In addition to muscle growth and recovery, protein intake plays an extremely important role in the function of our body. Just because several protein sources happen to be derived from animals/animal products doesn’t mean that vegetarians and vegans can’t benefit. This post will cover what proteins are, how our body uses and processes them, and I will leave you with a way to calculate how much protein YOU need. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Protein serves a lot of various purposes in our body and the three I want to hit on today are:
- It serves as a foundational building block for muscles and bones.
- It works to build and repair muscle tissue.
- It is needed to produce hormones and enzymes.
That’s right, without protein (i.e. amino acids) the structure of our body wouldn’t exist. Protein is created of amino acids, 20 of which are present. Each of these amino acids are present in some way, shape or form either in the foods we eat OR our bodies can create them. These amino acids are strung together by different chemical compounds and reactions that literally build our body. Of those twenty amino acids, 8 are considered essential; meaning that our body is incapable of producing them and they must be ingested via food. The other 12 are called non-essential because our body can produce these on its own. These amino acids are found in different ratios and combinations in food sources, which is why having a diet with a variety of protein sources is optimal.
Builds & Repairs
In a process termed muscle protein synthesis, our bodies work to get rid of broken and torn proteins and replacing them with stronger and more dense proteins. Protein synthesis happens when the body (muscles) are put under stress, i.e. weight-bearing exercise. For you ladies reading this who are worried that eating too much protein will make you “bulky”…THIS ISN’T TRUE. Protein intake will not increase muscle size unless you train accordingly. With overconsumption of ANY macronutrient, our bodies will store excess as fat. But ladies, I repeat, drinking a protein shake will not produce muscles.
Hormones & Enzymes
This section isn’t going be as lengthy because I pretty much covered it up in Building Blocks. As stated, those 20 amino acids create various combinations with one another, producing all different “building blocks” for the body. Two of these amino acid combination byproducts are hormones and enzymes. I’m not going to go in to detail on these two things, just know that they are both essential for a healthy metabolism and overall body system function.
All of that to say, getting enough protein DAILY is important for not just weight loss and body goals, but also for optimal function of your body. So how much do you need? I consider lifestyle and current goals a determining factor for this one, but here is a guide to get you started:
Current bodyweight (lbs) x 0.8 = Grams of Protein per day
Current bodyweight (lbs) x 1.2 = Grams of Protein per day
This calculation will provide you with a general range of adequate protein intake. I would say if you are currently not very active, I would shoot for the lower end of the range and for those who are more active, the upper end.
Don’t be afraid of protein people. It may just be the one thing you have been missing to get you to your goals!