The Science Simplified series is an ongoing string of posts aiming to take the guesswork out of fitness buzzwords floating around out there in the fitnesssphere. (<--I'm copyrighting that word btw...) Every day we hear words like cholesterol, protein, interval training, core, complex carbs, and the list goes on and on and on. I am going to put these terms into plain English so that everyone can understand why it is they are following the fitness trends they are following.
What is protein?
Proteins are a macronutrient (the other two are carbohydrates and fats) composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. These proteins are the building blocks of almost all bodily tissue such as muscle, hair, skin, collagen, etc...
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Amino means "nitrogen containing" and, just as a side note, proteins are the only macronutrients that contain nitrogen. Anyways, there are potentially 20 different amino acids that act as the building blocks for proteins. 11 of these amino acids are nonessential meaning the body can manufacture them with no help from an external aid. The other 9 amino acids are essential and they must be consumed in the form of food. The proteins purpose is based on the amino acid composition.
Bodily Tissues ----made of----> Proteins ----made of----> Amino Acids (Essential/Nonessential)
Unlike man, all proteins are not created equal...
...all jokes aside, there are different qualities of protein out there. High Quality proteins contain all of those essential (body can't produce itself) amino acids and include proteins of an animal origin such as chicken, fish, milk, and eggs. Low Quality proteins lack one or more of those essential amino acids and are typically of a harvesting origin such as grains, beans, and legumes.
If you are a vegan or your dietary pattern tends to leave out a lot of forms of High Quality Protein, you want to make sure you are consuming low quality proteins that are complimentary. Since low quality proteins do not provide all of the essential amino acids individually, you want to eat a variety of low quality proteins to make sure that you end up consuming all of the essential amino acids. A good rule of thumb when it comes to low quality proteins is to make sure for every serving of beans/legumes you consume, you also consume a serving of grains. That should make sure you provide your body with all of the essential amino acids your body requires to function.
Protein is required for all turnover at the cellular level. Turnover refers to the breaking down and regeneration of any given cell in the body. If your body does not get protein, it can't regenerate. Every single person needs protein unless they want to liquefy into oblivion...
Requirements vary for everyone but there are some general rules you can follow based on your level of activity...
Average Joes Require .8 grams of protein per 1kg of body weight.
Endurance Athletes Require .9-1.4 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight.
Explosive Athletes/ Weightlifters Require 1.5-2 grams of protein per 1 kg of body weight.
If you are trying to lose weight and are restricting your calories it is important to eat more protein than you normally would. This is because protein from your muscles is metabolized as a source of energy in a negative caloric balance (you are burning more calories than you consume on a daily basis). This means it is vital to consume an adequate amount of protein to provide your body with the amino acids required to rebuild the muscle cells that are being metabolized for energy. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn because muscle is metabolically active tissue (demand more fuel to function and therefore burn more calories). Therefore... keep the muscles alive to help you reach your weight loss goals.
Proteins are a vital micronutrient required for a plethora of bodily functions. They are composed of amino acids. Some of which the body can make itself, others we get through our diet. When you are being mindful of your protein intake, make sure you are also paying attention to the quality of protein. If you do not eat a lot of meat, make sure your proteins compliment each other and provide all of the essential amino acids. Requirements differ for everyone and the more active you are, the more protein your body needs to function at its best. If you are also trying to lose weight, you should eat more protein than you normally would. Hopefully this article was helpful and if you have any questions, on protein or otherwise, feel free to comment and we will answer the question as best we can. I bid you all a delicious, protein filled farewell until next time.