You walk into a gym and other than the cardio equipment or the weights section, the next thing you’ll notice is adverts for protein shakes, or guys chugging down drinks or eating meals out of tupperware. You go into the supermarket now and you’ll notice whole sections of aisle dedicated to ‘health drinks’ or ready meals highlighting the amount of protein in them and to be honest, it can all be a bit daunting. Where do you start? What should I eat? What is protein? Why, oh why, do I have to eat protein?
So as a guy or a women, most of you will be entering a gym to lose weight, gain muscle or in some cases ‘tone’. Tone is muscle, muscle is tone. You both want the same thing, just men can bulk up, where as women will put on lean muscle and looked toned. Don’t be scared or consuming protein nor lifting heavy weights, you need to make your muscles grow and by lifting those 2kg dumbbells for 3 sets of 25 reps you are not going to get toned in a hurry. Especially not by the time your holiday comes round.
So lets look into why you should be consuming protein in your daily diet (around 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight to maintain current muscle, to increase your muscle then add around 0.25 or 0.5 grams per kg).
For most people that is around 75 grams to 100 grams of protein per day. Divide that over your 3 meals for the day and post gym workout and you are sorted. See it’s not as much as you think it is. If you are trying to put on more weight (bulk up) then you can add another protein source for mid morning, upping your intake to around 125 grams per day.
Lets talk about protein a bit more depth:
Proteins are a group of biological compounds which are present in every live cell, organ and tissue of the body. It is there in the form of enzymes, antibodies, hormones and much more. Meaning ‘first’ or ‘of prime importance’ in Greek, proteins participate in every cellular process occurring in the body. Proteins are responsible for the formation, regulation, repair and protection of the body of each organism. It executes a range of functions within living beings including catalysis of enzymes, DNA replication communication and coordination within the cells, molecular transportation from one location to another.
Health benefits of proteins include production and smooth functioning of enzymes and hormones and provide cellular and muscular health. It facilitates molecular transportation, cell repair and regeneration and provides mechanical and structural support to the bones and skin. Consumption of adequate protein ensures strong immune defense, efficient signaling of nerves and impulses, healthy hair and maintenance of fluid balance in the body. Protein can also turn into an energy provider when required by the body.
Where can I find protein?
Good sources of proteins are not hard to find for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Vegetarians can choose from nuts, seeds, soy products like tofu, dairy products and legumes including variety of beans such as pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and split peas. Meat eaters can choose from eggs, turkey, cooked lean meat and fish.
What Are Amino Acids?
Proteins consist of multiple chains of amino acids and are considered the building blocks of our life. Digestion or breaking down of protein yields a range of amino acids which is utilized by our body for overall growth, repairing tissues and break down of food. In recent years there has been a massive boost in awareness of Amino Acids, you will see them in quite a few places, and on quite a few fitness drinks, just look for BCAA’s on the front of packaging.
Types Of Amino Acids
Amino acids can be divided into three groups:
Essential amino acids: These amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and must be provided through the food.There are nine essential amino acids namely histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lycine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine.
Non-essential amino acids: These amino acids are formed by the body either from the breakdown of proteins or from the essential amino acids. Alanines, Asparagine, Aspartic acid, Glutamic acid are non-essential amino acids.
Conditional amino acids: These amino acids are essential only during stress or sickness. Conditional amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, ornithine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
The amount of amino acids present in proteins determines the nutritional value of a protein which may vary for different foods. For instance, soy products and animal proteins contain all essential amino acids whereas; the plant proteins are generally deficient in few amino acids. It is advisable for the people following strictly vegetarian or vegan diet to include and combine various foods with a range of amino acids to fulfill their daily requirement.
So what are the health benefits of proteins:
Muscular health: Proteins play an important role in muscle contraction and coordination. Proteins are present in the muscle tissues in the form of many microfilaments and provide muscle structure. Muscle growth depends on the adequacy of proteins in the body. It is extremely important to create a balance between the rate of muscle protein synthesis and the breakdown of these muscle proteins. The rate of breakdown of muscle proteins varies depending upon specific conditions for example, the requirement of protein is different during old age, when the breakdown of muscles accelerates and is different for strength trainers who would also need to consider perfect timing along with the amount of protein intake.
Immune defense: Proteins are vital for the building stronger immune system.The body runs a mechanism of self-defense and protects itself from various infections and diseases with the help of antibodies. These antibodies are specific proteins which have the ability to detect foreign elements also known as antigens. The body responds to the antigens by the production of specific antibodies and deactivates it.
Nerve signaling: Another important task performed by proteins is the smooth functioning of nervous system. The nervous system of the body is activated whenever it is triggered and in turn responds with an appropriate reaction. The receptor sites present in the nervous system, which are accountable for the prompt response comprises of protein complexes. These receptor proteins assist in the transmission of nerve signals within the cells and regulate the central nervous system.
Source of energy: Proteins can also benefit the body by being a source of energy. Consumption of the diet which fails to provide enough energy to the body such as during starvation or weight-loss programs causes the body to use its own functional proteins in order to compensate. As the body does not store extra proteins, enzymes and muscle proteins break down to yield amino acids to provide energy or synthesize glucose and ensure continuous supply of energy to the cells.
Healthy hair: Proteins helps in maintaining healthy hair and protects them from damage. Studies conducted in this regard have advocated the role of proteins as a modulator of hair growth. Attributing to these beneficial effects, proteins are widely used in the manufacturing of hair care products such as conditioners.
Enzymes and hormones: Enzymes are protein catalysts which play an important role in all the biochemical processes and reactions occurring in the body. Without altering themselves, these enzymes accelerate the rate of all the chemical events. The performance of the chemical processes depends upon the measure of enzymes present in the body. Slower rate of reactions and processes indicate a deficit of necessary enzymes in the body. Various protein hormones such as insulin, growth hormone and glucagon also comprise of amino acids which play an important role in various functions operating in the body.
Healthy skin: Proteins are also responsible for extending mechanical support and strength to various tissues which suffer from constant wear and tear such as skin. Collagen is an important and abundant fibrous protein which provides strength to the cells, tissues and organ such as skin which needs to be revitalized on a continuous basis. The healthy, low wrinkled and youthful appearance of the skin largely depends on the levels of collagen protein in the body.
Cell and tissue regeneration: Renewal and restoration of cells and tissues is extremely vital for the maintenance of the healthy body. The body needs constant supply of amino acids for formation of proteins that manufacture new cells and tissues such as nails, hair and skin. The cells present in the digestive system, skin and blood do not last for more than couple of weeks and begin to perish. That’s the time for the creation and replenishment of new and healthy cells to replace the deceased ones. This process of revival of new cells and tissues performed by proteins help sustain good health. Proteins are also used for manufacturing of cell regenerative medicines.
Mechanical support for joints: As already mentioned, the body contains a structured protein called collagen which helps in providing structural scaffolding to the cells. Collagen also helps in sustaining bone health. Individuals doing heavy exercises and athletes working out for multiple hours depend upon the body’s ability to produce collagen in order to prevent the joints from injury and keep them healthy and strong.
So basically, Man or Women, you all need to be consuming the right amount of protein for you to produce the best results for your own goals, remember MUSCLE IS TONE AND TONE IS MUSCLE.
If you have an questions or require a food diary assessment then drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to discuss it with you.
If you like this article, please like my facebook page, Tom Nash Personal Training to stay up to date with my latest posts.
You can also follow me on Instagram @tomnashpt or on twitter @ThomasENash for updates and training ideas.