Why Protein?

Recently we had a discussion regarding nutrition and how our lifestyles impact our dietary needs. As a friendly reminder, food is the energy source that we use to operate our body. Specifically, everyone will need macronutrients and micronutrients as parts of our diet. Macronutrients are food substances required in large amounts to supply energy. They include proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Today let’s talk about the macronutrient protein.

Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. Essentially, proteins are the building blocks of human and animal structures. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs. Serving innumerable functions in the human body including the formation of the brain, nervous system, blood, skin and hair. Primary protein function is to synthesize and repair cells, tissues, and structures; including collagen, elastin and muscle.

There’s no single “best protein” and the best practice is to keep protein sources as diverse as possible.

So what are your options, you may ask? Well, let’s start with understanding what proteins are and the difference between complete and incomplete proteins. One thing to note is that proteins are made from amino acids. Amino acids are the organic building blocks of proteins containing both a carboxyl and an amino group. Hundreds to thousands of amino acids combine to make proteins so you need them all to function optimally.

Amino acids are grouped into three general categories:

  • Non-essential amino acids: Our body can make these so we don’t need to consume them through our diets.

  • Essential amino acids: We have to get these from foods since we cannot make them ourselves.

  • Conditional essential amino acids: we can make these ourselves however not always effectively. Particularly when we are under stress, such as being sick or under physical stress like hard athletic training.

Complete proteins are protein sources that provide all essential amino acids. They come from both animal and non animal sources. Animal sources include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy. Non animal sources include soy, and hemp.

Now let’s move on to incomplete proteins. These are proteins that lack one or more of the amino acids required to build cells. These include legumes, grains, and vegetable proteins.

Here’s a quick list of incomplete proteins:

So how much protein do we need? The average person eating a standard Western diet is probably not protein deficient. Due to our post cavemen society where, instead of hunting and gathering, we leisurely roam down the grocery aisles hunting down a bargain. Therefore we are more sedentary omnivores and don’t need as much protein for repairing or rebuilding. Plus, our traditional diet includes animal products and dairy which are common sources of protein. However this is what we need based on the group that we fall into.

Protein serves numerous vital roles in our bodies. Protein is involved in repair and rebuilding of tissues, hormones and our immune system. In fact, your protein intake will actually need to be adjusted in the following situations:

  • Training hard frequently or working a heavy physically demanding job.

  • Healing after an injury, illness, or recovering from surgery.

  • Protein deficiency due to chronic illness such as malabsorption conditions, chronic diarrhea, inability to manufacture proteins (such as liver failure) or excess protein loss (for example chronic kidney disease)

  • Losing protein for other reasons such as chronic physical stress or protein deficiency due to the aging process.

One thing to be aware of, is that protein is 4 calories of energy per gram consumed and is used for energy if there is inadequate caloric intake from carbohydrates or fat sources. Thus, protein calories add to your total daily calorie count when considering weight gain, loss or maintenance.

Need help with designing your nutrition plan, contact us today at and receive a free nutrition guide.

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