Protein is involved in almost EVERY structural and functional component of the body!
By that simple statement, we can safely assume that we need sufficient protein daily in order to keep up with the demands placed on our bodies. So how much do we need? A general rule of thumb is this: for the average person who is sedentary, the requirement is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For any athletes in the house, the requirement is anywhere between 1.2 grams to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. Please don’t be confused by the weight of a protein item such as chicken breast vs. the actual amount of protein that is contained within that piece of chicken breast.
Proteins are organic compounds that are made up of amino acids. There’s another important word; amino acids. Any amino acids that are in excess of what the body’s cells can use at any given time are metabolized to glycogen (or fat) and stored for future use.
There are several functions of the proteins we ingest. To be clear, some of the proteins we ingest are things like seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. So what are their functions?
- they provide the primary building blocks (like Legos) for most tissues in the body (cells, muscles, bones, skin and blood)
- proteins are the cellular “workhorses” of our bodies
- proteins are absolutely vital in building new cells and tissues as well as repairing those that have been damaged
- proteins are used to make thousands of other chemicals that play key essential roles in virtually all of the body’s metabolic processes
- proteins are what make up the body’s 3000+ metabolic enzymes that literally account for all life processes (50% of protein consumed each day goes to make enzymes)
- proteins comprise the digestive enzymes
- proteins perform a wide range of regulatory functions in the body
- immune system function depends heavily on proteins to fight against infections and invading microbes
- proteins are the key to supplying oxygen throughout the body
- proteins are also vital in helping to maintain water balance in the body and transporting nutrients in the blood
- proteins serve as a major energy supplier
So as you can see, proteins are extremely important to our bodies. We should actually consume a protein with every meal. The only protein foods that will support our bodies health are those that we are able to digest and absorb.
Digestion of protein is vital to our bodies ability to absorb them so we want to ensure that when we consume them (and all our other foods) we are doing so, it’s important to remember the factors that can compromise digestion; our attitude, our eating environment (are you in an uncomfortable position in your chair? are you in a room that is too loud?), a stressful event either before, during or after the meal (this plays into the weight gain when we stress eat), how the meal was cooked or prepared, what different types of foods are consumed together and how much fluids are consumed with the meal (we should limit our consumption of water or other beverages during our meal in order to assist the stomach acids to breakdown the nutrients of our food so our bodies can absorb them).
So you can see, protein is not just needed for those bodybuilders out there! Everyone needs to consume enough protein daily in order to keep our bodies functioning at their optimal levels. Proteins are what help sustain us throughout the day. Proteins keep our tummies and our minds happy!
Cheers to your health!