Why is protein so important?

Suck all the water out of a human body and what is left? Mostly protein. Over 50% of the dry weight of your body is protein. The hemoglobin that carries the oxygen in your blood is protein. The white blood cells in your immune system. The structure of your genes and brain cells is totally protein. All bodily functions, from the blink of an eye to the creation of new muscle, are controlled by thousands of different enzymes, and all enzymes are proteins. 

Experiments using radioisotope techniques show that over 98% of the molecules of the human body are completely replaced each year. Bits and pieces of all your structures are constantly being replaced with new proteins. In six months your biceps, your blood, your enzymes, even the structures of your genes are all completely replaced. In short, the body you have today is built almost entirely from what you have eaten over the last six months.

If the proteins you eat are poor quality then all the structures of your body, muscles, bones, blood, teeth, and fingers will be poor quality. Don’t worry, the body is able to make do with inadequate building materials, but it certainly can’t build a premium body from garbage. A coffee and cake diet produces a coffee and cake body. For optimum performance and function, you have to eat optimum protein. It’s that simple!

For those with weight loss goals, protein is a key nutrient to assist with balancing blood sugar levels. It is also slow digesting meaning you will feel fuller for longer after a higher protein snack or meal. 

How much protein do I need?

The recommended daily allowance, (RDA for short) states that you should aim for 0.8-1.7grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight depending on how active you are. A sedentary person would need closer to 0.8g per kg body weight and an active person needs somewhere between 1.2-1.7g protein depending on activity levels.

Having an appropriate amount of protein is essential for our body to function correctly however excess protein will do us no benefit. Excess protein will not be utilised to build bigger muscles. Muscles grow from having the right nutrients (including adequate protein) and doing resistance training. Plain and simple!!

Based on the human digestive tract and our body’s ability to adapt and rejuvenate, we need protein approximately every 3-4 hours. If you are exercising, timing your protein around your workout can assist with recovery. Protein aids the body and enables it to remain in a “positive nitrogen” state, it is in this state that the body recovers, grows and rejuvenates (often referred to as an anabolic state). When the body runs out of protein, this is called a “negative nitrogen” state (often referred to as a catabolic state) whilst in this state, our body begins to stress, thus releasing cortisol into the system which allows us to use our own protein supply (in the form of lean tissue!) to counter this condition. This in turn decreases lean tissue, (muscle mass) metabolic rates, fat burning capabilities, recovery times, and general energy levels.