Nutrition & Weight Loss Part Five: Protein – The Nutrition Fan Favourite
If the macronutrients our bodies need were a rock band, protein would be “the cute one”. Everyone thinks protein is cool. Why?
- Because we use it to build muscles (and every other cell in our body)
- Unlike fats and carbs, a balanced diet generally gives us all the protein we need
- Protein breaks down in our body, so there’s much less chance of consuming too much
- Protein is not a major contributor to weight gain
But, keep in mind, you can get your protein from bad sources, including high-fat foods like meat and dairy products.
What is Protein?
Proteins are made up of amino acids and are found in every cell in your body. They are the building blocks that your body uses to produce hormones, tissue, cartilage, hair, skin – you name it, proteins are everywhere inside you.
Your body gets the thousands of different kinds of proteins it needs from combinations of 20 amino acids. Your body actually produces some of those amino acids, but not all of them.
That means you must get the other amino acids from what you eat.
Essential Amino Acids
The amino acids that our bodies do not produce are called Essential Amino Acids. In the food we eat, Complex Proteins are those proteins that contain all of the essential amino acids. Food groups that have complex proteins include:
Considering that most of the sources of complex proteins are animal-based, vegetarians must be vigilant, and often creative, to make sure they get all of the essential amino acids.
Fortunately, while few vegetarian foods have complex proteins, you can use combinations of different foods that contain different essential amino acids to get them all. For example, if you ate a meal that included rice and beans, you would get every essential amino acid.
Non-Essential Amino Acids
These are the amino acids our bodies produce. The term often causes confusion. Non-essential amino acids are just as important as essential amino acids. It’s just not “essential” that we get them from our diet.
Conditional Amino Acids
Conditional amino acids are usually non-essential, unless their production is interrupted, like during illness and stress.
Protein and Your Weight Management
You should get 25% – 35% of your daily caloric intake from protein. It works out to only about 375 – 525 calories a day. But, protein’s squeaky clean image leads many people to eat more high-protein foods than they actually need.
Because protein breaks down in our bodies, the extra protein usually isn’t a problem. But the extra fats and carbohydrates are a problem and we can gain weight in the pursuit of extra protein – protein that we probably don’t need anyway.
To keep your weight management program on track, giving you the protein and nutrition you need, without the extra fats and carbs that you don’t need, consult a nutritional professional who can recommend the right combination of foods and supplements for your particular body type and weight loss goals.
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