Why is protein important to the body?
Proteins are compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. They are produced on the ribosomes of a cell and are made up of amino acids that are linked by a peptide bond. However, this is all anatomy biology and to the average person it doesn’t mean much. To the individual passerby, a protein is understood by the food sources that represent it, such as meats, eggs, dairy, seeds, nuts, and vegetables. Most people know that protein is a necessary part of your diet and some people even know that it helps build muscle. But most people have no idea how important protein is to the body.
Protein is such a vital part of the body not only as a food source but also as part of its structure and function. Proteins make up about 15% of a normal lean body mass. This is due to the fact that most of the body is made up of proteins such as muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, skin, hair, and nails. This constitutes the structure of the body. In addition, hemoglobin, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes are also lower capacity proteins. Due to its large presence within the body, it is impossible not to see the importance of protein for our functioning.
Proteins have six different functional roles that they play within the body and in all of our cells. They are structural, regulatory, contractile, immunological, transport, and catalytic. Structurally, protein makes up the structure of the body through muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, hair, skin, and nails. Proteins regulate physiological processes within the body, including growth, development, and metabolism. Neurotransmitters are proteins that mediate the responses and sensations of the nervous system. Hormones are proteins, like insulin, that regulate blood glucose levels. Proteins within muscles control muscle contractions to produce movement of the body. Myosin and actin are the two primary muscle fibers made of protein that shorten and lengthen a muscle. Proteins protect the body from foreign substances and invading microbes. Antibodies and interleukins are two proteins that defend against invasion by pathogens. Protein transports essential substances throughout the body. Hemoglobin carries oxygen into the bloodstream. Proteins regulate biochemical reactions such as digestion. Salivary amylase, sucrase, and ATPase are three enzymes that speed up chemical reactions within the body.
Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are critical in the functioning of our metabolism. There are 20 different amino acids of which 10 are essential amino acids. This means that they cannot be produced within the body or are not produced in sufficient quantities and therefore must be obtained through our diet. With the 20 amino acids, the body can produce all the proteins necessary for proper function. If there is a protein deficiency in the body, which can occur more often in vegetarians, the symptoms can be easily recognizable. Fatigue, weakness, decreased muscle mass, the inability to recover from injury, and hair loss are symptoms of protein deficiency.
In the American diet, most people get enough protein or more than enough protein in their daily diet. It’s important to know that protein within the body is constantly being broken down and replaced in every cell, tissue and organ, so making sure you’re consuming high-quality protein is vital. Complete proteins such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese contain all the essential amino acids and are therefore high-quality proteins. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more essential amino acids and must be consumed in combination with complementary proteins. Examples of two incomplete proteins that complement each other are rice and beans. The recommended daily amount of calories that should come from protein is 35%. This is usually higher for athletes, bodybuilders, and people who train a lot. This is due to the fact that their bodies have to support more muscle mass than a normal person. To find out how much protein you should consume daily, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.4. This will give you your weight in kilograms. It is recommended to consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. Multiply your body weight in kilograms by 0.8 and you will have the number of grams of protein you should consume per day.