Protein is the basic structure of living organisms, one of the three macronutrients necessary for proper functioning. It is primarily associated with building muscle mass and this is also its role. In addition to the building function, the component also performs other important tasks in the human body.
What is protein?
Protein is a macromolecular chemical compound that is made up of amino acid residues, connected by peptide bonds.
It occurs in all living organisms and performs various functions, i.a. building, transport or regulating.
Protein accounts for an average of 20% of the total human body weight, and without it the proper functioning of the body would not be possible.
Proteins can be divided according to the functions performed in the body, due to the structure, as well as the amino acid composition. However, let's focus on this last division, where we distinguish between wholesome and deficient proteins.
Wholesome proteins provide the body with all essential amino acids. Their sources include primarily animal products, such as meat, milk, dairy products, but also some vegetable ingredients, e.g. soy.
The ideal formula in terms of proportion and amino acid content, to which the tables of amino acid compositions refer, is considered to be chicken egg whites. For this reason, it is called a reference protein. It contains a full amino acid profile, suitable for the human body.
In turn, most proteins of plant origin are included in the incomplete proteins. These are proteins that do not contain all exogenous amino acids. To get a wholesome source of protein, you should combine various foods with each other, e.g. eat millet porridge together with vegetables and nuts, or whole-grain bread with peanut butter and tomato.
Providing all the essential amino acids to the body along with a daily, varied and balanced diet should not be a major problem. A carefully composed menu can support the regeneration and reconstruction of damaged cells, accelerate convalescence and ensure the proper functioning of the whole body.
One of the basic tasks of proteins is the building function. Protein is part of every cell, it is necessary for proper development and growth. What's more, proteins also play an energy role, and 1 g of protein provides the body with 4 kcal.
The macronutrient is also part of many enzymes and hormones, as well as antibodies. Therefore, proteins participate in numerous metabolic processes, as well as support the immune system, reducing the risk of infection and affecting the cellular and humoral response. Proteins also have a transport function, they are responsible for the movement of oxygen, iron and vitamins.
Due to their buffering abilities, proteins affect the pH of the blood. Moreover, they are necessary for the repair of damaged tissues and participate in the process of vision, carrying light stimuli.
The role of protein in the athlete's diet
In the daily diet of physically active people, we observe an increased demand for protein, which results from the fact that proteins are the building blocks of muscles and tissues. Their proper supply therefore contributes to the growth of muscle mass.
At the same time, due to the anti-catabolic properties of proteins, proteins support the maintenance of muscle mass. The macronutrient also supports the regeneration of the body after exercise, shortening the recovery time after all kinds of diseases and injuries and also affects the development of lean muscle mass, thanks to which it helps in achieving the perfect figure.
It is important to know what protein needs our body has and every day to meet its needs through an adequate supply of protein.
Protein supplied to the body should come from food as much as possible, but in the case of increased demand or unskillful balancing of the menu, protein supplements can also come to the rescue.
The need for protein depends on age, sex, physiological state and the type and intensity of the activity practiced.
However, we can assume that a healthy, adult person needs about 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. For a man weighing 80 kilograms, this is about 72 grams per day.
To increase muscle mass, it is recommended that the daily portion of protein is about 1.2-2.0 grams / kilogram of body weight.
The exact demand, as we have already mentioned, however, depends on the type of physical exercise practiced and its intensity. In endurance training, the demand is slightly less than in strength and bodybuilding training.
Deficiency and excess of protein in the diet
Protein is an extremely important macronutrient, both in the diet of an average person and a qualified athlete. Without proteins, the body would not be able to work properly, which is why the proper supply of the ingredient is very important.
Too low protein intake, as well as too high protein content in the diet, can adversely affect health and contribute to the occurrence of undesirable symptoms.
Insufficient protein supply can lead to symptoms such as:
- hair loss and brittleness,
- poor nail condition,
- prolonging the wound healing process,
- increased susceptibility to infections and prolonged recovery time,
- problems with concentration and memory,
- increased appetite,
- hormonal disorders,
- muscle and joint pain,
- reduction of muscle mass,
- bone demineralization.
Long-term and insufficient supply of protein to the body along with the diet can lead to protein-energy malnutrition that results in the development of serious life-threatening diseases.
It would seem that a diet rich in protein is a healthy diet. This is partly true, but the menu should always be well balanced, and the content of macronutrients must not exceed the individual needs of the body.
Too much protein in the diet is also dangerous for the body and can lead to symptoms such as:
- constipation, bloating and nausea,
- mood drop,
- skin changes,
- weight gain,
- weakness of the body,
- unpleasant breath - excess protein in the diet promotes the secretion of a large amount of ketones. In extreme cases, it can lead to ketoacidosis, which is accompanied by a characteristic smell of acetone,
- leaching minerals from bones.
What is a protein supplement?
Protein supplement is a product that enriches the menu with easily digestible protein.It is a low-energy addition to the diet, which provides a feeling of satiety and eliminates hunger.
At the same time, the protein supplement is a universal tool for every athlete and, regardless of the training experience, helps to achieve the desired results. It also supports the body exposed to increased protein loss.
Protein supplement - for whom?
Protein supplements are intended primarily for people who have an increased need for proteins. Thus, they will work great as an element of the menu of physically active people, both amateurs starting their adventure with sport, as well as qualified, experienced players.
Protein supplement will also be used among those who care about achieving an ideal figure, improving the appearance and reducing body fat.
It will also work well among people who can not properly balance the diet and provide adequate amounts of macronutrient along with the daily menu (although then, before starting to use nutrients, it is recommended to consult a dietitian).
When is the best time to use protein preparations?
It is worth using protein supplements after training, because then in a quick and easy way we will provide the body with a portion of easily digestible protein, which is quickly digested and affects regeneration almost immediately.
In the case of a macronutrient deficit in the diet, it is recommended to use a protein supplement during the day, e.g. in the form of a shake.
It is always worth following the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging. Do not exceed the recommended portions of the supplement, because excess protein in the diet leads to serious health consequences.
It is not recommended to take too much of the supplement at once. In order not to burden the body, it is recommended to spread the daily dose into several portions throughout the day.
The effects of using protein supplements
Protein supplements are not used without a reason. First of all, they can have a positive effect on the process of building muscle mass, thanks to the richness of protein contained in them. In addition, they can support the process of inhibiting the breakdown of muscle tissue, indirectly affect the increase in strength and improve physical performance. In addition, protein preparations can shorten the time of post-workout regeneration and provide a feeling of satiety for a long time.
Protein supplements can also contribute to the reduction of body fat. 1 g of protein provides the body with 4 kcal, but the body uses 24 kcal to absorb it. Thus, protein affects metabolism, and in combination with physical exertion, it can enable healthy reduction of body fat and improvement of the figure.
Protein supplement among people who want to lose unnecessary kilograms can also contribute to the protection of muscle tissue by inhibiting muscle catabolism.
Which protein preparation to choose?
There are many different protein preparations available on the market and the most popular types of nutrients include:
- Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) - Whey Protein Concentrate - a protein of animal origin. The concentration of proteins in the preparation is 60-80%. Whey protein concentrate is an optimal source of proteins with good bioavailability and short absorption time. Carbohydrates and fats constitute a small percentage of the product portion. Since it is a universal protein supplement, it can be used at different times of the day,
- Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) - Whey Protein Isolate - the preparation does not contain fats and cholesterol and each portion of the product is 90-95% protein. Whey protein isolate is a protein that absorbs very quickly. The product is distinguished by excellent solubility and bioavailability. It supports the construction of large and strong muscles. Whey protein isolates are recommended to be used immediately after waking up and after physical training,
- Whey Protein Hydrolysate (WPH) - Whey Protein Hydrolysate - the level of pure protein in preparations of this type is 90-100%. It is the fastest and best absorbable dietary supplement, which is formed by breaking peptide bonds between amino acids.
Among the available protein preparations, we also distinguish:
- Beef proteins, which usually include hydrolyzed beef proteins. It is a protein with excellent bioavailability,
- Vegan proteins incl. soy protein or pea protein. These are proteins that are extremely popular among vegetarians and vegans,
- Casein (casein protein), which is referred to as a night supplement, which results from the prolonged absorption kinetics and very slow absorption. Casein stays in the blood up to 6 hours after consumption and protects tissues from breakdown, which significantly reduces catabolic processes and improves night regeneration.
There are many different nutrients that differ in the origin of proteins, the content of pure protein, the rate of absorption and assimilation in the body. Choosing the right preparation is an individual matter. The protein supplement used should be tailored to the needs of the player and the type of physical effort undertaken.
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