<center><h1>Protein – macro-nutrients that “burn fat”, build muscle and the most popular supplement</h1></center>

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Protein – macro-nutrients that “burn fat”, build muscle and the most popular supplement

What are proteins?

Amino acids are build blocks of proteins. More than 100 amino acids make up one single protein (2 amino acids = dipeptide, up to 10 amino acids = oligopeptide, up to 100 amino acids = polypeptide). Amino acids are chemical compounds that contain two functional groups: an amino group (NH2) and a carboxyl (COOH) group. Amino acids are divided into:

  • This group consists of 20 amino acids that build up protein. Many of these amino acids can be synthetized by the body and these are called non-essential amino acids, on the other hand 8 of those 20 acids can’t be produced by the body and it must rely on their intake through food, these are called essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are: lysine, valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, threonine, methionine (histidine and arginine are essential for infants).
  • Non proteinogenic amino acids count more than 100 amino acids and they don’t build proteins but they have other roles in the body.

Denaturation of proteins

Denaturation of proteins is a change in protein structure (secondary, tertiary and quaternary) due to high or low temperatures, acids, alcohols, metal ions, mechanical action or radiation. Protein denaturation is found daily in the preparation of food: the meat after exposure to the temperature gets firm, the egg changes structure during cooking etc.

Protein functions

Other than building muscle, proteins have many other important roles in our body:

  • Building and regenerating tissue
  • Transport (hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood, lipoprotein is a carries protein that can bond to a certain molecule and aid its transport)
  • Neuro- and signal transporters (hormones)
  • Protection (immunoglobin)
  • Protein storage
  • Regulative functions
  • Purine build up
  • As an energy source in the case of total fasting

Eat more protein to lose weight?

There is a high chance you heard this or some similar statement from a fitness expert, read it online, saw it in a magazine or something of that nature…but do proteins really help you lose weight and why do all experts suggest a higher intake of this macronutrient to lose weight?

  1. Post-prandial thermogenesis is thermogenesis induced by food intake and each macronutrient contributes to it. A good example of post-prandial thermogenesis is the fact that you feel hot a sweaty after you overeat. The biggest impact has protein which raise your energy consumption by 18-25% (carbs 4-7%, fats 2-4%). This effect is manifested up to 3 hours after you eat and the increased consumption is caused by: digestion, absorption, transport and storage of nutrients. To utilize this effect of our body a higher protein intake and consumption of several smaller meals are advised.
  2. Protein doesn’t have any significant reserve in our body even though the body consist of about 24lbs of protein of which about 7.5lbs can be used as energy in case of an urgent need. That’s why an increase in protein intake is recommended. Excessive storage and therefore weight gain due to high protein consumption is almost impossible.
  3. Proteins are very complex compounds and their digestion is very slow when compare to carbs even though they carry the same amount of energy (4kcal per gram). Because proteins take a lot longer to digest they make us feel full for longer and prolong our next meal, thus potentially reducing our daily intake.

Recommended daily intake

Daily protein intake is calculated based on daily nitrogen loss because this chemical element makes up 16% this macronutrient. The daily loss is approximately 0.15g/lbs. and after metabolic and statistical corrections the minimum daily prescribed requirement is 0.36g/lbs. or 8-10% of your daily energy intake. Also 1/3 of our daily protein should come from animal sources while the other 2/3 should be consumed through proteins that originate from plants. People that have a naturally higher protein demand are those who are suffering from serious diseases (HIV, cancer etc.), burn victims, dialysis patients, long-term infections, post-surgery, etc. For example. An individual who weighs a 165lbs has a minimum daily protein requirement of 60g which can be achieved quite easily. Even though the recommendations are based on minimum intake there are other ways to calculate it. One of them is by using your lean body mass as a base. For each pound of lean body mass a person should ideally take in 1g of protein. This ensures optimum protein intake based on its main function which is muscle building and maintenance while taking body composition into consideration.

Famous “bodybuilding recommendations” of 1g/lbs. should be used because of their potential health risks.

The consequences of excessive protein intake

A very small number of individuals are protein-deficient whiles many consume too much protein. This is because of modern food trends, recommendations from “experts”, a wrong interpretation of protein function in the body that benefits marketing campaigns and the availability and affordability of high protein foods.

Even though the consequences are still quite unknown and not all aspects of the mechanisms are well explained some potential health risks are: bone calcification that stimulates the development of osteoporosis, kidney stone formation, insulin resistance, plasma changes in amino acids.

Are protein supplements needed?

Short answer: no, long answer: it depends. The minimum daily requirement can be easily obtained through a rather mediocre diet whiles the recommendation based on lean body weight can also be obtained with minimum effort and some smart choices. The key is to choose foods that are pretty much exclusively or for the best part pure protein sources like lean meats, eggs, fish, milk products etc. Some examples:

100g of chicken breast around 23g of protein

100g of tuna around 30g of protein

100g of cottage cheese 13g of protein

100g of oats 11g of protein

As you can see many foods contain a lot of protein in correlation to their mass. Not only are foods a better choice over supplements because the offer much more, (micronutrients, added volume, water etc.) they are also a lot cheaper. Remember you’ll have to eat either way so make smart choices and get your proteins from real food. Protein supplements are a bonus more than anything else and their main benefit is extra calories and convenience rather than actual protein intake, also they can be a way to cut on cravings (a chocolate protein shake can be a simple and great substitute if you crave chocolate).




  • IgnigePew

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  • Scott

    Why do you recommend 1/3 of protein come from animal sources? Is this because of lysine and methionine being lower in plant-based protein (but still sufficiently available)? Historically, we hear a strong push for “high quality” proteins with the highest levels of amino acids and their efficiency/digestibility, as found in animal foods, but this ignores the health risks. For example, some of the most noteworthy research in the last several months and years has shown that methionine strongly influences cancer cell growth.

    Just curious on the rationale here. Thanks.

  • Nic

    “Famous “bodybuilding recommendations” of 1g/lbs. should be used because of their potential health risks.” – Should be or should not be?

  • Christopher

    Nice to see a fitness person actually say that you don’t necessarily need a protein supplement. I’m 51 yrs. old, workout 5 times a week, and I eat a healthy well balanced diet. No protein shakes, creatine, or pre/post work stuff. My only supplement is an multivitamin for guys over 50. I’m sure someone could argue that I’m not “maximizing my muscle growth”, but I’m healthy and pretty fit for an old fart.

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