Proteins are large molecules consisting of amino acids which our bodies and the cells in our bodies need to function properly. Our body structures, functions, the regulation of the body’s cells, tissues and organs cannot exist without proteins.
The human body’s muscles, skin, bones and many other parts contain significant amounts of protein. In fact, protein accounts for 20% of the total body weight.
Consuming the proper amount of Protein has many benefits, including:
- Speeding recovery after exercise (tissue repair)
- Preserving lean muscle mass when losing weight
- Building lean muscle (growth)
- Making essential hormones and enzymes
- Helping maintain a healthy weight
- Curbing hunger
Protein is found in meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, nuts, legumes, and in smaller quantities in starchy foods and vegetables. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, your body does not store protein, so it has no reservoir to draw from when you’re running low.
When we eat protein rich foods, our body breaks down the protein that they contain into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins). Some amino acids are essential which means that we need to get them from our diet, and others are nonessential which means that our body can make them. The body needs twenty amino acids – as a biological machine it can create (or synthesize) eleven of these itself. However there are nine – called ‘essential amino acids’ that the body cannot create and has to gain through the consumption of food.
These ‘essential amino acids’ are: Tryptophan, Threonine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Valine and Histidine.
Protein that comes from animal sources contains all of the essential amino acids that we need. Plant sources of protein, on the other hand, do not contain all of the essential amino acids.