Basics of Protein


Protein is one of those macro nutrients that tends to be ignored or misunderstood in todays society.  It is really a shame because this nutrient plays such a big and important role in our bodies.  There is some debate but on average protein makes up about 50% of the dry weight of the human body, so take all the water weight away and 50% of what is left is made up of protein.
amino acids

What is protein?

Protein is made up of amino acids, and different protein sources have different amino acid profiles, but for this article we will not go that in depth.  There are 21 amino acids and out of those 21 the body can replicate, and these amino acids are listed below and are refered to as non-essential amino acids.

Non-essential Amino Acids:

Alanine (synthesized from pyruvic acid)
Arginine (synthesized from glutamic acid)
Asparagine (synthesized from aspartic acid)
Aspartic Acid (synthesized from oxaloacetic acid)
Cysteine
Glutamic Acid (synthesized from oxoglutaric acid)
Glutamine (synthesized from glutamic acid)
Glycine (synthesized from serine and threonine)
Proline (synthesized from glutamic acid)
Serine (synthesized from glucose)
Tyrosine (synthesized from phenylalanine)

Now the amino acids that the body cannot replicate are refered to a essential amino acids because it is essential that you obtain from your diet.

Essential Amino Acids:

Arginine
Isoleucine
Histidine
Leucine
Methionine
Lysine
Phenylalanine
Tryptophan
Threonine
Valine

It is important to note that the body cannot store protein like it does with fat and carbohydrates in the form of body fat.  As a result of this inability to store protein if there is a lake of amino acids in the blood and the body needs amino acids then the body will resort to catabolism and break down skeletal muscle tissue to get a the protein or more importantly the amino acids within that protein.

How much protein is required?

This may seem like an easy question to answer, just go by the RDA's recommendations of 0.8 g/kg to 1.2-1.8 g/kg per day.  well that might work for the average person, but it does not adequately take into consideration things such as gender, activity level, amount of skeletal muscle you have, and what sport or activity you are training for etc.  So with something that has so many variables it is difficult to give an exact figure, but a good way to make sure you are getting enough protein for your body and physical demands is the following.

check the color of your urine every time you go to the bathroom, if the urine has a strong odour and is a dark rich yellow color then that is a good indicator that your body is breaking down muscle tissue to get the protein your body requires because you are not supplying enough through the diet.  If you notice when you first urinate in the morning your urine is a dark yellow, well that is mostly because you have not supplied your body with any protein for over 8hrs or more!

So tweak your protein intake day to day until you reach a level were you no longer have urine that is a dark rich yellow color.  But keep in mind other things can change the color of your urine such as being dehydrated and taking antibiotics etc.  so use this as a guide and aid to get your protein intake to roughtly the right level, and remember it is not a fool proof method, so it might not work for you.

Be sure to consult your physician before you start drastically altering your diet or protein intake, especially if you have a preexisting health problem or concern.

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