Many years back you might have read about PROTEIN, not paying much attention to it. Only if you’ve studied biology in detail or you work in the area of health care, you might be well versed with its importance. From the perspective of living a healthy life, everyone ought to know about it.
Nevertheless, the buzz about protein is at an all time high! Attributing protein only to the growth factor of children has been the norm. But, what we hear nowadays is much more than that. 🙂
What you will get to know about??
This article talks about all the basics that you need to know about protein in a simple and concise way. When you finish reading this article you will know much more than any average person about its basics and its importance.
NOTE: All information provided here is from well recognised websites, journals and research papers that hold international acclaim.
Why is Protein important??
It is essentially important for almost everyone, any age group! In a nutshell we can say that…
- Protein is a macronutrient which is the building block of our body. (macronutrient: a nutrient that is needed in large amounts in our diet)
- Most of our body is either water or protein! Our skin, hair, nails, muscles, are all protein.
- It is needed to maintain good health since it is a part of every cell in our body.
- To repair tissues.
- It is used to make enzymes and hormones so it facilitates many important biochemical reactions in our body
- Helps to control hunger by keeping us full for long.
- Its importance, of course increases for children, teens and pregnant women.
- Needed for good immunity ( production of immunoglobulins).
- Essential for healthy bones.
- Can provide energy to the body in abnormal circumstances like prolonged state of fasting.
It’s structure and composition :
Understanding protein from a structural point of view necessitates that we should know that it is a macromolecule. This big molecule can be broken down into smaller molecules known as Amino acids.
Or we can say several Amino acids join together (via peptide bonds that hold them) to form proteins!
There are 20 types of amino acids which in varying sequences and different arrangements make up a variety of proteins. All are important for the maintenance of health.
Out of these 20 amino acids; 9 of them are classified as essential while the others are non essential or conditionally essential. The essential ones cannot be synthesised within the body and have to supplemented through our diet. Less of focus is given on the rest of amino acids since they can be made by the body itself as per requirement.
Complete / Incomplete proteins???
Any protein that provides our body with all the essential amino acids is a ‘Complete protein’ since it will fulfil the body’s requirement for necessary amino acids. On the contrary, any protein lacking in any of the essential Amino acid will be an ‘Incomplete protein’. Since, essential amino acids cannot be produced within the body it becomes necessary to supplement them through the food we eat.
In general, animal proteins are complete; containing all the 9 essential amino acids (like meat, fish, eggs, dairy items etc). Whereas only a few plant sources provide complete protein. Some of them are quinoa, soya beans and hemp seeds.
Now, the question arises: Will plant protein help to meet our body’s needs? Read our article and find out whether plant protein is as good as animal protein? In a nutshell we can say, Plant protein is also healthy since it comes along with a lot of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber in food. Combining different plant based protein rich foods is the key to a ‘complete protein’ food for vegans. Such healthy combinations are often used in plant based protein supplements .
Protein Intake: How much is enough???
Irrespective of whether you are active, involved in physical activities or not; you need:
- 0.75 to 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight. (For Females) * This value increases (up to approx. 1g) for pregnant and lactating women.
- 0.8 to 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight. ( For Males)
The intake should be more for active individuals. (those who exercise on a daily basis be it cardio or lifting weights). Such people can take anywhere between 1 to 2g of protein per kg of body weight to maintain healthy muscle mass.
NOTE: Upto 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight lies within the safe range.
What, if you don’t take enough??
Parents take a lot of care to provide children with good amount of protein in their diet since they are in the growing phase. Why is it so, that as we grow and reach our adolescence we tend to forget it importance in our life. It is not true that eating lesser amount of protein than required OR carelessly eating what is easily available would make you unhealthy or sick in just a while.
But, it is true that as time passes, this will make your muscles weak and you will realise it later. Having adequate amount of protein on a daily basis and an active lifestyle will keep you healthy.
The most common effect is Sarcopenia; is. a condition that describes age dependent loss of muscle in individuals. To prevent this condition it is incumbent to take good or recommended amount of protein in diet. In a sentence, we can say that optimum protein intake leads to ‘Healthy Ageing’!
On the other hand deficiency of protein may lead to several conditions like
- poor health of hair, skin and nails
- weak immune system (since disease fighting immunoglobulins are made of protein)
- low growth rate in children
- loss of muscles
- weak bones
- swollen or puffy skin (edema)
- sometimes the person may develop fatty liver disease in case of acute deficiency
The best option is to have a balanced diet and it is always good to include both Plant and Animal sources of protein in diet.
Protein requirement for those who undergo any form of heavy physical exercise??
Exercising and nutrition go hand in hand to attain holistic health. When we exercise in any form, be it brisk walking, running, lifting weights or even dancing ‘ the most basic form of cardio’; we burn our calories and sweat. Is that all?? The answer is NO…
Our muscles also get fatigued.
Our muscles are made of ‘protein’ and they have an incredible capacity to adapt. When we keep them active by exercising, we make use of them more than any other sedentary average person, our muscles go through the process of wear and tear. In order to make them strong and healthier, we need to replenish our body with protein. The body metabolises dietary protein to make it usable for muscles and thus they become stronger and ready again for physical exertion.
Adequate amount of protein is needed by those who exercise regularly, so that muscles grow and become strong.
Protein can be cautiously increased in diet through food you eat, or an easier way is to include a good protein supplement in your daily routine. Protein supplements are not only packed with good quality protein, are safe and also easy to ingest. Also there is a wide variety of protein powders/supplements (protein powders: which is best) so everyone has the liberty to choose what suits them best.