What exactly are Proteins ?
Over the past years there has been a significant rise in the popularity of nutrient proteins. They’ve become an absolute buzzword and centre of focus for many in the health and fitness industry, associated with building muscle mass, and in weight management as a satiating nutrient, keeping us feeling fuller for longer.
But beyond this protein is an incredibly important nutrient within the body, critical in maintaining life and absolutely fundamental to our architecture as humans. This incredible wee nutrient is abundant within our bodies, a structural part of every cell, tissue and organ, from muscles to bone to tendons to skin to hair. It functions as the building blocks of many of our hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and other important bodily molecules, helping countless physiological processes and chemical reactions occur, from breaking down and digesting our food into energy, to transporting oxygen around the body. It also serves as a fuel source contributing to 5-10% of our energy needs, with this percentage significantly increasing in situations where were not consuming enough dietary carbohydrates and fats. As you can see protein is one powerful little nutrient.
What exactly are proteins? Proteins are large molecules made up of smaller, building block molecules called amino acids. Amino acids combine to create endlesscombinations of proteins, just as could create countless variations of necklaces by stringing together tiny colourful beads. Many different amino acids exist in nature, but humans only require the use of 21 to produce all the proteins we need for healthy growth and function. Although our bodies are capable of making many of these 21 amino acids itself, there are 9 we’re unable to produce, which must be consumed through our diet – these are known as essential amino acids. Ensuring we have an adequate dietary intake of essential amino acids is vital to health, as once ingested, digested (where proteins are broken into amino acids – think of it like cutting the string between beads on the necklace!) and absorbed, these essential amino acids will be paired with naturally produced amino acids from the body, to help build new proteins with highly specific functions.
How much should we be getting? Like carbohydrates and fats, protein is known as a macronutrient – which are nutrients we need to consume in larger quantities to stay healthy (in comparison, vitamins and minerals are known as “micronutrients” and are therefore needed in smaller quantities). If we don’t consume enough our health and body composition will both suffer. As far as how much we should be consuming, there is no one size fits all approach – the correct amount will vary depending on a range of factors including our age, current health status, physical goals, current energy intake, and activity levels, however it’s generally recommended the average man and women consume 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of their own body weight per day. In the western word, a lack of protein intake is not typically an issue given its availability across a wide range of foods; however what still needs to be taken into consideration is not just the quantity but also the quality of what we’re consuming. – and by focusing on where the protein comes from your ensuring the highest quality product. Another aspect of quality to take into consideration is whether a protein is a complete or incomplete protein. Complete proteins, such as our INCA organics whey protein range, are sources of proteins that contain all nine of the essential amino acids needed for good health. When a protein is lacking the complete range of essential amino acids it is known as an incomplete protein, although this can be compensated for by combining two or more incomplete proteins at meal time to create a complete protein.