The integral guide to protein.
Protein is essential for ensuring the proper functioning of the body. Nevertheless, other than protein’s ability to help muscles grow and recover, little is known about its actual nutritional benefits.
So, what is protein? Where is it found and what is it for?
What is a protein?
Proteins are macronutrients that aid the process of renewing and building muscles, superficial body growth – e.g. hair, nails and muscle, as well as bone matrix and skin.
“Amino acids are the beads of a necklace that form the protein.”
Protein is composed of several amino acids. There are 20 types of amino acids, nine of which are considered essential. These cannot be naturally synthesised by the body, instead, their presence is dependant on the consumption of certain foods.
The 9 essentiel amino acids.
The role of protein.
Protein is the main component in the construction of all cells within the human body. However, its role does not stop there; it is also involved in many other processes, such as the proper functioning of the immune system, the transportation of oxygen and digestion.
- Structural role: This is the primary role of protein. It makes up a large number of structural elements within the body, such as cell membranes, collagen, connective tissue, bones and muscle mass.
- Catalytic role: Our body is constantly processing things to keep us going. Digesting, absorbing nutrients, producing energy and so on. In order to do that, it needs protein, in the form of enzymes.
- Muscle contraction: Protein makes up the fibre that in turn makes up muscle. The shortening of these fibres allows for muscle contractions to take place.
- Oxygen transport: Haemoglobin is a protein that allows the transport of oxygen in the blood, while transferrin will carry iron.
- Immune system: Antibodies are proteins that will detect the presence of all foreign bodies (antigens), and subsequently trigger reactions that eliminate these from the body.
- Endocrine system: Hormones such as insulin that are involved in the regulation of blood sugar levels are proteins. Hormones can be synthesised by different organs to provide a regulation function of the homeostasis of your body (they keep the body stable).
- Energy role: Protein has a small role to play in the production of energy. Should there be a lack of macronutrients such as lipids or carbohydrates, protein can be transformed into energy. As with carbohydrates, 1g of protein provides 4kcal of energy.
Food sources: Animal and vegetable proteins.
There are two dietary sources of protein.
1. Animal protein.
Animal protein contains a significant amount of all the essential amino acids. They are found in all types of meat (poultry and red meat), fish (salmon, tuna), eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt).
Amount of animals proteins per 100 grams.
|Meat, fish, egg||18 gr|
|Cream cheese||8 gr|
Cereals (oats, rice, wheat) and vegetables or plants (lentils, peas, soybean) are excellent sources of vegetable protein. However, they may be lacking in certain essential amino acids.
Amount of plant-based proteins per 100 grams.
|Fresh vegetable||1 gr|
|Fresh fruit||0,5 gr|
Having meals with the required amount of protein is beneficial because the body digests protein slowly. Incorporating high protein foods into your diet often leads to a longer lasting sensation of satiety.
How much protein do you need?
For a non-sporting adult, ANSES recommends protein covers 10-20% of the total energy intake. This is equivalent to a minimum of 0.83g of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, it is important to remember that these are merely reference values and correspond to the minimum daily requirements for an average adult.
For athletes, much is dependent on the type of physical activity that is being undertaken. It is recommended to consume between 1.2-2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This enables the construction and recovery of muscle fibres that have been damaged during physical activity.
For example, a 70kg male would have to consume between 84 (70 x 1.2) and 140 (70 x 2) grams of protein per day.
How to distribute the consumption of protein in our food?
It is recommended that the total daily protein intake is spread across several meals. This aids the absorption of key nutrients as well as better digestion.
In those who are “at-risk” – e.g. the elderly, it is recommended that the majority of protein be consumed during the morning.
To sum upTo sum up
Protein plays an important role in ensuring the proper functioning of our organism.
There are 2 types of protein: vegetable and animal protein.
ANSES recommends that between 10-20% of the total energy intake per day comes from protein – 1.2-2g of protein per kg of body weight.
It is recommended that protein is consumed throughout the day rather than in one sitting.