Thinking back to when I first began my fitness journey, or even prior to that, I remember what I thought protein was...
To me, protein was just meat and protein powders that were used by bodybuilders to get jacked.
Fortunately, through proper education, I learned that protein is so much more than that...
In fact, it's a key component in our ability to not only see results in the gym, but also live a healthier life overall.
You may still have the same misconceptions I had, and that is okay.
That's why I wanted to write this blog and explain:
• What protein is
• What protein is made of
• The functions of protein
...and other information about protein
What Are Proteins?
Proteins are large and complex molecules. They are composed of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called “amino acids.”
Amino Acids are also known as the building blocks of cells ... you may remember this from science class growing up. These units are chained together by peptide bonds to form bigger molecules like proteins.
There are a total of 20 different amino acids. Each protein chain has its own function based on the sequence of these amino acids inside the chain.
I like to think of these amino acids as if they are fruit loops. If we took different colors of these fruit loops and put them together in a sequence ... we'd make up a protein chain.
This is just for a visual representation ... you can't actually put fruit loops together and make protein. Although, there are fruit loop-flavored protein powders!
But let's get back to the subject of these amino acids...
Something else that is important to note is there are 9 essential amino acids. They are essential because our bodies cannot make them, and we have to get them through the foods we eat.
A “complete protein” contains all 9 of these essential amino acids. "Incomplete proteins" are missing one or more of these 9 essential amino acids. This is crucial for a few reasons, which we will get into more in a bit.
The Functions of Proteins
Let's take it back to the beginning and the most common misconception about protein. Yes, protein is very important in the muscle building process (but not necessarily in the way you think).
See, protein also does SO much more than that, which I am excited for you to learn about.
Starting with the muscle side of things, some of you may have thought, “I do not want to get big and bulky.” Not to pick on the women out there, but that is typically who I hear saying this the most.
The good thing is, you will not have that issue at all just from protein intake. See, protein helps maintain and build LEAN muscle tissue.
Think of this as being "toned", "lean", "athletic", or "fit." That is what protein is going to do for you ... not make you overly-muscular or “manly.”
Men are much more likely to bulk up because of some hormonal and genetic differences.
Even with that though, men still have to eat a lot of calories and train in a very specific way to get "bulky" in the first place.
I promise that it's not as simple as picking up a dumbbell, eating some protein, and waking up big, bulky, and jacked.
5 Benefits of Proteins - Not Related to Muscle Growth
Remember, the amino acids that make up protein are the same amino acids that act as the building blocks for all cells.
Also keep in mind that our entire body is made up of cells. So the benefits and functions of protein go way beyond building and maintaining muscle tissue.
1. Maintain and Grow Different Tissues in The Body
Our body is constantly building and breaking down each day. The goal is to provide our body with enough protein to support the repair and growth of new tissue.
This can be everything from our hair, skin, and nails, as well as the lining of our intestines and organs.
2. Enzymes Are Proteins
Enzymes are necessary for so many functions inside and outside of the cell. For example, digestive enzymes help to break down your food. Other enzymes play a role in metabolism, energy production, muscle contraction, and more.
3. Hormones Can Be Proteins
Hormones are our body’s chemical messengers. They travel and bind to tissues/organs. Basically, hormones communicate and take messages through the body.
Some examples are insulin, HGH, Glucagon, ADH, and more. They are all vital to our body's health.
4. Help Improve Immune Function
Antibodies are actually proteins that circulate through our blood to help fight off viruses and bacteria.
So, if we are lacking in protein, this could affect our body's ability to respond to attackers.
5. Transportation of Nutrients
There are proteins that help support certain functions. Hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen through the bloodstream, is a good example of this.
6. Assist with pH Balance
Proteins called buffers can help regulate the pH balance in bodily fluids. They can act as both acids and bases in order to help with maintaining this balance.
7. Provides Structural Support
Proteins are critical for providing structural support to various body tissues, including tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. They contribute to the strength, flexibility, and integrity of these tissues, thereby supporting overall joint health and mobility.
8. Fights Hunger & Cravings
Protein-rich foods have been shown to promote feelings of fullness and satiety. Including protein in meals and snacks can help control appetite, reduce overall calorie intake, and contribute to weight management and healthy eating patterns.
9. Support Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Proteins can help prevent rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels by slowing down the absorption of glucose from the digestive tract.
Including protein in meals can aid in maintaining more stable blood sugar levels, which can be particularly beneficial for people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
What Foods Have the Most Protein?
Now you know what protein is, and how it can help. Where do you find it though?
Animal-based protein sources are going to be the best sources available.
• Some Dairy
Animal protein sources contain all 9 essential amino acids, making them complete protein sources.
There are also plant-based options that have decent amino acid profiles.
But, like I discussed above, there are complete and incomplete protein sources. Plant-based protein sources are all incomplete, meaning they don't have all 9 essential amino acids.
That's why, if you prefer to eat plant-based protein sources, I recommend combining plant-based protein sources to make a complete protein source.
For example, when you combine the amino acids in beans and rice ... you get a complete protein source!
So, even though beans and rice by themselves do not have all 9 essential amino acids ... beans and rice together do.
Some other complimentary protein sources include:
• Peanut butter and whole grain bread
• Macaroni and cheese
• Hummus with pita bread
...and so much more.
Protein is the most difficult macro to consume enough of for the majority of people. Let's be real ... carbs and fats are easy to find.
Although this is exactly why I've used a sustained assimilation protein supplement for almost 10 years now.
Every single day, it is not only helping me reach my protein goal ... but also helping me satisfy my sweet tooth. Plus, the convenience of being able to throw a scoop or two in water and shake it up on the go is a lifesaver!
Sustained assimilation proteins are protein powders designed to use as a meal or snack. They digest slower and keep you fuller for longer than a rapid assimilation protein supplement.
Since I'm always struggling to get enough protein throughout the day ... I use Level-1 to make it easier.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Now that you understand the different roles protein can play in your body, it's important to know how much protein you'll need. At 1st Phorm, our general recommendation is shooting for 0.8 - 1.2 grams of protein per pound of your lean mass.
From there, the exact amount you'll want every day will really depend on your goals, training, and other lifestyle habits.
Is Too Much Protein A Bad Thing?
We've all heard the saying, "Too much of anything is a bad thing." I agree! When it comes to protein, this same logic holds true.
Too much protein can have it's potential downsides. Now, is it easy to overeat protein? No ... it's actually super difficult. But here are a few things to keep in mind:
Dehydration: A high protein intake can lead to increased water loss as the body works to eliminate the waste products from protein metabolism. This can potentially result in dehydration if you don't compensate by drinking enough water.
Weight Gain: Protein is not a magic solution for weight loss. If you consume more protein than your body requires, the excess calories can still contribute to weight gain. Even still, this is not just limited to protein. If you eat more calories than you burn ... weight gain is a consequence whether those extra calories come from protein, carbs, or fats.
Digestive Issues: Extremely high-protein diets may lead to digestive discomfort, including constipation, due to a lack of dietary fiber. Make sure to include fiber-rich foods in your diet to maintain proper digestion.
Nutrient Imbalance: Focusing solely on protein intake at the expense of other essential nutrients can lead to an imbalance in your diet. A well-rounded diet should provide carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals in addition to protein.
While protein is a vital part of a healthy diet, consuming excessive amounts can have potential negative effects. It's important to find a balance that suits your individual needs and consult with a healthcare professional or a nutrition coach at 1st Phorm for personalized guidance.
What Else Would You Like to Know About Protein?
I hope you now have a great understanding of what protein is, what it does, and how beneficial it can be.
At this point, I’m sure you’re wondering how much protein you need to get all of its benefits.
Well, my friend ... that’s why we made the 1st Phorm App.
There is a Certified Trainer and Nutrition Coach waiting for you inside the app who will help give you the personalized help you need to get enough protein to reach your goals and see amazing results.
Start pursuing your health and fitness goals by downloading the 1st Phorm App today!
If there's anything we can do to help out in the meantime, don't hesitate to reach out! We have a full team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches who are here to help you for free! Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime.ABOUT THE AUTHOR