Protein: what exactly is it??

by Nathaniel Richardson on

Protein is a macronutrient that is composed of a sequence of amino acids that the body must attain in order to perform its daily functions. Essentially, protein is the most important class of macronutrient (among carbohydrates, fats and itself), since the body needs it for formation of all structural components, including muscle skin and organs. Also often overlooked is its importance in formation of haemoglobin in blood, antibodies, and many important enzymes and hormones.

The way protein makes all these cellular components is directly related to the amino acids contained within it. Amino acids are the subunits, that when combined form certain types of protein. For example, the amino acids contained in fish, is vastly different from the amino acid sequence in beans.  There are twenty naturally occurring amino acids, being classified as essential and non-essential. Essential, because these are the types the body cannot manufacture, so they must be obtained from the diet and non-essential because the body may convert another type to it. Today there are nine essential amino acids; foods containing all of these are referred to as complete proteins. Typically, meats possess all nine essential amino acids and are thus classified as complete. On the other hand, many vegetable sources do not, and only when combined with another vegetable source may supply all essential amino acids.

 where does protein come from?

The first thing many persons think of when they hear protein is meat. Indeed, this is a good correlation, since meats are the best source of protein, providing the highest amount per serving as well as mostly being a complete source. However, many nuts and grains, and dairy products are good sources as well. In fact, if meats were the only source, all vegetarians would cease to exist, due to development of wasting syndrome, which is triggered by insufficient protein consumption to support cell repair and growth.

Nowadays, proteins are not only sourced from whole foods, but also readily available in supplemental form. These supplemental forms may include pills and powders, although if quantity and cost are important, powders would be considered the best choice.

Effects of protein

Many “nutritionists” associate overconsumption of protein with an array of side-effects, ranging from elevated cholesterol levels to kidney damage and even compromised bone strength (osteoporosis). Now, while these concerns do merit some thought, these effects only manifest themselves in susceptible individuals. Obviously a person leading a sedentary lifestyle, while eating copious amounts of beef will most likely develop a cholesterol problem, in addition to most likely being overweight. Likewise, a person with kidney damage consuming too much will predispose himself to kidney damage too, but it is inappropriate to demonize protein as bad for all. In fact, the recommended daily dosage is just enough for your body to carry on its daily functions, and hardly sufficient for hard training athletes.

All in all, protein is a very important part of our diet, one that will remain so until time indefinite, and if manipulated correctly, can provide a world of benefit with little to no cost

Written by: Nathaniel Richardson