Proteins make up about 15 percent of your body mass and are found in all of your body’s cells, fluids and tissue except bile and urine.
If protein is found in your urine you have a serious health problem. The primary functions of proteins are to build and repair bone, muscles, connective tissue, skin, internal organs, blood and aid in your growth.
Much of your body is made of protein molecules. Molecules of proteins are large molecules, which can have molecular masses up to 3 million single amino acids. The muscle protein titin has a 27,000 single amino acid chain. Muscle, cartilage, ligaments, skin and hair are made of protein. All of your hormones, antibodies and the enzymes that regulate your body’s chemical reactions are all made of protein. Without the proteins your body’s needs, your blood wouldn’t clot properly and cuts wouldn’t heal.
Protein can also be used for energy and converted and stored as fat. All proteins are made of large complex molecules made up of a string of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that your body needs. These 20 amino acids can be linked in a thousand different ways to form thousands of different proteins, each having a unique function in your body.
There are nine amino acids that are called essential amino acids because the body cannot make them. The other 11 are considered “nonessential” because the body can make them. All of your essential amino acids must come from food or supplements. Complete protein contains all the essential amino acids in amounts your body needs. Animal proteins from eggs, meat, fish, poultry, cheese and milk are complete proteins. Plant proteins from fruits, vegetables grains and beans are often low in one or more essential amino acids and are incomplete. Both the amino acids produced in your liver and those produced from your digestion of the proteins you eat are absorbed into the blood stream and taken up by your cells and tissues to build the type of proteins your body needs.
• Alanine — (synthesized from pyruvic acid) — provides energy for muscle tissue, brain and Central Nervous System (CNS); aids antibody production to enhance the immune system; helps metabolize sugars and organic acids
• Arginine — (synthesized from glutamic acid) — improves immune response to bacteria, viruses and tumor cells; promotes healing and liver regeneration; aids the release of growth hormones for muscle growth and tissue repair
• Asparagine — (synthesized from aspartic acid) — aids in the excretion of ammonia, which is toxic to the CNS; may increase resistance to fatigue and increase endurance
• Aspartic Acid — (synthesized from oxaloacetic acid) — used for signaling between nerve cells
• Cysteine — (synthesized from methionine) — antioxidant protection against radiation and pollution; slows the aging process; deactivates free radicals; neutralizes toxins; aids in protein synthesis; crucial for the skin development aiding in the recovery from burns and surgical procedures Hair and skin are comprised of 10-14 percent Cysteine.
• Glutamic Acid — (synthesized from oxoglutaric acid) — improves mental capabilities; helps healing of ulcers; reduces fatigue; helps control alcoholism, schizophrenia and sugar cravings
• Glutamine — (synthesized from glutamic acid) — body relies on glutamine as cellular fuel for the immune system; minimize the breakdown of muscle tissue and improve protein metabolism
• Glycine — (synthesized from serine and threonine) — aids in the release of oxygen during the cell-making process; important for hormone production in strengthening the immune system
• Proline — (synthesized from glutamic acid) — promotes proper joint and tendon function; strengthens heart muscles
• Serine — (synthesized from glucose) — storage source of glucose for the liver and muscles; antibody production; enhances the immune system; synthesizes fatty acid covering around nerve fibers (insulator)
• Tryosine — (synthesized from phenylalanine) — transmission of nerve impulses to the brain; fights depression; improves memory and mental alertness; promotes the proper function of the adrenal, thyroid and pituitary glands
• Histidine — hemoglobin component; used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, allergic diseases, ulcers & anemia A deficiency may cause hearing problems.
• Isoleucine — mental alertness; provides manufacturing components for other essential biochemical components in the body, which are utilized for the production of energy and upper brain stimulants
• Leucine — serves as a substrate for muscle metabolism during periods of cellular energy depletion
• Lysine — insures adequate absorption of calcium; helps form collagen (component of bone, cartilage and connective tissues); aids in the production of antibodies, hormones & enzymes Lysine may be effective against herpes by improving the balance of nutrients that reduce viral growth. A deficiency may result in tiredness, inability to concentrate, irritability, bloodshot eyes, retarded growth, hair loss, anemia and reproductive problems.
• Methionine — aids in the normal metabolism and growth of the body; assists in the breakdown of fats; prevent a buildup of fat in the liver and arteries that might obstruct blood flow to the brain, heart and kidneys; powerful antioxidant; good source of sulfur, which inactivates free radicals
• Phenylalanine — allows brain to produce Norepinephrine used for the transmission of signals between nerve cells and the brain; regulates hunger, antidepressant; improves memory and mental alertness
• Threonine — component of collagen, Elastin, and enamel protein; reduces liver fat build-up; promotes proper digestive system function and metabolism
• Tryptophan — a relaxant; alleviates insomnia; prevents migraine; reduces anxiety and depression; promotes proper immune system function; reduces the risk of cardiovascular spasms; works with Lysine to lower cholesterol levels
• Valine — promotes mental health, muscle coordination and tempers emotions.
Your diet must include all eight essential amino acids and must be in a fixed ratio. A diet that is 20 to 25 percent protein should meet all of your protein needs. A shortage of any one of your essential amino acids will reduce your body’s ability to function. Your foods contain different ratios of the essential amino acids. By mixing foods that are rich in some amino acids with foods that are rich in others, you canget all your needed amino acids.
A protein deficiency can lead to fatigue, insulin resistance, hair loss, loss of hair pigment (hair that should be black becomes reddish), loss of muscle mass, low body temperature, and hormonal irregularities. A severe protein deficiency can be fatal.
While not enough protein can cause a deficiency, an excess of protein can also cause problems. These problems can include your immune system overreacting, liver dysfunction and possibly bone loss due to increased acidity in the blood. A diet rich in animal protein, which also contains a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol, raises harmful LDL cholesterol levels. This can increase your risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke and several types of cancer.
The most common mistake bodybuilders make is eating too much protein believing it will build muscle. Exercise builds muscle. Muscle is over 70% water and only about 20 percent protein. Increasing calories from carbohydrates to provide your body with energy to work out will insure that your protein will be used for building muscle tissue. Dieters think eating more protein is the best way to lose weight. Excess protein has to be changed to something your body can use. This process can overwork your kidneys. Too much protein can weaken your bone structure because of the affect it has on your calcium. Only 30 percent of your daily caloric intake needs to be protein. The average person needs 50-65 grams of protein or at least .4 grams of proteins per pound of body weight each day. If you work out or do heavy manual labor, you may need more protein. Americans eat more than enough protein.
You should eat protein in small amounts of 20 to 30 grams per meal. One egg has 7 grams of protein and 3oz of beef has 20 to 30 grams of protein. Excess protein can be stored as fat. So only eat what your body needs. We only need a small amount of protein to function well. Extra protein doesn’t over any special advantage in being healthy.
• Four ounces of lean beef, poultry or fish (about the size of a deck of cards) contains 25 to 35 grams of protein.
• One cup of cooked beans or lentils contains about 18 grams.
• One cup of lowfat cottage cheese contains 28 grams.
• Two ounces of solid cheese contains about 16 grams.
• One cup of lowfat milk contains 8 grams.
• Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 8 grams.
• One serving of grain foods (barley, pasta, cereals, whole wheat bread, for example) generally contains 3 to 6 grams of protein.
• One serving of vegetables ranges from 1 to 3 grams of protein.
• 1 egg contains about 7 grams of protein
• Select lean meat, poultry without skin, fish, and dry beans, lentils, and legumes often.
Protein digestion starts in your stomach. In your stomach, an enzyme called pepsin along with hydrochloric acid acts on protein. In your stomach, protein is changed into peptides. As it leaves your stomach, it passes the pancreas and is mixed with the enzyme trypsin. The protein then goes to your small intestines where the enzyme erepsin helps to change the peptides into amino acids. The amino acid is the last step in the digestion of proteins.
Protein tends to be more satiating than carbohydrate. That is, proteins and fats linger longer in your stomach than carbohydrates. This is why, having a high-protein and high-fat eggs and bacon breakfast stays with you longer than does a high-carb bread with jam breakfast. By curbing hunger, you have fewer urges to eat. This will easily cut calories. In most cases, you start to crave carbohydrates and binge eat.
Protein is a very important nutrient that you body needs daily. It is not a magical diet nutrient nor will it pack on muscle. But you do need it. Make it a part of your diet every day.