Protein & The Benefits of Its Amino Acids, Part 1 – Invite Health Podcast, Episode 100
*Heading 5* Invite Health Podcast, Episode hosted by Jerry Hickey. Ph
Today we are discussing protein! In my second year of pharmacy school, Dr. Ward, my professor for Anatomy and Physiology, on our very first day of lecture at the very start of it stated “We are made out of protein” and this is very nearly true.
Protein is one of the basic building blocks of the human body. We are mostly made up of water. The amount of fat varies from person to person. We are about 6% minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus. We are only 1% carbohydrate but we are about 16 percent protein; it’s a macronutrient and you need to consume it every day because unlike fat, the body cannot store protein.
Our muscles contain about 20% muscle protein. About 35% of our body is present as Collagen protein, which makes up 70% of our skin, 67% of our joint cartilage, 35% of our bone, the lions share of our ligaments, tendons, and menisci. As Collagen production slows down with age, you can see the impact – wrinkles, fine lines, joint discomfort and more.
It’s important that we eat enough protein each day to cover our body’s needs. Protein helps our body to maintain a proper fluid balance, builds and repairs tissues, transports nutrients, and provides other essential functions.
What Benefits Can Amino Acids Achieve in the Body?
As previously mentioned, protein is a macronutrient and you need to consume it every day because unlike fat the body cannot store protein. Dietary sources of protein include meats, dairy products, fish, eggs, and for vegetarians grains, legumes, nuts. For Vegetarians, foods with protein concentrations greater than 7% include:
- Legumes: soybeans, lentils, kidney beans, white beans, mung beans, chickpeas, and lima beans
- Tree Nuts: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, and walnuts
- Seeds: pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
In many countries – that includes a population of several billion people – edible insects are the major source of protein.
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How Much Protein Is Enough?
- Adult men in general need about 56-60 grams a day.
- Adult women need about 46-50 grams a day (71 grams generally, if pregnant or breastfeeding)
You should get at least 10% of your daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine. But of course if you are healing or attempting to build muscle, you likely need more.
The healthiest sources of protein include salmon, eggs and beans. Red meat has saturated fats and too much of these are bad for the heart. Poultry (with the skin removed after cooking) is actually a healthy food choice, according to a lot of recent data and at worst it is neutral for health, but still a good source of protein. Some protein foods have additional health benefits. Fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, and trout, are high in protein and also omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for health. Legumes are high in protein and they’re high in fiber and contain phytochemicals that work as antioxidants, protecting us from inflammation.
Try to eat it protein throughout the day instead of cramming it into one meal; this is especially important for the elderly. Elderly protein absorb protein less efficiently than younger people. Keep up your fruit and veggie portions to get plenty of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
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Your protein needs to increase if you are very active. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine believe that athletes need additional protein or they will lose muscle and strength. Endurance athletes (that’s participants in activities like running or cycling on a regular basis) consume 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight. Strength-training athletes (regularly performing power lifting or weight training) consume 1.6 to 1.7 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight.
Benefits of Protein
Protein helps to maintain body tissues, including muscles, organs, nervous system, blood, skin, and hair, all of our cells including immune cells and red blood cells. It also serves as a transport in our bloodstream for oxygen (hemoglobin), fats, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, eating protein can help you manage your weight because it takes longer to digest a protein-rich meal. After consuming a meal with protein, you’re likely to feel full and satisfied longer.
For muscles, protein is hugely important. About 40% of our body weight as a healthy adult is muscle and about 20% of our muscle is made out of muscle protein. I mentioned that I recommend Whey Protein in particular because it is a “complete” protein; it supplies a good amount of all nine of the essential amino acids that our body needs on a daily basis. In fact, over 60 percent of the total protein in whey comes from Essential Amino Acids (EAAs), according to the U.S. Dairy Council.
The particularly important set of EAAs, as it pertains to strength and anyone looking to build and maintain muscle mass, is branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs. According to the U.S. Dairy Council, whey protein offers the highest concentration of BCAAs of any dietary source of protein at about 26 grams of BCAAs per 100 grams of protein. The three BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. BCAAs are proven to directly impact muscle growth and maintenance of existing lean muscle tissue. Research from the Armed Forces indicates that on top of nourishing muscle these BCAAs also help burn belly fat if you consume enough Leucine.
Unlike fat and glucose, our body has little capacity to store protein. If you were to stop eating protein, your body would start to break down muscle. On the flip side, it is possible to eat too much protein. If you eat too much protein and are not very active, the excess is excreted in your urine. The rest can be converted into glucose, a sugar used for energy, but if you don’t move around enough it will be stored as fat. So if you eat too much protein – and too many calories, as a result – you run the risk of gaining weight from excess calories.
Protein is composed of amino acids and these are used throughout our body. There are nine essential amino acids which we must obtain from our diet in order to prevent protein–energy malnutrition which doesn’t have a good ending. This means that we have to obtain them from a supplement, as our body does not make it. To prevent this malnutrition, you need all nine of these essential amino acids. Here are the most major activities:
- Phenylalanine creates Tyrosine, which allows the body to make thyroid hormones and creates dopamine which is needed for arousal, reward, muscle function, and balance. It also makes melanin which gives you your hair and skin color. You should get this amino acid from your food or a whey protein supplement. To make dopamine, Phenylalanine only works for a couple of days. The BCAAs valine, isoleucine and Leucine, which we already discussed, are good for muscle strength and burning fat.
- Histidine is a component of carnosine, so when I recommend histidine I recommend the nutrient Carnosine or a Whey Protein supplement. Carnosine is important for your immune system. This is the reason people turn to chicken soup when they are sick! Histidine is also required for blood cell manufacture and protects tissues against damage caused by radiation and heavy metals.
- Lysine is an important component of connective tissue and of Collagen. Lysine also makes carnitine, which allows you to use food and oxygen for energy. Lysine is one of nine essential amino acids in humans required for growth and tissue repair. Lysine is supplied by many foods, especially red meats, fish, and dairy products. Lysine seems to be active against herpes simplex viruses and present in many forms of diet supplements.
- Tryptophan creates serotonin. This is important for appetite control. So, if someone is overeating, taking 5-hydroxytryptophan may stop it. At night, tryptophan becomes melatonin which has many uses including immune support. More information on Melatonin here!
- Threonine makes T cells that are very important for killing cancer cells, viruses and bacteria. It is needed to make the mucus lining of intestine, tooth enamel, collagen, elastin, it is a mood stabilizer, anti-fatty liver.
- Methionine is a sulphur-containing amino acid that improves the tone and pliability of skin, hair, and strengthens nails. Involved in many detoxifying processes, sulphur provided by methionine protects cells from pollutants, slows cell aging, and is essential for absorption and bio-availability of selenium and zinc. Methionine chelates heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, aiding their excretion. It also acts as a lipotropic agent and prevents excess fat buildup in the liver.
I love whey protein because it supplies a good amount of each of these essential amino acids, it is well absorbed by us humans, and is well studied. Whey Protein helps with muscle accretion, muscle recovery after exercise, fat loss, appetite control, and an aid to blood sugar control. There are six conditionally essential amino acids, whose synthesis can be limited under certain conditions, such as prematurity in the infant or individuals in severe catabolic distress.
- Arginine helps to boost healing and the immune system
- Cysteine. A common form of cysteine is NAC, which helps to break up mucus and has great benefits for allergies and the lungs
- Glycine is an amino acid, or a building block for protein. It is found in protein-rich foods including meat, fish, dairy, and legumes.
- Glutamine is needed in the body for healing and for the digestive tract (leaky bowel)
- Tyrosine is great if you haven’t slept and it is also beneficial to make thyroid hormones
Stay turned for Part 2, coming tomorrow!
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