When discussing nutrition with most fitness enthusiasts, the nutrient that is most likely to come up as being “most important” is protein. There are all kinds of proteins supplements today, along with multiple forms of BCAA supplements. But what is protein, and why do people put such an emphasis on it? How much protein should someone consume in a day? What is the best source of protein? These are the questions we’re going to look at today, so that by the end of this article you will have a good base of information to improve your diet and crush your goals.
Let’s start with the basics. Protein is a macronutrient composed of amino acids and is often referred to as a “building block” within the body. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, protein is generally not considered an energy source, although a gram of protein contains four calories. Within the protein, there are three kinds of amino acids: non-essential amino acids, conditional amino acids, and essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids are made within the body, and consist of alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, and serine. Conditional amino acids are made in the body under most situations, but not all situations. The conditional amino acids are arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, and tyrosine. The amino acids that performance nutritionists are most concerned with are essential amino acids, which are not produced in the body and must come from food. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. These amino acids serve several purposes within the body, but the main functions are muscle building and tissue repair, along with playing a role in various body functions such as the immune system, blood clotting, and hormone production. Needless to say, protein is a crucial nutrient within the body, especially for athletes. However, because protein is such a critical nutrient, how much should someone consume in a day, and what are the best sources of protein?
As a general rule, most athletes actually eat too much protein. Contrary to the current trend in the fitness industry, more is not better when it comes to protein. The problem with high protein diets is that the body starts using protein as an energy source instead of using it to build and repair tissues. In addition to this, too much protein can also raise acid levels in the body which can lead to gastrointestinal distress along with other health complications. Here at No Bull Fitness, we recommend athletes consume between .8 to 1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. However, with that being said, diets are specific to each individual and vary depending on what the athlete’s goal is. In addition to how much protein is being consumed, it is important consider the source of the protein. There are a lot of commercial protein supplements that are currently available, but most athletes are able to get all the protein and essential amino acids from their diets without supplementation. We recommend that you evaluate your diet before you start turning to supplements due to the fact that supplements have a lot of other things in them such as sugar and other artificial ingredients that are just empty calories and will not help your performance. Some examples of healthy sources of protein include but are not limited to lean meats, seafood, eggs, nuts, cheese, milk, tofu, almonds, and edamame.
Those are the basics of protein, and hopefully you now have an understanding of what protein is, why it’s important, and where to get it. If you have any further questions about protein or nutrition in general, or if you want to take advantage of our performance nutrition services, be sure to let us know!
Do you have questions? Want to talk more about nutrition? Contact a coach and we’d be happy to help!