Protein: What is it? Why should we eat it? Why it's great for us gym-goers! December 05 2014, 0 Comments
What is Protein?
Imagine a long string of sausages, very long, many thousands of sausages long, this is what a protein looks like. The sausages represent small molecules called “amino acids”.
The order of amino acids in this chain is determined by DNA and each molecule contains nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms.
Proteins curl up into characteristic shapes in order to do their jobs and many of them need minerals or vitamins in order to function properly.
When we eat protein in our food, digestive enzymes break down these long strings into single amino acids or small chains called peptides. This is because our intestines cant absorb whole proteins. The peptides are then absorbed into our bloodstream and delivered to where they are needed around the body. Most are delivered to the liver where they are used to make new protein and the excess protein is broken down ready for burning as a fuel for metabolism.
Why Eat Protein?
Proteins come in many forms and have many different functions...
- Myoglobin and Elastin – These are two main proteins in muscle fibres
- Bones – Bones are mainly made up of proteins, with calcium to strengthen them as well as magnesium and phosphate
- Hormones – These send chemical messages between nerve cells to regulate metabolism
- Keratin – This protein gives strength and flexibility and forms your hair and nails
- Part of your DNA - Your genetic inheritance! Proteins combine with nucleic acids to form nucleoproteins, in the nucleus of every cell in your body
- Enzymes - Enzyme proteins break down food for absorption; to regulate the entry of nutrients through cell walls, and the removal of waste-products; to grow, develop, move, reproduce
- Haemoglobin – The protein which, with iron, carries oxygen around the body
Why Protein is Great for Health and Fitness
Protein keeps you fuller for longer
The body takes a few hours to break down and digest protein. Research shows that it takes longer to digest protein than fat or carbs. To get 100 calories from protein our bodies use 30 calories to turn it into usable energy. That's 30% usage. For fats it's 12% and carbs it's 7%.
Protein is the building blocks of muscle
Protein maintains and builds muscle. As long as your exercising (either using your body weight or weight lifting), the more protein you eat the more muscle you should have. Also, the more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day and therefore also burning more fat!
Protein helps weight management
You can avoid peaks and troughs of hunger by eating protein as it keeps your blood sugar levels relatively steady,
Women's Health Magazine's Selene Yeager writes in her article “Protein: Your Secret Weight-Loss Weapon” :
“In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30 percent of their diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories a day and lost about 11 pounds over the 12-week study without employing any other dietary measures.”