Regardless of whether or not you are wanting to become a champion bodybuilder, lose some fat for the summer, perform well in sporting events or improve all round health, then high protein consumption is going to be of utmost importance.

A major trend in the diets that we analyse here at Pioneer Performance reveals just how low protein intake actually is. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are normally void of any protein, with the main intake being at an evening meal. From this, the first thing we like to change in our clients nutritional interventions is an increase in protein.

In this short 3 part series we will take you through the science based facts on all things protein, sieve through the confusion and ambiguity out there so you can make informed decisions when changing your diet to make the progression you deserve. To avoid any confusion and for arguments sake, throughout this series the main aim is to be relevant to individuals wanting to either build muscle or lose fat.

So…. Let us get started

***Part 1 – The basics of protein***

Proteins when ingested from dietary sources are broken down in the body through the process of digestion where they are then used for the bodily process they are required. Proteins are present in all living tissue within the body such as skin, muscle, nerves, enzymes etc….

Through digestion, the proteins you eat are broken down into its smaller sub-units known as amino acids. Amino acids are known as the building blocks of life and there are 20 of them that are used and synthesised into the various proteins we need. These amino acids are absorbed through the small intestine and transported and assembled into new human proteins.

We require an exogenous (outside the body) supply of protein to deliver all the amino acids needed to be able to function and offset disease. These are known as essential amino acids and there are 9 of these. We also use non-essential and conditionally essential amino acids that our body can synthesise by itself in the liver providing an adequate amount of appropriate precursors available. These make up the remaining 11 amino acids.

In food sources we have either complete proteins or incomplete proteins. Complete proteins contain all the 9 essential amino acids that we need. These generally come from sources such as meats, fish eggs and whey, however, other plant based foods also can be complete proteins such as quinoa, and soy.

Incomplete proteins are commonly plant based sources. These contain some but not all of the essential amino acids we need. Most grains, nuts and legumes (beans, lentils, chick peas) and incomplete proteins. You can, if needed, pair incomplete protein sources to acquire a meal full of all the essential amino acids, but this takes more planning.

In terms of energy, protein yields around 4 calories per gram with it also being the most satiating macronutrient. This means meals of high protein will leave you feeling fuller for longer compared with fats and carbohydrates helping with any hunger issues.

Without repeating myself too much from what I’ve said above, protein intake is vital for repair and growth of bodily tissues. One in particular that most are interested in is skeletal muscle. So when you go hell for leather in the gym and you wake up the next day with DOMS (Delayed onset of muscle soreness), your body requires the intake of protein for repair and growth of this tissue. So not eating enough protein will slow recovery leading to impeding performance and progress. The proteins we consume are also used for various other functions such as promoting healthy brain function, help maintain strong bones and increase mood through synthesis of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.

Every meal we consume should be centered around a complete protein source to allow for adequate protein intake, but how much protein do you need to consume?

Next time we will go in to detail on the quantity requirements of protein for various goals.

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