Why is Protein so important to health?

Why is Protein so important to health?

Protein is a component of every cell in the human body.  It is not just for building muscle.  Your hair, skin, cartilage, bone, blood, and hormones consist significantly of protein.  With the exception of water, protein makes up the majority of your lean body weight. Many people believe that bone is made up only of calcium and other inorganic minerals, whereas collagen (a protein), makes up a significant percentage of bone. In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body.

As we age, we lose muscle and bone mass naturally.  This can be delayed or offset by a diet rich in good quality protein and by the correct type of exercise.  Unlike fat and carbohydrates, your body cannot store protein.  So, if your body needs protein to repair muscle, bone, skin etc. it has to obtain this from your bloodstream from recently digested food.  If it cannot, it will lead to wastage of muscle, bone, skin etc. Consuming sufficient protein rich foods, preferably at every meal, is thus essential for long term health.  It is doubly important to ensure that amino acids (building blocks of protein) are available in your bloodstream during and after exercise.

A sure way of ensuring amino acid availability is to consume a good-quality whey protein shake and/or amino acid drink, in particular ones that contain BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids).

The optimum amount of protein depends on your weight, starting point condition, your goals and the extent and type of exercise that you do.  As a general guide, for a fairly inactive person, one should consume 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  So for a person weighing 85 kg, this would equate to 85 grams per day.  This could be obtained by eating 350 grams of chicken or beef.  If one works out regularly or is very active, the requirement could easily double.  Very soon, it becomes more practical and cost effective to add a whey protein and amino acid supplement to one’s diet. Protein shakes can also be used to replace unhealthy fatty or sugary snacks.

For weight loss, remember that muscle burns calories 24/7, ensuring that one’s muscle mass is kept high, will result in a leaner body.  Protein also kills hunger.  So it’s a winner all round.

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