What are Proteins?
Proteins are made up of differing structures of amino acids that can be classified as essential or non-essential. Our bodies cannot produce these essential amino acids, so we must obtain them from our diet. Since there is no storage form of protein in the body, we must acquire adequate amounts of protein for our bodies to function optimally.
Some of the benefits of increased protein in a diet are as follows:
- Increased thermic effect of feeding which leads to a higher metabolic rate
- Increased glucagon which leads to an increase in fat being used as fuel
- Increased IGF-1 which builds muscle
- Increased repair and rebuilding of muscle tissue
- Accelerated muscle growth via increased nitrogen status
No matter if you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle, improve athletic performance or just maintain your current level of fitness, the 5 benefits listed above have something in common: they all improve health AND body composition. This is something that everyone can get excited about!
Protein comes in several powders composed of different ingredients. To get the best results, it is important to distinguish between types of protein.
Whey protein is derived from milk and is a byproduct of cheese production. Whey is rapidly absorbed and digested in the body which is why it is great for before and after a workout.
Casein protein is derived from dairy products and makes up about 80% of the protein in cow’s milk. Also called sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate or milk protein, casein tends to lump in the digestive tract forming a gel that slows its digestion and gives it a “sustained release” effect. Because casein takes longer to process than whey, casein is a great supplement to take prior to bedtime.
Egg protein is derived from either whole eggs or egg whites. Egg whites are said to be more of a complete protein containing all essential amino acids compared to the dairy varieties. Egg protein may be a better option for people with lactose or dairy sensitivities. Egg protein is available in two main types of supplement form: a powder supplement and pasteurized liquid egg whites. Pasteurized liquid egg whites can be a convenient substitute for whole eggs since they are already peeled and the yolk has been removed.
Soy protein is derived from soy beans and will generally come in either the isolated or concentrated form. Soy has a high digestibility ratio which rivals that of beef, milk and eggs. Soy protein may be a suitable alternative to those who are sensitive or intolerant to eggs or dairy.
Pea protein is derived and isolated from peas, has a high digestibility ratio and is often less expensive than dairy or egg protein. Pea protein is a vegan protein powder and is ideal for people who are sensitive to eggs or dairy.
Hemp protein is derived from hemp and is another vegan protein powder that may be better for the dairy or egg-sensitive person.When it comes to choosing a protein powder, the best advice I can give is to get one that tastes good, that fits your needs (whether it be post-workout recovery, morning shake mix, pre-bed meal, etc.) and that has the nutritional value you want (such as calories, protein content per serving, carbohydrate content per serving, fat content per serving and ingredients). I use several types of protein powders per day because they all have their specific use and optimal time for use.
Nutrition and supplementation is a very individualized topic and must be dealt with as such. Choose a protein supplement that you enjoy and that your body responds to best to reap the rewards of a slimmer, more muscular and healthier body.
Protein And Its Role In A Healthy Lifestyle
The role of protein in our lives is well understood by most of us. It’s an essential nutrient. Proteins are made up of long strings of amino acids, called polypeptides. When we consume proteins, our digestive system breaks them back down into their constituent amino acids for subsequent use by the body. We use amino acids in some shape or form for nearly every bodily process. They are the pre-cursors, or ‘ingredients’ we need to be able to manufacture hormones, enzymes, body tissues and body structures. They are used to repair cells and can even be used as fuel to keep our cells running.
Proteins – An Essential Source Of Amino Acids
Tyrosine for example is used to produce melanin, our skin and hair pigment. The essential amino acids valine, isoleucine and leucine are used to build and repair muscle tissue. Arginine is used to make nitric oxide, a vasodilatory mediator that plays a vital role in keeping our blood pressure healthy and our heart muscles contracting regularly. Creatine, despite its popularity as a muscle-building supplement, is naturally produced in our bodies using arginine and glycine. You can read more about Creatine supplements, and whether they’re worth the hype.
Protein Supply – It’s All About Diet
Most of us get enough protein from our diet. Even those of us who perhaps don’t eat as healthily as we should! Proteins are obtained from all manner of dietary sources. Some of these foods are referred to as complete protein sources, meaning they provide all the essential amino acids and many of the non-essential ones as well. What is an essential amino acid? All amino acids are ‘essential’ in the sense that we require all 20 of them in varying amounts. However, the 9 amino acids deemed ‘essential’ are those that must be obtained via our diet because we can’t manufacture them ourselves. In other words, they are an ‘essential’ part of our diet. Non-essential amino acids are those we can manufacture ourselves provided we have the raw ingredients.
Most animal proteins are complete protein sources – meat, dairy, eggs, fish. Therefore, people who eat these proteins regularly are unlikely to require special protein supplements unless they’re into heavy bodybuilding. Even then, those additional protein requirements can usually be met by increasing dietary intake of proteins.
Even Vegetarians And Vegans Get Enough Dietary Protein
Even vegetarians are mostly OK for protein because they still eat diary and eggs. The group at most risk of not getting enough protein are vegans, who only eat non-animal foods. However there are many plant based sources of proteins that contain these essential amino acids, which debunks the protein myth that we need to eat meat as a source of protein! Hemp and soy proteins for example contain all 20 amino acids. Other good plant based sources of protein for vegans includes nuts, seeds, and legumes – beans, chickpeas, lentils etc. In fact, one cup of cooked beans provides the same quantity of protein as 2 ounces of meat! Mushrooms are another good source of protein.