A little bit of science
Most people know that protein is important for building your muscles. But what is protein exactly, where can you find it and why is it important if you want to increase your muscle mass?
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Chemically speaking, protein is composed of a chain of amino acids, which are organic molecules. Some amino acids can be produced by the body itself, but there are others that must be supplied by food. In total, there are around 20 amino acids used by the body to make new proteins, every day.
All amino acids are arranged in millions of different ways to create millions of different proteins. The sequence of amino acids is what gives each protein its specific function in the body. In other words, the peptide structure of the amino acid chain determines what the protein is and what it does for your health.
So, why do our bodies need protein?
The human body needs protein to maintain good health. It is said to be the body’s building block, as it is used to build skin, hair, nails and, of course, muscle. Together with fat and carbohydrates, protein is known as a “macronutrient,” which means that the body needs large amounts of it.
When food proteins travel through the digestive system, the body breaks the protein back down into individual amino acids and peptides. These are then absorbed in the bloodstream and used to produce thousands of different body proteins which have different functions based on the arrangement of amino acids. These specialised proteins can act as enzymes or hormones, or become structural proteins, such as in building muscles or bones. This is why protein is known to be good for building muscle mass and keeping the body strong.
Where can you usually find proteins?
Protein can usually be found in different food products, including meat, fish and beans. Because all foods contain differing combinations of amino acids, it is possible that a particular protein source is classified as “incomplete”. This means that the food does not provide all of the essential amino acids. Animal sources of protein, such as fish and eggs, are considered complete protein sources. Some plant-based products such as grains and pulses, however, are considered as incomplete protein sources, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids. This is not a problem though, as you can simply combine different protein sources to create a complete protein.
So, why would I need to use any other sources of protein?
The amount of protein you need depends on your body size and how active you are. If you’re an endurance athlete or a bodybuilder, you will need to consume more protein than someone who doesn’t exercise much.
If you do exercise intensely or often, you may want to look into finding additional sources of protein. You can find this in certain sports nutrition products, such as protein shakes or bars. Consuming these products is an effective way to increase your protein intake, which can help to ensure proper muscle recovery or boost muscle strength before, during and after you exercise.
Be aware, however, that the amount and type of protein you need depends on the type of exercise you do and how often you do it. Do you want to know more about what you should take into account when you buy sports nutrition products? Then go to our 10 steps to buying the best protein guide that will help you make the right and sensible choice.