In scientific terms, a protein is a molecule made from chemicals called amino acids that our bodies need to function properly. They carry oxygen through our blood, boost our immune system and build muscle. There are 20 different amino acids in all, nine of which the human body can’t actually produce. These are known as ‘essential’ amino acids and we need to get them from food. Protein, which is made up of individual amino acids, provides the building blocks that your body uses to make new cells. In addition, protein is also responsible for giving cells structure, transporting and storing other nutrients in the body, and ensuring that the organs and glands of the body are functioning normally.
Generally speaking, you want to aim for anywhere between 0.8-2 grams per kilogram of body weight for ideal protein intake. Note that the higher side of this range is for active people eating a diet that contains a proper number of calories for optimal performance and daily energy needs. If you are not exercising regularly, you do not need a lot of protein as your body simply will not experience the level of breakdown and rebuilding that comes with vigorous exercise. More than 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight does not show any extra performance benefit; in fact, it can stress the liver and cause dehydration.
Now, we agree that the amount you need to eat is a complex topic. That's why it’s far easy to tailor your intake to your workouts.
Grams of Protein
|Whey Protein||1 scoop||20-25|
|Chicken Breast||100 grams||31|
|Turkey Breast||100 grams||30|
|Lean Steak||100 grams||30.6|
|Egg Whites||6 whites||26.5|
|Whole Eggs||1 large||8|
|White Fish||100 grams||22.8|
|Cottage Cheese/ Paneer||1/2 cup (170 grams)||16|
|Yogurt||3/4 cup (100 grams)||9|
|Milk||1 cup (250 grams)||20-23|
|Dals or Pulses or Sprouts||1 cup (250 grams)||8|
|Soya beans||1/2 cup(170 grams)||17.6|
|Nuts and Seeds||1/2 cup (170 grams)||6|
Complete proteins have all nine essential amino acids. Whey and all animal sources are complete proteins, i.e, fish, chicken, beef, yogurt, etc. Incomplete proteins are proteins lacking any of the nine essential amino acids. Examples of incomplete proteins are grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Proteins produce antibodies for our immune system and are key components of our hormones. They make up our connective tissue, skin, hair and nails. Our body does not store excess protein in muscles; excess protein is either used for immediate energy or directed into gluconeogenesis, where it is turned into a carbohydrate and used for immediate energy or stored as fat. As we age, our ability to metabolize protein wanes due to a decrease in enzymes within the body that help break down the protein molecules. Protein is used to repair muscle damages and depleted during training. It is not the desired fuel for muscles during resistance training.
Branch chain amino acids (BCAA), are unique essential amino acids taken directly into skeletal muscle and used for energy, without first being metabolized in the liver. The three BCAA are Leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAA can be an efficient energy source for the muscle during exercise after the preferred fuel- glycogen, has been depleted. Research shows supplementing BCAA before and after exercise can decrease muscle damage and promote synthesis of muscle proteins. Examples of foods high in BCAA are: pork, red meat, poultry, dairy, wheat germ, beans and brown rice.
Whey Protein is a branch chain amino acid in milk that is stripped away when making cheese. This protein consists of leucine and glutamine amino acids. When consumed, it is absorbed directly into the body and does not have to be metabolized. Whey protein has protein fragments called peptides that increase blood flow to muscles, allowing more oxygen and nutrients into exercising muscles. Taking 20 grams upon waking, as well as thirty minutes before and after exercise, is common among weightlifters and body builders because of its quick absorption.
Casein protein, also found in milk, is slower absorbed amino acid, because it must be metabolized before it can be used. However, casein is better for long term protein gain because it provides a steady stream of amino acids for several hours after ingestion.
Glutamine is the most abundantly found amino acid in the blood and skeletal muscle. Formed from glutamate in the muscle, glutamine supports our intestinal tract and immune system, and maintains our body’s acid-base balance. Glutamine converts into glucose in the liver to offer additional glucose for fuel during exercise. 6-10grams of glutamine supplement before and after exercise promotes protein synthesis, glycogen synthesis, and increases lean muscle mass and strength. Foods high in glutamine are beef, chicken, fish, beans and dairy products.
Cysteine is an amino acid that protects cells from free radicals. It helps our respiratory system by breaking down proteins in mucus that can settle into our lungs. Cysteine is found in yogurt.