Protein is the word or macronutrient which does not need any introduction. After all, it is a building block for our muscles, and therefore you must have seen numerous supplements in the form of protein powders and protein bars. But have your eve thought What does protein do to your Body?
In fact, the importance of protein is so skyrocketed that entire diet plans are formulated revolving around protein, like the paleo diet. Moreover, most diet plans might not be based on protein, but they “all hail protein,” for example, the Keto diet, vegan diet, Atkins diet, etc.
But before jumping to diets, let’s understand what protein is all about, why it is essential for us, and how much protein is required.
Let’s dive deep into protein.
Table of Contents
What is Protein?
Protein is a nitrogen-containing macronutrient formed by amino acids. It is found throughout the body, i.e., muscle, bone, skin, hair, etc., and is mainly consumed for endurance and power.
Protein is not the direct energy source; instead, it is metabolized by proteases and peptidases into amino acids, categorized into essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those we need to provide to our body from diet, whereas our body synthesizes non-essential amino acids. Out of 20 amino acids required for metabolism and growth, 12 are non-essential, and the remaining nine amino acids, i.e., Histidine, Isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine are essential amino acids .
What protein does to your body
Protein is the building block of your body; they serve as a structural element for cells and tissue. Demand for protein by your body is always high since proteins are found in all your organs, including muscles, tissues, bones, skin, and hair .
Mostly protein is an essential part of most diets let, such that be Atkins, the keto diet, the vegan diet, and so on; since, according to most clinical trials, consumption of more dietary protein than recommended dietary allowance (RDA) can improve the body composition by reducing fat mass while preserving fat-free mass (FFM) hence, leading to weight loss in both low-calorie diet and normal-calorie diets .
Further, studies have also pointed toward high protein-rich food consumption elevating Gut hormones levels (glucose-like peptide-1, cholecystokinin, and peptide tyrosine) responsible for decreasing the levels of ghrelin (production signals hunger and food intake urge), thereby reducing frequent food intake .
Since protein decreases, the appetite consuming high protein diet prevents us from metabolic risks such as Binge eating disorders, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, etc.; therefore, researchers advise taking an adequate amount of protein [4, 5, 6].
For the fitness enthusiast, protein consumption acutely elevates muscle protein synthesis post-exercise, but you need to be cautious about the whole-body adaptations .
According to Richard Semba’s conclusion in “Rise and fall of protein malnutrition in global health,” there is a high positive association between child health and growth and quality of protein .
Amino acids derived from protein are also essential for the cell-specific production of low-molecular-weight metabolism and with enormous physiological importance .
How much protein should I consume?
While talking about the daily dietary recommendation of protein, we need to remember that, unlike fat and carbs, there is no reservoir for protein, specifically amino acids. While you consume less protein than the daily requirement, muscle protein breakdown increases; whereas, in the case of high protein consumption, they are catabolized and used for energy .
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) categories dietary requirement references into “Estimated Average Requirement (EAR)- minimum amount of protein expected to meet the individual indispensable amino acid requirement of 50%”; Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)- minimum amount of dietary protein required to the indispensable amino acid requirement .
The Estimate Average Requirement is 0.66 g/kg/day; for example, if a person weighs 50kg, then the individual need to consume 33 g/day of protein from various sources.
Similarly, the Recommended Dietary Allowance is 0.8 g/kg/day, whereas the RDA, according to the WHO, is 0.83 g/kg/day .
It has been noticed that the RDA, which is supposed to be a minimum requirement for a lean body, is considered optimal intake. Therefore, in the past few years, it’s quite clear that consuming high protein diet than RDA but within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is beneficial for increasing muscle accretion and fat loss, also beneficial for bone if combined with exercise [8, 9].
What are the cause and effects of Protein deficiency?
Cause of Protein Deficiency
Although you are taking in optimum energy, there could be a “protein gap,” meaning the essential amino acids we need to get from the food might be missing . However, critical steps concerning the protein gap are required in the case of children.
Growing demand for fast food also causes protein deficiency since most are high in trans fats and carbs (irrespective of good carbs and bad carbs) but low in protein.
Apart from inadequate consideration of protein-rich foods, anti-nutritional factors hindrance in protein absorption are another reason for protein deficiency in people dependent on a vegetarian diet, vegan diet, or keto-vegan foods, and consider plants for protein for any reason .
Effects of Protein Deficiency
The long-term consumption of a protein-free or low-in-protein diet can lead to fatty liver, decreased lean mass, and increased body weight and fat mass .
Protein malnutrition has a detrimental effect on a person’s immunity, especially weakening the T-cell system, hence providing a free pass to opportunistic pathogens in patients or individuals, which can cause chronic diseases .
A decrease in protein intake can also be the reason for proteolysis in skeletal muscle and the whole body, endocrine imbalance, reduced levels of insulin, and growth hormones, increased oxidative stress, anemia, reduced transport of Oxygen, and so on .
Source of Protein
All this while, we have seen that protein is extremely important for the growth and development of human beings. Hence, it’s quite important to know the sources of protein.
Animal Sources of protein:
Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods, in general, all animal-based foods are best high in protein foods; specifically, to name, 4-ounce steak gives 22 grams of protein, 4 ounces of grilled sockeye salmon provides 30 grams of protein, and chicken breast protein 27 g/100g. Panner is another great source of protein.
Plant Sources of Protein:
Many vegan diet-conscious people do not go for animal-based protein; therefore, for them acquiring protein plants is a top priority. Some of the plant-based, good sources of proteins are Tofu, tempeh, edamame, Lentils, Chickpeas, Peanuts, Almonds, Spirulina, Quinoa, Chia seeds, Hemp seeds, beans, and protein-rich vegetables.
Research has proven that high-protein foods can lead to weight loss, muscle gain, and the prevention of various diseases. Although animal-based foods are generally high in protein, protein in vegetables, nuts, and seeds, basically plant-based protein-rich sources can also provide you with a complete protein profile. The reason for weight gain and fat mass gain after avoiding junk and unhealthy foods could be the low protein meal you are consuming while trying to do portion control.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
What is the benefit of eating protein?
The trending benefit for which most diets use high protein is weight loss; other than that, it prevents many chronic diseases related to immunity impairment and metabolism.
Which fruit is high in protein?
What is the healthiest protein?
Fermented foods like Tofu, yogurt
Chicken breast protein
Nuts like Almonds, walnuts
Seeds like chia seeds, flax seeds
How can I increase my protein levels quickly?
Include animal-based protein-rich foods like eggs, chicken breast, etc., in your diet. If you are vegetarian, then you can eat Tofu, tempeh, edamame, Lentils, Chickpeas, Peanuts, Almonds, Spirulina, Quinoa, chia seeds, etc.
How can I get 100g of protein a day?
Drink a smoothie containing 100ml almond milk (4g) + 5g chia seeds (9g) + medium avocado (3g) for breakfast
Lunch: eat 250g boiled chicken (77.5g)
Dinner: 100g of tofu scrambled/roasted
What are high-protein snacks?
Peanut butter celery sticks
Roasted black gram
Roasted chickpea snacks
How much protein should I eat to lose weight?
Generally, you need to eat high protein sources to easily reach protein requirements for muscle gain and, fat loss & weight loss. The RDA for protein is 0.83 g/kg/day (WHO); therefore, if you are 70 kg, you need to consume more than 58 g of protein every day.