Role of Protein in Healthy Lifestyle

What is protein

Protein is any of a large group of naturally occurring complex, organic, nitrogenous compounds. Each is composed of a large combination of amino acid containing the elements, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, usually sulphur and occasionally, phosphorous, iron, iodine or other essential constituents of living cells.

Twenty-two amino acids have been identified as vital for proper growth, development and maintenance of health. The body can synthesize fourteen of these amino acids, called non-essential, whereas the remaining eight must be obtained from dietary sources termed essential.

Protein is the major source of building materials for muscle, blood, skin, hair, nails and the internal organs. It is necessary for the formation of hormones, enzymes and antibodies and as a source of heat and energy. It functions as an essential element in proper elimination of waste materials. Excessive intake of protein may in some conditions result in fluid imbalance.

How to get the best support

In the 1990’s during the low-fat craze, protein suffered a bad rap as fat because to a large extent the two developed a tendency of linking together in foods. The thinking was if fat was bad, protein was also bad. However, as the thinking shifted, carbohydrates became the “bad boys” in the battle of the bulge. We now take on the habit of eating as much protein as we like. This is just as bad as the other extremes previously practiced. But there is a balance between the two extremes in focusing on healthier ways of viewing proteins that is becoming popular among both experts and lay-people.

Protein plays a vital role in human life as described. We need it to build, sustain and maintain proteins for optimal metabolic processes and for our survival. Protein gets its structure from long chains of amino acids. Our bodies are able to make some of the amino acids, but the rest come from foods. This is the reason we need to be sure that we’re getting enough of these essential amino acids by choosing high-quality protein sources.

The present trend and thinking is that we need to eat protein on a regular basis since our bodies have a very limited capacity for storing extra protein. With this in mind, the timing of eating is important in getting our protein. It is important to eat protein at constant and regular intervals throughout the day rather than eating large amount at once then we deprive ourselves for hours. Our metabolism fluctuates between high and low when we eat large amounts at once. This is something you don’t want to happen.

What to do to get the maximum benefits from protein

We need to know which kinds of protein are more absorbable, which foods provide them and how to incorporate those foods into our diet at regular intervals. Why? The amino acids from proteins remain in the blood stream for only about four hours after eating. It makes sense to include our protein sources in most if not all of our meals and snacks.

Protein: an ignition for fat burning

When we don’t eat enough high-quality protein throughout the day, our bodies may slow down our metabolism and put it in a state as if it were going on an inactive winter vacation. We don’t want this to happen. On the other hand, when we eat an optimal amount of protein, it instantly increases fat burning, or thermogenesis. It’s shown that a Protein rich meal or snack can burn up to 40 percent more calories than a high carbohydrate alternative. It does this because it “boosts oxygen consumption by 200 to 300 percent, an indicator of a much higher metabolic rate.”

The research findings

Recent research shows that high protein, moderate carbohydrate, low fat meals produce a greater level and longer satiety (sense of fullness) than high fat meals. The main reason is that protein breaks down more slowly than carbohydrate.

Australian studies proved that people who followed high protein diets showed “significantly greater reductions in total fat and abdominal fat than people who followed low protein diets.” In this context, “high Protein” meant that protein was not really high in the true sense but that it represented 30 percent of calories, compared with 15 percent of calories in the low protein group. Another factor proteins promote is the production of glucagon, the hormone that enables the body to use fat as fuel instead of storing it. It’s essential for building new muscle tissues, as well as for boosting energy.

A research scientist at MIT said, “Protein tends to change neurotransmitters balance in favor of alertness – a sign that our metabolism is ramping up.” Here is a test: when you need a burst of energy and mental sharpness – eat a protein snack before you venture into your activity. Researchers feel that natural protein supports the production and secretion of human growth hormone (HGH). To this they attributed that consuming “a protein rich food or beverage right after exercise may elevate secretions of the hormone.” They felt that in both women and men, HGH appeared to enhance fat burning and energy production.

Now that you know the role of protein in healthy lifestyle, your nutritional journey will be much leaner and you will reap the rewards.

I’d love to know: how much protein do you get on a daily basis and from what sources? Leave me a comment below!

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