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Nutrition: Protein

By Anne Keckler | February 14, 2008

I told you the other day that I’d be talking about macronutrients soon. First up is protein.

Why do we need protein?

Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body. Protein is necessary for the growth and maintenance of all tissues, including muscle, blood, skin, hair, nails, and internal organs such as the heart and brain. Protein is also needed to form enzymes and antibodies. It maintains the acid-alkali balance in the body.

Protein is necessary for healthy hormone production. Hormones aren’t just for sex, as many people suppose. Hormones regulate many bodily functions including growth and rate of metabolism.

Protein is a source of energy, along with fat and carbohydrate. Protein provides 4 calories per gram, but the body will use energy from carbohydrates and fat first, sparing the protein for its other important functions.

Protein deficiency symptoms include:

 

Protein is broken down into amino acids during digestion. Of the twenty-two amino acids necessary for human health, there are eight which cannot be produced by the human body, and therefore must be consumed in our daily diet. We call these “essential amino acids.” If you lack even one necessary amino acid it will reduce all of the amino acids in your system in the same proportion as the one that is low or missing.

Foods that contain all eight “essential amino acids” are said to be “complete-protein” foods. If you eat incomplete proteins, such as on a vegetarian diet, you should combine foods to ensure you get complete protein at each meal.

How much do you need?

By now you probably want to know how much protein you need each day. This is very difficult to determine, as protein requirements vary, depending on your lifestyle and goals. The National Research Council recommends .42 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but this amount is merely to prevent any gross deficiencies. Bodybuilders and active people probably need more, and the ACSM recommends twice that. The generally accepted rule of thumb for gaining or maintaining muscle mass is 1 gram per pound of lean body weight, which can be determined by having your body composition checked.

More, more, more!

Because it is so important for muscle growth, some people believe that more is always better. This isn’t true. Too much protein in your diet can inhibit the production of testosterone, which is necessary for producing muscle mass. High-protein diets are thought to increase calcium excretion, which can lead to osteoporosis. Because a high-protein diet might reduce your intake of fruits and vegetables, it could lead to a deficiency of certain micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), as well as fiber and phytochemicals. Excess protein will be stored as fat, the same as anything else with calories.

Doctors often recommend a high protein diet, known as PSMF (protein sparing modified fast) to patients who need to lose a great deal of weight in a short amount of time prior to surgery. A PSMF must be medically supervised, as there are dangers to such extreme dieting. Of course, Dr. Atkins created a low-carb, high-protein diet that has become widely known for its success in helping people to lose weight quickly. I will discuss the Atkins diet further when I write about carbohydrates. I mention it here only because a diet low in carbs will necessarily be higher in protein, as a percentage of calories.

There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for nutrition or exercise. I want to educate you on the facts, and let you make your own decisions. If you need help, I hope you will find a qualified professional who will get to know you before prescribing an exercise and nutrition plan for you.

 

 

Related posts:

  1. Nutrition: Macronutrients
  2. Protein FAQ
  3. Nutrition: Carbohydrates
  4. Recall of Total Body Essential Nutrition Products!
  5. Meal Planning

Related posts:

  1. Nutrition: Macronutrients
  2. Protein FAQ
  3. Nutrition: Carbohydrates
  4. Recall of Total Body Essential Nutrition Products!
  5. Meal Planning

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Topics: Nutrition | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to “Nutrition: Protein”

  1. Vicham Says:
    February 14th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Do you have any recommendations for foods high in protein that you like? I’d like to tack on some extra muscle mass in the near future, and plenty of protein would help.

  2. Nutrition: Carbohydrates | Anne Keckler, Personal Trainer in Tallahassee Says:
    March 26th, 2009 at 11:10 am

    [...] can hardly believe it’s been three weeks since I wrote about protein. I hadn’t intended to wait this long between posts about [...]

  3. Meal Planning | Anne Keckler, Personal Trainer in Tallahassee Says:
    September 25th, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    [...] want to be sure you get enough protein, whether you are trying to gain muscle, lose fat, or simply maintain your current weight and be [...]

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