The Differences Between Proteins and Why It Matters
What is Protein?
Protein is a Macromolecule (Macronutrient) made up of amino acids (building blocks) that perform myriad of functions in the body. For example, they spark metabolic reactions, duplicate DNA, respond to stimuli, and move molecules from place to place. Consuming protein is essential because we are not able to make all the amino acids necessary for life function without food. When our bodies digest protein, it breaks it down into the amino acids we use for metabolism. Protein is a part of every cell in our bodies! It is needed to build and repair muscle tissue and is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. In addition, it makes essential enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals in the body.
Where does protein come from?
There are many sources of protein. The most commonly known are: meat, milk, fish, soy, and eggs, cheese, as well beans, legumes, and nut butters. Some proteins, mainly from animal sources, are called complete proteins. They contain all the essential amino acids needed for the body to use. The incomplete proteins lack all the essential amino acids, therefore, requiring additional proteins to make them complete. Furthermore, the different kinds of proteins are used differently in the body
Some popular Proteins and how the body utilizes them…
1. Whey Protein– is a complete protein (containing all 9 essential amino acids) and is derived from milk. Milk is made up of whey and casein. It is separated and through a process, the whey is turned into a powder leaving very little lactose in the final product. Whey protein is a fast acting protein, meaning it is digested rapidly to be used for muscle building, a long with many other health benefits. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism concluded that “whey protein supplementation during resistance training offers some benefit compared to resistance training alone.” This is why many bodybuilders and athletes consume whey protein immediately after a workout.
2. Casein Protein– is a slow acting protein, meaning the body digests the protein more slowly, releasing the amino acids steadily through the bloodstream for hours. Casein is perfect to consume prior to bed to keep your body from breaking down muscle for energy. It would also be a good option if you know you won’t be eating for a while.
3. Soy Protein– another complete protein but derived from plants. It is a slow acting protein. Because it is a slow acting protein it isn’t optimal for rebuilding muscle rather it’s better for forming new muscle tissue. In addition, soy produces isoflavones, which have antioxidant effects, resulting in enhanced recovery time as well as reduced soreness and inflammation.
This is a very simplified article on Protein and far from an exhaustive list. The main point is to inform you that protein is essential for the body and you can get it in a variety of ways. Depending on your goals, you can now incorporate additional protein into your diet.
How much protein should you be consuming?
This is a tricky question. But the one must is to not go by the RDA numbers. These were calculated in 1941 during World War 11. During this time, food rationing was going on and numbers were based on the average person’s needs. Things have changed dramatically in the past few decades and, it is of my opinion, that these numbers are not relevant for today’s society. As a general rule: try to consume around 20-30% of your daily calories in protein.
How do you figure out how much protein is 20-30% of your daily calories?
1. Go to calculator.net and enter your stats
2. take the number and times it by .2 (if you don’t workout much) or .3 (if you workout at least 3x/wk). This number will give you the amount of calories of protein you need to consume each day.
3. Then divide this number by 4 (because there are 4 calories in every gram of protein) and you will get your daily number of grams of protein.
4. Finally divide this number by the amount of meals you will eat throughout the day. This will give you the exact amount of protein grams you should shoot for in each meal.
Check out my daily meal plan post(click here) to see when I use my protein shakes and what I eat to fulfill my protein requirements.