Proteins are required for the normal functioning of cells in your body. You should be consuming solid protein as part of your daily diet and perhaps protein shakes too. In this article I discuss the importance of protein in greater detail.
Protein is created when amino acids are joined together by peptide bonds. The way the amino acids are sequenced is decided by your genetic code. Proteins are essential for a number of functions in your body such as; metabolism, cell signalling, the immune system, cell adhesion and cell cycle. When proteins enter the body they are broken down into amino acids during the digestion process. These amino acids are then used in areas of the body where they are needed.
Most people associate protein with animal products but a carefully planned vegetarian diet can be rich in proteins too. Below I have outlined some vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources of protein and also discussed the possibility of using protein shakes:
1) VEGETARIAN SOURCES OF PROTEIN:- Protein is lacking in quite a lot of vegetarian foods. However, there are certain vegetarian foods that are rich in protein such as nuts and seeds (including ground nut, cashews and almonds) and soy products (including milk, yoghurt and tofu). It is particularly important for vegetarians to make sure that they find a rich source of protein because this is an area of the diet that they often neglect.
2) NON-VEGETARIAN SOURCES OF PROTEIN:- Protein is a lot easier to find in non-vegetarian foods. Foods which contain protein include; eggs, fish, chicken, meat and milk. Although as a non-vegetarian it is a lot easier to get high protein foods, you should still make sure that you are consuming the recommended levels of protein with your meals.
3) PROTEIN SHAKES:- Athletes and bodybuilders require additional protein to supplement their diets and training efforts. People who are not overly active will use the normal amount of protein supplied in their diets to perform bodily functions. However, people who are highly active (such as athletes and bodybuilders) subject their muscles to an increased level of wear and tear and therefore require additional protein to recover properly. Protein shakes are a quick, convenient way to get this extra protein.
People may also wish to take protein shakes as part of a weight loss diet. Studies have shown that protein can temporarily boost your metabolism and can suppress your appetite. When taking protein shakes it is advisable to limit your intake to a maximum of two servings per day. Increasing your protein intake is OK but excessive consumption of protein can have an adverse effect on your body and your health.
So now you know where to get protein you may be wondering how much is needed? The recommended daily allowances of protein vary based on age and gender, but the following recommended protein intake table gives you a good indication. If you are getting approximately the RDA for protein then you have nothing to worry about. If not this is an issue you need to address. Why? Because apart from the reasons discussed above protein also performs important functions in both children and adults:
1) CHILDREN:- Protein should be a significant component of a child’s diet when they are growing up. As discussed above it is essential for the growth and functioning of cells. This is particularly important for children as they are still growing and developing and so require protein for;
- The building and growth of muscles.
- The support and growth of skin and bones.
- Maintaining healthy eyes and vision.
- Maintaining the immune system (which is extremely important in young children).
Without sufficient protein a child’s growth and development can be hindered. You therefore need to make sure your child is getting the required levels of protein in each meal.
2) ADULTS:- As you age your need for protein does not dwindle. Your body will be subject to constant wear and tear during daily life and protein allows it to be repaired. Proteins are also important for the natural functioning of the body because they transmit nerve impulses. Therefore, you must not neglect proteins just because you are a fully developed adult.
In conclusion, protein is one of the body’s essential building blocks. It is important that you get the RDA of protein throughout your life, from childhood to adulthood. Whether you are vegetarian or not, you should be find adequate sources of protein to meet the recommended levels. With the wide availability of protein shakes available you really have no excuse. However, whilst not consuming enough protein is an issue do not fall into the trap of absorbing too much protein. This can ultimately be just as damaging. As with most areas of your diet – balance is the key.