Protein is a powerful macronutrient! Its chemical makeup includes combinations of hydrogen and carbon molecules. Proteins are structural and regulatory molecules made up of specific combinations of 20 different amino acids. Eight of these amino acids can’t be synthesized in the body and must be supplied by the diet. The principle function of protein is to build and repair body tissues, including muscles, ligaments and tendons. Protein is also important for the synthesis of hormones, enzymes, antibodies and fluid transport.

Most proteins are formed in complex structures of amino acids. When digested, they are broken down into small peptides and individual amino acids. Once absorbed these amino acids and peptides are delivered to the liver for transport to the cells of the body. They now form part of the plasma amino acid pool in the blood.

Tissues extract amino acids from the plasma amino acid pool for a number of functions, including:

  • Muscle protein synthesis • Synthesis of neurotransmitters in the brain • Synthesis of tissue enzymes • Intra-organ carbon and nitrogen transfer

Protein is the major constituent of most cells, constituting about half of the dry weight of each cell. It is, in fact, the body’s construction material. All new muscle growth is made of protein. All the functions of the body are also controlled by proteins, including digestion and immunity. In addition, the essential hormones that regulate the body require proteins to do their job.

Protein is abundant in the following foods:

Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Fish, Eggs, Cheese, and Milk

Unlike carbohydrates and fats, the body is unable to store protein in the body. The body can break down muscle tissue to get certain amino acids, but it has no specialized cells to store protein. Without an adequate daily intake, we will be in a state of net negative protein balance. In this state, we are likely to cannibalize enzymes and muscle tissue.

Essential VS Non-Essential Proteins

The human body is capable of producing 12 amino acids. These are referred to as the non-essential amino acids. That leaves 8 amino acids that the body cannot produce. These are required on a daily basis from the foods that we eat.

The 8 essential amino acids are:

Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, and Valine

A food that contains all 8 of the essential amino acids is known as a complete protein. Animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish, milk and cheese are all complete proteins. Certain plant sources, such as hempseed, quinoa and buckwheat are also complete proteins; however, the majority of plant foods do not contain complete proteins.

Ideally, I recommend you get your protein from whole food sources; but whey protein supplementation is a convenient way to increase your intake as well. Keep in mind though, whole foods are absorbed more slowly and contain a more complete micronutrient profile.

In addition to whey protein, another protein supplement you can utilize for convenience is branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s).

Whey Protein – Whey is the soluble part of milk protein, with casein being the globular portion. Whey is separated out in the cheese making process. It is then sent off to be made into a protein powder. After undergoing a series of filtering steps to take out much of the carbohydrate and fat content, it ends up as about 80% protein concentrate. To boost the pure protein content further, a microfiltration process removes more of the carbs and fat. Many whey protein powders are also hydrolyzed, which breaks down the amino acid chains to allow for faster absorption.

Whey protein is abundant in branched-chain amino acids. These are the most critical amino acids for muscle growth and energy supply. Whey protein is also very fast acting, so it gets the amino acids into the bloodstream very quickly. Within 60-90 minutes of having a protein shake, the aminos will be ready to be absorbed into your muscle cells.

Whey protein also contains a range of peptides and microfractions that you can’t get from other protein sources. These compounds provide a range of health benefits, including relaxing blood vessels to facilitate vasodilation (blood vessel enlargement which is responsible for vascularity). This also helps to deliver amino acids more rapidly.

One of the best times to take a whey protein supplement is before or after your workout. Take it within 30 minutes before and within 30 minutes after your training.

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