What Are Proteins and Why Do We Need It?

Copy of NBS Fitness Radio Cover Art Lyra

Do you ever feel like your body is running out of energy? No matter what type of workout routine you have going on, if you’re not getting enough protein then you need to start doing something about it! 

What is it? Why do we need it? And what are some sources for it? 

Proteins are composed of amino acids, which are the basic building blocks of life. There are essential and non-essential amino acids in our diet. Essential amino acids cannot be made by our bodies so they must be obtained through diet. These are the amino acids phenylalanine, valine, threonine, and tryptophan. If we do not consume enough of these, our bodies will not function properly. When there isn’t enough food to go around, our bodies can produce non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids include glycerin, formaldehyde, and acetyl coenzyme A. They aid in the production of energy in cells as well as the regulation of blood sugar levels. So when you’re eating a healthy diet with good protein sources it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the essential proteins too!

So why do we need it? Protein is essential for our body to function well. It provides energy, transports oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, including into cells that require them. Furthermore, protein can help build muscle mass, which helps us stay healthy and strong. The majority of the time, we want to maintain optimal body composition, so we need it for strength training, to build a healthy immune system, to maintain a strong metabolism, and to keep us satiated.

Where do we get the proteins we need for our diet? Meat products such as beef, pork, and chicken, as well as eggs, nuts, and beans, are the best sources of protein. Even if they don’t eat meat, vegetarians can find plenty of plant-based proteins in soybeans, peas, tofu, or rice. Proteins from animal sources provide all 8 essential amino acids. Vegetable sources usually only have 2 to 4 essential amino so it’s important to combine them.

So how much of it do we actually need for general purposes? Get at least 1/4 of our plate of lean protein every time we eat. Regardless of the type we eat, aim for at least 50 grams a day to maintain muscle mass and stay healthy!