Today I hope to solve all (or most) of the questions you may have about protein because the sooner you understand how it works and why you should pay attention to it, the sooner you will see the results of your efforts.
What are proteins and what do they do?
- Antibodies: fight foreign particles protecting your body. Immunoglobulin is a large, Y-shaped protein used by the immune system to identify and neutralize pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
- Enzymes: carry out almost all of the chemical reactions that take place in cells, and assist with the creation of new molecules. They are like little machines. Some of them build bigger molecules from smaller blocks, others break bigger molecules down into smaller parts. Whether building or breaking, most enzymes can do this 50 to 5k times per second. Your body makes many different kinds of enzymes to digest the food you eat into molecules that your cells can use. Amylase is a good example. It´s an enzyme made by your saliva glands to help break starch down into sugar. Try this experiment: put a cracker on your tongue and wait. At first, the cracker tastes salty but as your mouth waters, the amylase will start to turn the starch in the cracker into sugar, making it taste sweet.
- Messengers: such as some types of hormones, transmit signals to coordinate processes between cells, tissues, and organs. Adrenaline is a hormone that regulates visceral functions (e.g, respiration). It plays an important role in the famous fight-or-flight response, increases blood flow to muscles, the output of the heart, pupil dilation response, and blood sugar level.
- Structural components: provide structure and support to your cells. On a larger scale, they allow the body to move. Collagen is a perfect example. It holds different parts of your body together connecting and supporting your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and even holds your skin together. You can find a great article about collagen at Mind Body Fit.
- Transport/storage: bind and carry small molecules and atoms within cells and throughout the body. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to every single cell in your body.
Combining these amino acids we get all these different kinds of proteins?
Where do these amino acid building blocks come from?
How much protein do I need?
- A 4-ounce broiled sirloin steak brings about 33 grams of protein. But also about 5 grams of saturated fat.
- A 4-ounce ham steak, 22 grams of protein, only 1.6 grams of saturated fat, but it’s loaded with 1,500 milligrams of sodium.
- 4 ounces of grilled sockeye salmon has about 30 grams of protein, it´s low in sodium, and contains just 1 gram of saturated fat.
- A cup of lentils provides 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber, and it has no saturated fat or sodium.
What are the best sources of protein?
- Get protein from plants: legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fruits.
- Poultry, fish, and seafood are better options than red meat. You should eat red meat in small amounts or on special occasions. Processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, sausages, and cold cuts) should be avoided.
- Eggs are a great and cheap choice.
- Dairy in moderation (1-2 servings a day).
- Grains and legumes: rice with lentils or pasta salad with kidney beans.
- Grains and eggs: egg-salad sandwich on whole-grain bread.
- Legumes and seeds: hummus and sesame seed paste.
- Grains and dairy: grilled cheese on whole-wheat bread.
Do I need protein shakes?
- Concentrates: have typically about 70–80% protein; contains some lactose (milk sugar), low level of fat and cholesterol. Whey protein doesn’t taste very good so it’s usually flavored. Chocolate-, vanilla- and strawberry-flavored powders are popular. But my favorite is Cookies!
- Isolate: are processed to remove the fat and lactose. They contain 90% (or higher) protein by weight.
- Hydrolysates: are predigested and partially hydrolyzed for easier absorption. Hydrolysates cause a 28–43% greater spike in insulin levels than isolates.
Why everybody takes protein shakes after a workout?
How much protein can the body use in a single meal?
- 8 servings of 10 g every 1.5 h
- 4 servings of 20 g every 3 h or
- 2 servings of 40 g every 6 h
Can I help my body absorb more protein?
- Complex carbohydrates: When you consume carbohydrates, your body releases insulin which helps your muscles absorb amino acids. Eating carbohydrates before a workout yields the best protein-absorbing results. Starchy food, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dairy products contain complex carbohydrates.
- Papaya, pineapple, or kiwi as dessert: These three fruits contain enzymes that help to break down protein molecules into amino acids.
- Acidic Foods: These contain proteases that can make your stomach a more acidic environment for breaking down protein.
- Vitamin B-6: Its primary purpose is to help enzymes break down protein and carry the dismantled amino acids to the bloodstream.