Protein is present in and used by every single cell in your body. It is essential to life! And besides that… Everybody likes a good steak, right!?

Proteins are groupings of amino acids held together by peptide bonds to form a greater tissue structure. Proteins are structured differently than the other macronutrients and are the only energy source for the body that contains nitrogen

Protein is the required building material for:

  • Muscles
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • Skin and scars
  • Filaments of hair and base material of nails
  • Blood
  • Bones
  • Enzymes and antibodies
  • Overall growth and repair of body tissues

There are 20 total amino acids that can be utilized by the body for those actions. 11 of those amino acids are known as non- essential with the remaining 9 being considered essential. What this means is that 11 can be manufactured by the body and 9 cannot.

Essential Amino Acids:

  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Valine
  • Histidine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan

Non- Essential Amino Acids:

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

It is essential to take in protein sources through proper nutrition that contain those 9 essential amino acids to ensure the total protein taken in by the body is complete. A continuous cycle of breaking down and building up of structures occurs every single day and without a complete amount of those amino acids, the body cannot rebuild those structures that were broken down the day before.

There are tons of supplements on the market today for several of the non- essential amino acids. Just remember this, supplements should always be just that… a supplement, or addition to, an already balanced and healthy diet.

The word Protein was translated from the Greek word  proteios  which means “of prime importance.” So… why is it that even though the ancient Greeks knew protein was an essential nutrient, and protein gets talked about all the time in the media as being important, the majority of the population isn’t getting an adequate amount of protein in their diet each day?????

Dietary Reference Intakes change based on age, activity level, current health status, and body weight, however, the general rule of thumb for sedentary individuals is .8 gram per pound of body weight. For active individuals, this raises to 1 gram per pound and could be even higher for those seeking muscle hypertrophy.

When you weight train to gain muscle you’re actually breaking your muscle tissue down. In order for it to rebuild bigger tomorrow than it was today, you need adequate amounts of all the amino acids. If you don’t get that, the muscle doesn’t grow. Make sense??? To take that example even further… what if you are weight training, working a high-stress job, have multiple kids who have multiple activities and have to keep your household running!? Well, chances are you’re breaking down a significant amount of tissues in any given day. All of that requires protein to be able to build back up.

Every meal you consume in a day should contain a protein source of some type.

  • chicken
  • beef
  • Turkey
  • pork
  • lamb
  • fish
  • seafood
  • eggs & egg whites

Other non-animal sources of protein include beans, lentils, vegetables, some grains, nuts, and seeds- just remember here that all of these sources are all mostly either carbs or fat but have good amounts of protein.

Protein sources can also be labels as either complete or incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all 9 of the essential amino acids in high amounts while incomplete proteins do not. Incomplete proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids, however, this does not mean they are less worthy choices. You’d just have to eat a higher amount of a larger variety of sources of incomplete proteins to take in all of the essential amino acids.

This is why I recommend that all my clients choose a variety of sources that will provide them with protein each day. There’s absolutely no reason to subject yourself to eating chicken breast every single meal of every single day! Get on the internet and find new recipes to try for different types of protein sources. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring!

References

Fink, H.H. Mikesky, A.E. (2018). Practical Applications in Sports Nutrition: 5th Edition. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.

Boyle, M. (2016). Personal Nutrition: 9th Edition. Boston: Cengage Learning.