Protein, protein and more protein – that’s what most of us gym lovers chant throughout the day. Our eyes are like protein hunters, making us see only two kinds of food items: protein and non-protein. Have you ever really wondered what protein actually does to your body? Or why is it considered to be so important in building muscles? Chances are you that you don’t know that well about your favourite nutrient.
What is protein?
The word protein is derived from the Greek word protos, meaning ‘”first” and the Greek word proteios meaning “the first quality“. European scientist believed that it was essential to life and hence named it protein.
Basically protein is an essential nutrient which forms the structural component of our body tissues. It assists our body in various biological processes like making enzymes and antibodies to fight infections, regulation of cells and tissues, and forming DNA, the building blocks to life. After water, protein is the substance present in the highest quantity in our body. At 60-70%, most of the protein is present in our muscles. It also makes up our hair, fingernails, flesh, blood and tissues.
Proteins are large molecules consisting of amino acids. “Oh, and what are amino acids?” Building blocks of protein. In total, there are 20 types of amino acids and an even larger number of protein types. Okay, let me try and make it simpler. Consider these different types of amino acids as bricks. These bricks are used to a build a house, which can be thought of as protein. Now, the type of house that will be built depends on the sequence or the way in which these different bricks (amino acids) are arranged. You’re getting it better now, aren’t you?
Why is protein so important in building muscles?
Building block of muscles – that’s what protein is. When we perform an intense workout, our muscles tear because of the increased strain they face. Now, this is where the role of protein comes in. Our torn muscles cannot recover by their own and it is protein that repairs them and speeds up the healing process. Once our broken muscles have been knit together, they come out as larger and stronger, giving us the gains we desire. Aside from muscle repair, two types of protein, actin and myosin, are involved in muscle contraction and movement. Hence, there’s no doubt as to the importance of protein in growth and maintenance of muscles.
How much protein to consume?
I’ll answer it very straight-forwardly: if you’re working out regularly, you should be consuming around 1.5-2 gm of protein/kg body weight daily. Suppose you weigh 80 kg, then your daily protein intake to fuel muscle growth should be somewhere around 80*1.5 = 120 gm of protein.
Unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein is not stored in our bodies. Thus, the body does not have any storage from where it can seek protein whenever it needs to. It is hence advised that you take 5-6 small meals a day, with good protein content, so as to keep your body constantly supplied with this essential nutrient.
What are the best protein sources?
Proteins can be classified on the basis of their Biological Value (BV), which is a scale of measurement to determine what percentage of a protein source gets utilized by the body. In other words, it means how quickly and efficiently can the body use a particular protein source. In theory, the highest Biological Value of any food item is 100 (percentage). Here’s a list of various natural foods and their ratings:
|Food||Protein Rating (BV)|
Care to know how proteins created in the lab (protein supplements) fare?
|Protein Supplement||Protein Rating (BV)|
|Whey Protein Isolate||159|
|Whey Protein Concentrate||104|
The charts above gives an idea about the absorbability of protein for various types of food items in our bodies. Whey protein is considered as the most preferred drink to have after a workout for the sole reason that it gets absorbed the quickest in our body, giving our muscles a very speedy recovery.
Eat clean, train dirty and always be sure to give your body the protein it needs!