign bodies that make us ill.
- Messengers: Some proteins act as messengers and send signals to different areas of our body so that important biological processes can be carried out.
Wow, they all sound quite important tasks, how can I then make sure I assume enough proteins? And how much protein should I consume in a day? Because each protein is different and can be found in different foods, it’s important to consume a variety of protein rich foods every day. Great sources of proteins are all dairy products ( strained greek yogurt and fromage frais have a very high content of protein), meat, fish, pulses, soya, eggs, oats and nuts. In regards of how much protein you should consume in a day, there is no exact answer. It depends on how active you are. But, on average you should aim to assume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. For example, if you weigh 80kg, you should consume at least 64g of protein per day.
Well, that’s it for today, I hope I didn’t bother you too much and that you found this useful! Remember to check my future posts for more info about fats and don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and on Twitter for some extra healthy tips!
Enjoy the rest of your day!