What are proteins? Dietitians are advising to add more protein to our diet, bodybuilders are consuming buckets of protein powder. How much do we need them and which ones should we choose to stay healthy?
What are amino acids?
Amino acids are the basic building blocks of our body. There are 20 standard amino acids, divided in two groups – essential and nonessential.
11 nonessential amino acids can be produced by human body: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
9 essential amino acids cannot be made by human body, so they must come from food. They are: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Unlike fats and carbohydrates, our body does not tend to store excess supplies of amino acids for later use – so we need get a regular supply everyday.
Amino acids are also sources of energy, like fats and carbohydrates, but only amino acids are capable of forming tissues, organs, muscles, skin and hair.
Amino acids are very friendly – when they meet, immediately join together to form longs chains called – proteins.
What are proteins?
First of all, proteins are one of the three macronutriens (protein, fat and carbohydrates). Chemically speaking, proteins are complex molecules made of lots of amino acids.
Proteins make up your muscles, ligaments, organs, tendons, tissues, glands, nails, hair – almost every part of your body. In the same way proteins repair, maintain cells.
20 different amino acids make thousands of different proteins.
Proteins may be complete or incomplete. Complete protein contains all 9 essential amino acids and incomplete proteins only contain some of them.
Consuming complete protein in your diet is beneficial, but not necessary. You can also pair incomplete proteins containing to form complete proteins. As most complete proteins are animal based, people having plant-based diet must carefully plan and pair the products.
Foods with complete proteins
The most complete proteins come from animal products. They are more similar to our own proteins, so are used more rapidly. But scientist have proved, that plant proteins can also very beneficial and easily replace animal proteins. When using animal protein, it should be high quality – this means to pay attention in what conditions the animal was kept.
Foods with incomplete proteins
Foods with incomplete proteins may also be very beneficial. As our body does not store amino acids for the future use, food should be combined together. Some examples of the matches made in heaven:
How much protein do we need?
Based on various recommendations, we need 0,75-2,2g per kilo of our body mass per day. So that‘s around 17-40g of protein per meal. For losing weight we will need less (around 0,75g/kg), and bodybuilders may need much more. It depends on your physical activity, stress levels and personal approach how much exactly will you need. Although it is not wise to take more proteins than needed, because the excess of the protein may have unwanted side effects, such as: weight gain, yeast overgrowth, insulin spike.
Need for protein also lowers with age – older people will need less protein and their liver will not be able to digest large amounts of it. Same with people who have a fatty liver or liver failure. People with low stomach acids will be not able to digest a lot of proteins. It is recommended to eat proteins together with vegetables – they have enzymes, which help to digest it.
Remember, that protein eaten together with sugar, spikes up insulin. So it is a bad idea to eat a cake right after steak.
- Choose the balance between animal and plant protein (except for vegans)
- Eat only high quality, organic food, avoid processed foods
- Eat plant based incomplete protein food by pairing it correctly
- Don’t eat high in proteins food together with sugars
- Know how much protein does your body require and limit protein intake to that amount
- Eat proteins together with vegetables – they will help with digestion
What are proteins