Proteins: The Essential Building Blocks of Muscle

Proteins, which are made up of amino acids, are incredibly important for building body parts such as muscle, skin, hair, and nails. Without protein the body will slowly break down and not be able to repair itself. Protein is primarily found in animal products such as meat, eggs, milk, and cheese. However, it is also found in lesser amounts in non-animal products such as soy, nuts, and beans.

If you are a vegetarian you need to pay extra attention to ensure that you receive adequate amounts of protein and all the different specific proteins that you need. In particular, there are some proteins that your body can't make from other proteins so you need to consume them. If you are in this situation you should consider educating yourself more on vegetarian nutrition - don't just become a vegetarian without the proper knowledge. If you avoid animal products such as milk, eggs, and cheese, then you may want to consider a protein supplement, e.g. whey powder. This is derived from milk and is a very very good source of protein with very little fat and very little sugar.

There is quite a bit of controversy as to how much protein a person needs. Nutrition experts claim that the average person needs about 35-45 grams of protein per day. However, many coaches and athletes believe they need more, about 1.5 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight. For example, someone who is 100Kg requires about 150 grams of protein per day. Although generally considered to be unhealthy, the average American diet contains about 125 grams of protein and so it is extremely rare for anyone to suffer from a lack of protein ingestion.

If you are active or athletic then you need slightly more protein, but not too much more. How much more depends on your level of activity. However be aware that too much protein may cause n weakening of bones and also puts extra stress on the kidneys.

A more important factor to consider is the difference between non-essential and essential proteins. Non-essential proteins are ones that the body can assemble from other proteins. Essential proteins are ones that have to be ingested because they can't be assembled from other proteins.

Essential Proteins:

  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Tryptophan
  • Lysine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Histidine
  • Methionine
  • Threonine

Non-Essential Proteins:

  • Alanine
  • Asparagine
  • Asparatic Acid
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Taurine
  • Glycine
  • Arginine
  • Glutamine
  • Tyrosine (sometimes considered essential)
  • Cysteine (sometimes considered essential)

One gram of protein has about 4 calories. This is not excessive, but keep in mind that protein which is consumed and is not used as energy immediately will be converted by the body into fat and be put in storage. However, the body can't convert fat into protein. At least 15% of your calories should come from protein.

Although a rarity in developed countries, a protein deficiency can result in lower metabolism, sleeping problems, hair loss and poor skin health, lower energy levels, as well as obesity.

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