Protein: Essential to a healthful diet
The low-carb diet fad in recent years has caused people to pay closer attention to the amount of protein in their diets. But what is protein exactly, and what is the correct amount we should consume?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients necessary for the body to function properly.
Protein transports nutrients in the bloodstream, assists in promoting blood clotting and aids in fluid, electrolyte and pH balance.
Protein has a pivotal role in the growth and maintenance of lean skeletal muscles, bones, nails and crucial heart muscles, as well as the immune system and respiratory functions.
Athletes are constantly breaking down muscle tissue, and protein assists in rebuilding those muscles. If there is not sufficient protein available from food, the body will break down tissue from muscles and other organs, so it is important to get the necessary amount of protein each day.
There are two sources of protein: animals and plants. The building blocks of both protein types are amino acids, which are divided into two categories: essential and nonessential. Essential amino acids are ones that the body cannot produce on its own and must obtain from food. Your body needs all the amino acids to build and maintain the tissues and organs of the body.
Depending on the combination of these amino acids, proteins are classified as complete or incomplete. This is the difference between animal and vegetable protein sources.
Animal protein has all the amino acids, making it a complete protein. Beef, chicken, fish and eggs are all complete protein sources. Most protein bars and powders use soy, casein or whey as a base. All of these are complete proteins.
Vegetable proteins are incomplete, meaning some of the amino acids are missing, or there are too few of them to meet the body’s needs. Vegetable proteins need to be combined to create a single protein source. For example, you can combine corn and beans, or green peas and brown rice.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is roughly 0.5 grams of protein per one pound of body weight. So if you weigh 120 pounds, you should consume about 60 grams of protein per day.
You can also think in terms of percentages instead of grams.
Aim to make approximately 20 percent of your daily calories come from protein. Keep in mind, though, that each person’s nutrition requirements depend on several factors, including age, gender, weight and activity level.
Protein is an essential nutrient necessary for good health. Make it part of your healthful diet plan today.
Bentz Tozer is a personel fitness trainer and owner of Max Fitness of PA. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for the Harrisburg Stampede.