What proteins are and where they derive from.
The word ‘protein’ refers to a type of molecule in food that can be broken down into amino acids. The body needs twenty amino acids in which it can produce eleven of these itself. However there are nine, called ‘essential amino acids’ that the body cannot create and has to gain through the consumption of food.
These ‘essential amino acids' or proteins: are: Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Valine and Histidine are always found in foods that come from an animal - so think meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt etc. These are commonly called 'first class' proteins, or high biological value proteins, simply because they contain all the essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. However, do not think that you MUST eat animal foods in order to get all the essential amino acids you need... you don't. All the nine essential amino acids are found in hundreds of foods from the plant kingdom such as beans, pulses, nuts, seeds and grains, but be careful of their high starchy carbohydrate composition. Quinoa (has a high amino acid profile) buckwheat, and barley, chickpeas, steamed tofu, lentils, sprouts like alfalfa all contain high amounts of amino acids.
When we eat, the body breaks down the protein in food in order to create the amino acids that it needs.
What does protein do for us?
Protein is the body’s building block for growth and recovery. Our body is made mainly of proteins. This includes, muscle, skin, organs, hair and nails. The immune system, digestive system and blood all rely on proteins to function correctly. Protein is therefore an essential part of our diet, vital to development and correct functioning of the body.
The protein “component” of the diet is also important if you are looking to effectively lose excess body fat. Protein helps to raise the metabolic rate, keep cravings for sugar at bay, and helps us to feel full or satiated. Often reducing down the “heavy starch” or carbohydrate aspect of a diet, and
either increasing protein slightly, or simply better balancing carbohydrate intake with protein, is enough for people to begin losing fat more effectively.
If our diets contained no protein then our bodies would start to break down muscles in order to produce the protein it needs. Our bodies are great at storing fats and sugars but find it hard to store protein. It is therefore necessary to continually replace the protein that our bodies use.
Protein for effective weight control and hunger control
The 'balancing' effect of adding protein to a carbohydrate-containing meal can be a very positive step in stabilising energy and blood sugar levels, improving the ability of the body’s cells to burn fat, and avoid carbohydrate (sugars) being stored as fat. Eating carb-heavy meals, carb-only meals, and/or snacking too regularly on sugary or carb-only foods can upset 'dietary hormone' balance, encouraging sugar and fat storage.
Eating quality protein at meal times, in the correct amounts, helps to create the proper 'dietary hormone' balance. Establishing an effective balance between insulin and glucagon, stimulates fat 'burning', dis-courages fat storage, and also helps to 'fire-up' the metabolism via the thermic effect of food.
How much protein do we need?
The amount of protein that we need is dependent in part on our age, weight and levels of activity. People with high levels of activity may need slightly more protein than those who lead more sedentary lifestyles. As protein is essential in building and repairing muscle and other tissues slightly more is needed for those actively trying to develop muscle.
To calculate roughly how much protein you need to consume daily: multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8. The answer is the number of grams of protein you should consume every day. If we exercise more, we can add more protein as well as adding carbohydrates, fats, fruit and vegetables. It is important to keep within the national ratio however if your goals are to build muscle or lose fat, these may change slightly.