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What does Protein Do for You?

It's a common assumption that you only consume protein to support your lean muscle; however, this is just the tip of the iceberg. While protein is essential to maintain, repair, and grow muscle tissue, protein holds several additional vital functions in optimal health beyond muscle growth. Protein's Greek definition is "of prime importance," which is fitting, considering every cell in the human body has a protein component.  Body organs, skin, hair, nail, blood vessels, bones, connective tissue, cartilage are all made up of proteins. What else does protein do? 

  • Enzyme and hormone production- enzymes are essential to generate daily energy. Protein releases a hormone to keep blood sugar levels in check.
  • Antibody production- to support immunity and protect from infections and illness.
  • Weight loss and maintenance- a higher protein diet has been shown to impact important weight regulating hormones and calorie burning.

 

Protein Quality

Muscle consists of approximately 75% water, 20% amino acids (protein), and 5% small levels of fat. To support lean, toned muscle, it is necessary to consume enough protein and water; however, not all proteins are created equal. The quality of the protein is also important. The body requires enough levels of all nine essential amino to initiate the maintenance, repair, and growth of muscle tissue. Missing quantities of even just one of these essential amino acids impairs the process and can reduce the protein's quality. Of all essential amino acids, Leucine is the "switch" to turn on the muscle-building process. After the muscle-building process ignites with enough Leucine, the other eight essential amino acids must be present to carry out the muscle building and repair process.

 

Dairy or Plant

For optimal muscle recuperation power, dairy proteins (whey and milk protein) lead the category with high levels of both leucine and overall essential amino acids. The makeup of dairy proteins optimally matches human amino acid requirements. However, if you prefer plant protein, you can still obtain optimal benefits by ingesting more of your preferred plant protein source. For example, with a pea-based protein, you will require about 30 grams to deliver a similar leucine level and other essential amino acids as 20 grams of whey protein.

Consuming more protein to maximize the response from most plant protein sources also means consuming more calories. However, if you consume enough essential amino acids from plant-based protein sources (leucine in particular), you can achieve a similar muscle protein synthesis response.

 

Beyond Muscle- Collagen Protein

Collagen protein consists of one-third of the body's total protein content.  

  • 70% of skin
  • 30% of bone
  • 80% of tendons and ligaments

To best support our body's major building blocks, some collagen protein inclusion is a smart consideration. Take note; collagen is not traditionally good for its muscle recuperation ability due to lower levels of essential amino acids. However, the unique amino acid makeup DOES make it a critical component to major structural systems in the body.



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