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ShFit Talk #19 - The Importance of Protein

We all hear about the importance of protein. Protein Power has become all the rage but what do we really know about protein and all the cool stuff it does for our body?

Protein’s primary job is to build and repair tissue and structures in your body. It is also invoked in synthesizing hormones, enzymes and more. Protein can also be used to provide your body with energy if you don’t have enough calories/carbs.

When you eat some protein it travels down to your stomach where it is broken down so it can do it’s thing. Protein is created by the body from amino acids and, although we can make some of these amino acids, some essential amino acids have to be acquired through our diet.

The body uses about 20 amino acids to build different types of proteins. Some of those proteins go to build your muscles while others go to other things like the skin, bones and cartilage, and yet other proteins are stored as energy.

Your body is ALWAYS using energy, even when you are not at the gym getting your lift on. Your brain needs energy to keep your body going, your heart needs energy to move the blood around your body, your lungs need energy so you can get it. Even sleeping you are burning energy. If your body's energy sources are too low, your body will turn the protein it has stored into energy (glucose or ketones) so that you can keep on going! How cool is that! No need for us to tell our body to do it, our body knows what it needs and does it on its own.

You can get protein a number of ways but the main and best way is from healthy foods. Meats, fruits, veg, grains and dairy.These are what we would call complete proteins and provide you with all the essential amino acids in the right rations! Just what the body ordered. You can also get some incomplete proteins that are just a few essential amino acids short.

We are all different, so seeing someone at the gym whose physique you like and just asking them“hey, how much protein do you eat?” and taking that amount and running with it wont work. There are a number of factors that play a role on the amount of protein that YOU PERSONALLY need to consume to keep your body happy. When taking you protein requirements into account you have to look at a person's activity level, daily exercise, daily caloric consumption, body composition goals and more.

As I said early, protein is the main component of muscles and so much more so it is VITAL that you get enough of it. Without adequate protein our body would not be happy and we would be in some serious trouble. Some of the side effects of being protein deficient are:

  • Swelling in your abdomen, legs, feet and hands

  • Mood Changes

  • Weak hair, nails and skin

  • Fatigue and Weakness

  • Hunger

  • Reduced Healing Rate

  • Getting and/or Staying Sick Longer

Although many Americans get more than enough protein, a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging did note that people over the age of 50 in the US have a tendency not to get enough protein.

As we talked about earlier protein is used when we exercise. Sometimes you many need to adjust your protein intake depending on what your personal goals are. When we workout we put stress on our muscles and since protein is what our muscles are made of, a post workout protein boost can help with muscle healing and repair while we sleep, plus it helps to maintain healthy metabolism and body weight. Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body's ability to recover after exercise. Although it is not exact, many experts recommend that you get that post workout meal/protein within about 45 min or so after your workout. If you can’t eat within 45 min, it's important to not go much longer than 2 hours before eating a meal.

All this being said, you should not rush out and just eat PROTEIN PROTEIN PROTEIN. You can eat TOO MUCH PROTEIN. There are a number of high protein diets out there. From Atkins to Paleo. Even the popular Keto diet, which emphasizes a high fat diet, can run the risk of being too high protein. Now most experts don’t often advocate exceeding the recommended daily amount of protein. When you exceed that recommended amount, not only will your body turn around and store it as fat which will lead to weight gain, but also bad breath, constipation, diarrhea, dehydration, kidney damage, increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and calcium loss. It is important to note that many Americans are already actually exceeding their recommended protein and caloric intake regularly. Although high protein diets are often used to help with weight loss, studies have shown that long-term it is associated with weight gain and overall cardiovascular risks.

So what are the expert recommendations? Let's first remember that the recommended amount depends on a number of factors and no 2 people are alike. The recommended dietary allowance for most adults with minimal activity is around 0.8 g per kg of body weight per day. If you are someone who is working out every day, then eating 1.2 - 1.7 g per kg of body weight per day should do the trick. If you are one of those Olympic level elite athletes or something...well you most likely have a nutritionist who has already got you on a very regimented diet.

So what should the take-away from all this be? Your body needs protein, but too little sucks and too much can actually make you put on weight while having some other really not fun side effects so you should probably just stick to the recommended amount and if you want to eat more than that, talk to your doctor or a nutritionist about it first. :-) And always try to get that post workout protein filled meal in your body at least 45 min to 2 hours after your workout!



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