Protein and its supplements, very popular among body builders and athletes, have now caught the fancy of many others. Anybody who is in fitness wants to take a protein supplement. But, most are not aware what is the importance of proteins in our diet and for our body?. How much of proteins do we exactly need?
In this blog I will try and demystify what protein is and what role does it play in our body?
Protein is the first substance to be recognized as a vital part of living tissue. It is the building block of our life. Derived from the Greeks meaning “of prime importance” Protein is needed by everybody and we have to get the required amount of proteins through the diet we consume..
Proteins like fats and carbohydrates contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen but, they are unique because they also contain 16 % of nitrogen along with sulphur and other elements. Protein exist either in fibrous or globular form.
The dietary proteins are broken down in to amino acids and used by the body for different functions like tissue building, replacement of depleted protein and for the synthesis of digestive enzymes, various hormones and antibodies.
Amino acids which are not used protein synthesis are used for energy.1gm of protein will provide 4 Kcal.
Amino acids can be classified in to essential and nonessential Amino acids .However, the role of protein is not to provide energy but in the absence of adequate carbs and fats, protein is used for energy. All the food except refined sugar,oil and fats contain protein to some degree.
Some food are high in protein and can be defined as a protein rich foods. Animal sources of protein are the richest source of protein. Fish, eggs, meat and plant sources of proteins are beans, pulses, nuts,oil seeds. Milk can also be classified under this category. Milk Product like curd and cottage cheese is also high in protein.
Soya is the richest source of protein in the plant category, cereals and millets are moderate source of protein. Fruits ,vegetables , roots, tubers are poor sources of protein as they contain less than 2 % of protein.
Protein exists either in fibrous form or globular form. The basis of protein structure is amino acids. Amino acids combine to form protein by means of peptide bond.
Fibrous protein characterized by low solubility and high mechanical strength. They appear structural. Element such as collagen of connective tissue, keratin of hair and nail and myosin of muscle tissue.
Globular protein occurs in tissue fluid and they are soluble and easily denatured. Examples are casein in milk, the albumins and globulins of blood plasma and haemoglobin. They constitute most of intracellular protein.
Essential Amino Acids: Amino acids are essential because body synthesis is inadequate to meet and therefore they must become part of our diet. There are nine essential amino acids which we need from diet .These amino acids are
Histidine, Arginine, Tryptophan, Phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, Threonine
(Leucine ,Isoleucine and valine ) are also called Branched chain amino acids and they play important role in Muscle recovery, help in protein synthesis and fat burning process. They reduce diabetes risk and DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness after activity) and improve immunity.
Tryptophan is important protein and precursor of Vitamin niacin and serotonin a neuro transmitter.
Chicken, beef, salmon, eggs and whey are the best source of BCAA (branched chain amino acids) which prevent muscle loss and provides quick recovery after an activity.
Inadequate supply of essential amino acids leads to negative nitrogen balance, weight loss, impaired growth in infants and children and clinical symptoms.
Non Essential Amino Acids: They are called non -essential because human body can manufacture them. There are 10 non essential amino acids.
Enzymes like Pepsinogen, an inactive enzyme converted in to active pepsin in the stomach and partial digestion of protein starts from the stomach while carbs and fats are not at all digested in the stomach. Other Pancreatic enzymes that helps in the digestion of protein are trypsin, chymotrypsin, carboxypolypeptide.
Role of protein: Protein perform major structural role not only in human body tissue but, also in the formation of enzymes, hormones and various fluids and body secretion. As antibodies they are involved in the functions of strengthening the immune system.
I would like to say that protein can be used as a source of energy in our body but our aim should be to spare protein by adequate supply of carbs and fats and use protein for other important functions in our body such as repair and maintenance of muscle fibre and body cells.
Some good Sources of protein are: Beans, Chana, Pulses, Tofu, soya bean, Chicken, eggs, Fish, and meat.
Milk is an excellent source of protein for children up to the age of 5. After that our body does not produce enzyme called Lactase which play important role for the digestion of milk.
Other options could be cottage cheese, curd, yogurt (best un flavoured).
Requirement : 1 gm of protein per kg body weight will be ideal for normal person. For individuals engaged in activities on an average for 4-5 days 1.2 gm of protein per kg body weight will be ideal.
For athletes, the demand will be more 1.4 to 1.6 gm per kg body weight and for a body builder te demand may increase to 2 gm per kg body weight.
The Nitrogen waste compound like urea, uric acid and ammonia is produced as a metabolic waste of protein. One must drink enough water to remove these waste out.