What Are Proteins?
“Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids – the building blocks of life. These amino acids are joined together by chemical bonds and then folded in different ways to create three-dimensional structures that are important to our body’s functioning.” Quote - Ryan Andrews, MS/MA, RD, CSCS
There are two main categories of amino acids in the body. First, we’ve got essential amino acids –These the body can’t manufacture, so we have to get them through our diets. Next are the nonessential amino acids – the body can usually make for itself.
Why is it important to get enough protein?
Since our bodies need proteins and amino acids to produce important molecules in our body – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies – without enough protein intake, our bodies cannot function well at all. Protein helps replace worn out cells, transports various substances throughout the body, and aids in growth and repair.
How much protein do you need?
How much protein you need depends on a few factors, but one of the most important is your activity level.
The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body mass in untrained, generally healthy adults. For people doing high intensity training, protein needs might go up to about 1.4-2.0 g/kg of body mass.
These suggested protein intakes are what’s necessary for basic protein synthesis (in other words, the creation of new proteins from individual building blocks). But we may need even more protein in our diets for high performance living, including good immune function, metabolism, satiety, weight management and performance. Basically, we need a small amount of protein to survive, but we need a lot more to thrive.
Can I eat too much protein?
Yes, you can overeat any of the macronutrients. If you overeat protein, this extra protein can be converted into sugar or fat in the body. However, protein isn’t as easily converted as carbohydrates or fat, because the thermic effect (the amount of energy require to digest, absorb, transport and store protein) is a lot higher than that of carbohydrates and fat.
You might have heard that a high protein intake harms the kidneys. WRONG! In healthy people, normal protein intakes pose little to no health risk. Even a fairly high protein intake (like 1.5g/lb) – does not seem to mess with the kidneys of healthy people.
Here’s additional reading on this - Dear Mom and Dad / The Protein Debate