Protein provides the building blocks that your muscles need to repair and maintain themselves, and to grow.  In addition, protein is required to build most of the other components of your body like bone, cartilage, skin, and hair.  It also makes important chemicals like hormones and enzymes.  Your health, wellness and vitality is dependent on you getting enough quality protein in your diet.

Protein also maximises muscle and minimises fat which is an important consideration for optimal body composition.  Lean muscle looks good on a body.

AMINO WHAT?

Amino acids are the Lego blocks that, based on their particular arrangement, make up your chicken breast, rib-eye steak or seafood platter.  The process of digestion breaks down the food you eat and releases the assorted Lego blocks of amino acids into your blood stream to get to work.  Just like Lego blocks, there are different types of amino acids that perform many functions in your body, and some amino acids are more important than others.

COMPLETENESS OF DIGESTION

Not all protein is completely digested and absorbed by the body.  Depending on the source, a certain percentage of the protein you consume will leave the body without being digested and used.  For optimal health and wellness we want to utilise as many of the amino acids as possible in our body.  In general, animal proteins are better digested and absorbed in comparison to plant proteins.

AMINO ACID RATIO

Proteins can also be rated on the ratio of amino acids they provide.  Amino acids come in different shapes and sizes and we need an assortment of these shapes and sizes based on the arrangement of our own body’s proteins.   Complete proteins have all the amino acids we need for survival and health.  Complementary proteins are proteins that are not complete but if eaten together will provide all the amino acids we need, and incomplete proteins do not have high enough concentrations of amino acids that are required by the body.  Animal protein is the best source for complete protein but some plant protein sources can be combined as complementary proteins to provide essential amino acids.

HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH?

The right amount of protein is an individual choice based on many factors including health considerations, training frequency and body composition goals.  Nutrition and health research also offers many different opinions on how much protein is enough.  A general guideline for a physically active and healthy population is around 0.8g to 1g per pound of body mass and is a good starting point when designing your nutrition protocols.

By Coach Lisa,

Image Credit: Greg Rosenke

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