Everyone needs protein. Period. It is not just the big muscular gym guy, also you sitting in the chair diligently doing your job or you running a half-marathon or you playing football. Why? Because proteins are the brickstones of our body, they are the catalysators (= enzymes) of our metabolism and are also fuel. To say it in numbers: after water (70%), proteins (18%) are the second main component of human cells. That’s why it may be worth considering adding more protein to your daily food, especially if you are getting serious about living a more active and healthy lifestyle.
Let’s have a closer look at this gorgeous, muscle building molecules before you head up to the kitchen to roast your steak ;).
If you have read my macronutrients article, you now know that proteins are made of specific aminoacids, called the proteinogenic aminoacids. We get the aminos for the synthesis of proteins either from food or by synthetising them from other molecules. Therefore we can divide them in:
- non-essential aminoacids: we can synthetise them by our own
- essential aminoacids (EAAs): we can NOT synthetise them by our own and have to take them up with food.
Where do I get my aminoacids from?
There are a lot of protein sources out there, but -as you may guess- it is not just about the quantity, it is also about the quality of the protein. The quality is determined by many factors such as the aminoacid profile, the leucine content (will be covered in a future article) and other components influencing the aminoacid uptake and protein synthesis (either limiting or pushing it). Here is a rough quality guideline to choose where to get your aminos from (vegan, vegetarian):
- High quality: whole diary, meats, fish, whole eggs, milk protein, casein protein
- Moderate quality: pea protein, hemp protein, rice protein, whey protein, hydrolyzed protein
- Low quality: soy protein, other vegetarian protein sources
You may notice, there is no need to sip protein shakes if you manage to cover your protein intake requirements with whole foods since most of them are high quality protein sources. Nevertheless, you can still use them as a tool as they are often well digestible and easy to carry with.