The Importance of Proteins for the Functioning of our Body
Proteins are the primary building blocks of our body.(1) This very important nutrient is used to make muscles, organs, skin and tendons. Proteins are also used to manufacture enzymes, neurotransmitters, hormones and other small molecules in the body that serve several types of critical functions. Without proteins, life as we know it would not exist.
Protein is made from amino acids, which are connected to each other in the shape of a string.(2) These connected or linked amino acids then proceed to form long chains of proteins. They are then folded into complex shapes that form different types of proteins. While some amino acids are produced by the body naturally, there are others that we get only through our diet. The amino acids we get through our diet are known as essential amino acids.(3)
This is why the intake of protein does not simply depend on the quality of the protein, but also upon the quality of protein we are consuming.
Broadly speaking, we tend to get all essential amino acids from animal protein.(4) Animal protein contains these essential amino acids in the correct ratio that is required by the body, allowing our body to also use them correctly. This is primarily because of the fact that animal tissues are very similar to the tissues of the human body.
When we consume animal products, such as eggs, fish, meat, or even dairy on a daily basis, we can assume that we are getting the requisite amount of proteins that our body needs.
However, there are many who are vegetarians or vegans who do not eat food derived from animals and therefore, it becomes challenging to get all the essential amino acids and proteins that the body requires. In such cases, you have to carefully choose which foods are best for you to fulfill the protein requirement.
How Much Protein Should You Be Eating Per Day?
The recommendations for the amount of protein one should consume every day does not vary too much from person to person. For most people, the recommended range of protein intake should be 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. There is an old recommendation that suggests “1 gram of protein intake per pound of body weight.”
Overall, you should just multiply your current body weight in pounds by the recommended ideal protein intake and you will get the ideal range of the amount of protein you need to have every day.
If a person is overweight or obese, then the protein intake has to be calculated by using the target body weight rather than the current body weight.
Trying to Lose Weight – How Much Protein Do You Need?
Protein is very important for both weight loss and weight gain.
When you want to lose weight, you have to consume lesser calories. Consuming protein helps increase the number of calories you have to burn, as it boosts your metabolic rate and also lowers your appetite.(5)
The amount of protein you should have when you want to lose weight should be about 20-30% of the total daily calorie intake. This boosts your metabolism by 90-100 calories per day.(6,7,8)
Consuming proteins helps you decrease your appetite, thus helping you reduce your overall calorie intake as well. Proteins make you feel full much faster than carbohydrates and fats.
A study done on obese men showed that protein consumption at 25% of calories helped the participants feel full; cut down their desire for late-night snacking and also stopped the obsession with food by nearly 60%.(9)
Protein consumption also helps you gain weight in the first place. A study showed that if you increase your protein consumption from 15% to just 18% of calories, it reduces the overall amount of fat regained by the participants after undergoing a weight loss.(10)
Having a high intake of protein also makes it easier to follow a weight loss diet. Studies have shown that a protein consumption of 30% of calories is said to be ideal for an individual trying to lose weight. This should be around 150 grams of protein per day for a person on a 2000-calorie diet.
When Do You Need More Protein?
People, who are more physically active, as compared to sedentary people, need to consume more protein. If you walk or run a lot, swim, if your job demands a lot of physical movement, or you are an athlete or even if you exercise a lot, then you need to increase your protein intake.
In fact, endurance athletes need a lot of protein, nearly 0.5 to 0.65 grams per pound, or nearly 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram.
Even older adults need to have more protein than others, nearly 50% more than the daily recommended intake. This is to prevent osteoporosis and sarcopenia, a conduction which results in a reduction of muscle mass.
If you have suffered from an injury or are recovering from an illness, then also you need to increase your intake of protein.(11)
You can get your daily requirement of protein from sources such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy products. There are certain plants also that are high in protein such as legumes, nuts, and quinoa. While generally, you don’t need to keep a track of your protein intake, you still need to ensure you are getting enough protein to stay healthy.
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