Protein is an essential nutrient that everyone needs. If you are involved in fitness and health than more than likely you are aware that a good diet should be comprised of a large amount of high quality protein. But of course while it might be mentioned as a necessity, sometimes the why and how can be bypassed.
So let’s take some time to look more closely at protein, why you need it, what kinds are best, and what kinds are not as good.
Protein in our Body
Our bodies use protein for a lot of important functions from making new cells, maintaining tissues, and even performing basic functions. From the fitness perspective proteins are building blocks of muscle and are required if you expect to build new muscle. They are also highly involved making enzymes, which helps with digestion.
Really if you don’t get enough protein then your body won’t be functioning at anywhere near an optimum level.
There are high quality and low quality protein options available. Why is one type of protein considered to have a higher quality? It is based on the combinations of the amino acids within the protein as well as our body’s ability to easily absorb and utilize these proteins without using excess enzymes.
Animal based proteins (meats and dairy) are typically considered high quality because an animal’s body is genetically closer to our body and thus has similar amino acid combinations. While you can also get proteins from beans, nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, and veggies, they are considered low quality because they contain less of the essential amino acids and are harder to blend into our bodies.
While vegans and vegetarians like to tout raw numbers that state you can still get the same amount of protein from non animal sources, the quality of that protein is much lesser. For those who are involved in fitness that means increased use of supplements (amino acids and protein powder) to offset what is unavailable in a basic diet.
Scientists decided on a basic rating system to calculate the value of any food’s protein. The egg was listed at a 100 score. Even though you might get the same grams of protein in a large serving of dry beans as an egg the quality of that protein is only 75% of the egg with the difference mainly being in essential amino acids.
The best protein options in regards to grams per serving and value of protein are eggs, fish, beef, milk, and soy beans. Proteins from vegetables and grains such as corn and wheat along with rice have much lower values and can be counted if necessary towards protein needed for muscle building but you should use half of the listed values to compensate for the lesser content.
Whey protein is rated at over 100 in value because it is manufactured to blend with our bodies and includes a great mix of amino acids.
You can combine various foods to compliment the amino acids and make a meal more protein rich. Great combinations include:
- Beans and rice
- Pasta with cheese
- Wheat pancakes (milk and eggs in batter)
- Chili beans and cheese
- Yogurt and nuts
Hopefully this gives a better understanding of protein intake and why certain types are more effective to meeting what our body needs than other types.