Think protein and, for many people, the image of a muscle-bound guy gulping down a post workout shake comes to mind. The association of protein with muscle is an obvious fit – after all, it is the building material for every ounce of muscle on your physique. But there is much more to the protein story than getting buff. In this article, we reveal 5 of the most important functions that protein plays in your body.
What is Protein Anyway?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that all food is comprised of. It is made up of chains of hundreds of thousands of amino acids. Protein is the raw material from which everything in your body is made. Apart from water, it is the most abundant substance in your body and 65% of it can be found in your muscle cells.
The human body cannot readily store protein. That is why we need to be taking it in constantly, in order to provide the building materials that enable us to constantly replace our cells.
Protein is an essential constituent of living cells. As a result, all-natural vegetable and flesh foods contain some protein. Animals and humans depend upon food for a supply of some of the essential amino acids from which proteins are formed. Plants, however, can manufacture all the protein they need.
Growth and Development
Proteins are the key nutrients in the body’s building processes. They are needed for the formation of antibodies, enzymes, and hormones, as well as being a source of energy. Throughout our lives, a continuing intake of protein is necessary for fitness. Babies and growing children, pregnant and lactating women, and anyone recovering from illness may need extra protein – even a period of stress may increase the need for it.
Regulating pH Levels
pH stands for potential for hydrogen and is a measure of your body’s acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale runs between “0” and “14”.
Water has a pH of “7” making it completely neutral.
Pure Acid has a pH of “0”.
Pure Alkaline has a pH level of ‘14”.
The human body operates optimally at a pH level of 7.4, which is slightly alkaline.
But there’s a problem.
The typical Western diet has made the vast majority of people more acidic than alkaline. In other words, their pH levels are on the wrong side of neutral. They’re not driving forward – they are driving in reverse!
So, what happens when our bodies are acidic?
The main thing is that the body becomes a fat magnet. It gains and holds on to every bit of fat that comes into it and clings on for dear life.
That’s the reason that many people have done all the right things – exercising, avoiding ‘junk food’, drinking their water – and still they can’t make any traction on their fat loss!
It’s because their pH balance is out of whack!
Protein is essential in helping our bodies to regulate pH levels. Different protein types have unique characteristics when you consume them. For example, certain proteins, such as hemoglobin, bind to acids in the human body, which helps to keep your pH level close to that 7.4 ideal.
Amino acids form together in the body to create essential antibodies which help us to combat foreign invaders such as infection. These antibodies are the body’s primary defense against disease. Without them, our systems would become inundated with the virus and we would die.
When our protein intake is insufficient, the body’s ability to produce antibodies is compromised.
When it comes to burning fat, protein has some distinct benefits. For one thing, it has the highest thermic effect of all 3 macronutrients. The thermic effect is the energy used up in the actual process of digesting food. Proteins use up to 30%, whereas carbs and fats use only about 10%.
Protein is a very useful fat loss macronutrient for another reason; it fills you up. It is, in fact, the most satiating of all three of the macronutrients. That means that you will be far less prone to snacking or binge eating when you include quality, lean sources of protein in your diet.
When we don’t take in an adequate amount of amino acids in the form of protein, we may end up in a state of net negative protein balance, also known as a catabolic state. In contrast to carbohydrates and fats, which are quite well maintained in the body, it is quite difficult to maintain a consistent amino acid pool in the body without regular dietary protein intake. It is a bit like trying to keep your bath at a certain level without the plug being in place. If our amino acid intake falls below the daily amino acid breakdown, the body will begin to eat away at our structural protein. That’s why taking in a baseline amount of protein every day is vital to overall health and wellbeing.
Proteins play a significant role in transporting vitamins, blood sugar, minerals, oxygen, and cholesterol into, within,and out of cells. For instance, certain proteins help to transport hemoglobin from your lungs to the rest of your system. Other proteins transport glucose to the cells.
Note that different proteins have different and specific body functions. That means that those tasked with transporting oxygen cannot transport glucose. In addition to transporting nutrients, proteins also store them. For instance, ferritin is a storage protein that stores iron.
There is a whole lot more to protein than simply building muscle. As we’ve seen, this key macronutrient is essential to the proper functioning and protection of your entire body. To meet your body’s need for protein, be sure to eat a lean source of protein with every meal. Prioritize such foods as eggs, white fish, chicken, red meat and whey isolate protein powder, aiming to take in 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight.