What Are Protein Supplements?
To understand what protein supplements are, we must look at the role of protein in the body:
Protein is one of the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Macronutrients are a class of nutrients that the body needs to survive. They are macro because the body needs them in large amounts. They are sources of calories with each of the three serving different functions in our body. The human body is about 60% water, after that we are mostly protein. Protein is part of every cell, every bone, the blood and every other tissue. Protein is mandatory for building new living tissue. How important is that for building muscle? Protein constitutes the cell’s machinery. They do the cell’s work while carbohydrates and fat supply the energy for this work to take place.
Protein – What’s In A Word?
The word “protein” was introduced into science by the Swedish physician and chemist Jons Jacob Berzelius (1779-1848). He also determined the atomic and molecular weights of thousands of substances. Berzelius also discovered several elements including selenium. Finally, he created the present system of writing chemical symbols and reactions. The word protein was named by the Dutch chemist Geradus Mulder in 1838. It comes from the Greek word “protos”. This means “of prime importance”.
Protein Supplements – The Role Of Protein In The Body
Our bodies constantly assemble, break down and use proteins. This means we must eat enough protein daily so this process can take place. This assembling process occurs through the use of amino acids. These are commonly called the “building blocks” of protein. Let’s look at it in a different way. The body will take the 20 known amino acids and create literally thousands of combinations. Each of these combinations serve different functions in the body.
Of the 20 amino acids, 9 are considered essential. This is because the body can’t make them. They must be supplied by the diet. They are: Histidine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Valine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine and Tryptophan. The remaining non-essential aminos are: Alanine, Arginine, Asparagine, Aspartic Acid, Cysteine, Glutamic acid, Glutamine, Glycine, Proline, Serine and Tyrosine.
Positive Nitrogen Balance
Protein is essential for growth and the building of new tissue. It’s also essential for the repair of broken down tissue. This is the case at the end of your workouts. Have you heard the term “positive nitrogen balance”? It’s a common term. You’ll hear it used in bodybuilding and weight lifting circles. The term refers to having enough protein available for the needs of the body. This includes the needs of building muscle. What does nitrogen have to do with protein? According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary: nitrogen is “one of the important elements in all proteins, nitrogen is essential for tissue building.” What is more important is that nitrogen is a direct measurement of protein levels in the body.
How To Maintain A Positive Nitrogen Balance
Dietary protein and protein supplements helps you maintain a positive nitrogen balance ( or positive protein balance). Your body is actually in an anabolic phase in this state. A negative nitrogen balance, from lack of adequate protein, indicates a catabolic state.
Anabolic is defined as “ the phase of metabolism in which simple substances are synthesized into the complex materials of living tissue”. Catabolic is defined as “ The metabolic breakdown of complex molecules into simpler ones, characterized by destructive metabolism”.
It’s for this very reason that taking in enough protein throughout the day. The timing of these protein meals is so important. Why? Not enough protein, and your body begins to break down muscle tissue to meet the it’s demands. This means the constant assembling, breaking down and use of proteins (in the form of amino acids). So we can see the importance of adequate protein in our diets. Also the consequences of not enough protein through-out the day.
Many modern authorities agree. You need at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight. Some suggest as much as 1.5 grams per pound. Divide this over 6 small meals or feedings. Put another way, you should be eating protein every 3 hours.
As noted above, the body will use amino acid sequences or chains to perform a myriad of functions all day long. To make these chains, it will pull protein in the form of amino acids from your food. If enough protein is not available, it will pull what it needs from muscle tissue.
So, with all of that, protein supplements are very simply, protein sources available primarily in powder form. The critical point to understand about protein powders is the ability of convenience. We understand why properly timed protein intake is important. It should be clear why powders can be useful. They allow quick and easy access to a quality protein source. As well, speed of digestion is crucial. This is true in your post workout shake and morning protein intake. Whole food simply does not digest fast enough.
What About Whole Food?
Does that mean protein supplements should replace whole food? No, it does not. But they are justified by the fact we can’t always get to whole food and there are times we need a more specialized use which is best fulfilled from supplements.