‘Protein’ is a word almost everyone hears and reads about. However, what is protein, how many types of proteins are there, what are the functions of protein, and their importance in terms of what do proteins do for the human body is something not known by the average layman.
In this article we will cover all these points, so you come to appreciate its crucial importance in leading a healthy life.
Table of Contents
- What Is Protein?
- What Are The Different Types Of Protein?
- What Are The Various Sources of Proteins or Types of Protein Food?
- How Does Protein Build Muscle Mass?
- How Much Protein Should Be Consumed Daily?
What Is Protein?
Like energy (calorie) providing carbohydrates and fats, protein is another macronutrient required by our bodies to build and sustain muscle mass and support several other bodily functions. Chemically, it is made up of amino acids – the organic compounds consisting of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur.
What Are The Different Types Of Protein?
Along with supplement proteins in foods, some types of proteins in the body are already present and produced. Let us now discuss all of the different types of protein-
1. Hormonal Proteins:
Hormones are chemical substances produced by the endocrine glands in the human body. Their role is affecting various cells by attaching themselves to them.They are largely responsible for the functioning of several organs and tissues. Hormonal proteins are one such variety, like insulin secreted by the pancreas to control the body’s blood sugar levels.
2. Enzymatic Proteins:
These are various reasons behind speeding up your metabolic rate. Enzymatic protein is one such element that regulates liver function, blood clotting, and converting glycogen to glucose. Digestive enzymes are example of enzymatic protein, which breaks down food into more refined forms.
3. Structural Proteins:
These consist of fibers and are crucial elements of the human body. As the name suggests, they are mainly concerned with maintaining body structure or appearance. Structural proteins include collagen, keratin, and elastin. Collagen is the connecting platform for muscles, bones, tendons, cartilage, and even the skin. Keratin works likewise for skin, hair, nails, and teeth.
4. Defensive Proteins:
These are antibodies that support our immune system in warding off various diseases. White blood cells (WBCs) are responsible for producing defensive proteins, which kill off bacteria and viruses, and several other microorganisms – thus keeping us healthy.
5. Storage Proteins:
As the name suggests, storage proteins’ role lies in storing mineral ions, for instance, potassium and iron, in our bodies. An example of storage proteins is ferritin, which safeguards the body against excess iron deposition. Ovalbumin and casein are other examples of storage proteins consisting in a woman’s breast milk and egg whites, respectively, which are responsible for healthy embryonic development.
6. Transport Proteins:
These proteins ferry crucial materials to the cells. Hemoglobin is one such example, which transports oxygen to tissues from the lungs. Likewise, serum albumin transfers fats to our bloodstream; and myoglobin synthesizes oxygen from hemoglobin before releasing it into the muscles. Yet another example of transport proteins is calbindin, which enables calcium absorption from our intestines.
7. Receptor Proteins:
These proteins lie on the outer reaches of cells and regulate the substances which enter and leave such cells. A few receptor proteins activate enzymes, while others enable endocrine glands to release epinephrine and insulin to regulate blood sugar in the body.
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8. Contractile Proteins:
These proteins are behind the healthy functioning of the heart and muscle contractions. Examples include actin and myosin proteins.
What Are The Various Sources of Proteins or Types of Protein Food?
The proteins which are not produced naturally by the human body (essential amino acids) must be a part of our daily diet. These can be found in animal products and plants.
Foods rich in animal proteins include eggs, poultry (chicken, turkey, etc.), fish, beef, mutton, and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese.
Foods rich in plant-based proteins include soy, pea, brown rice, and chickpea.
Kinds Of Protein- What’s The Difference Between Animal And Plant-based Proteins?
All proteins are not the same and there are different kinds of protein. Proteins differ from one another mainly because the primary difference between animal and plant proteins lies in their amino acid make-up. Almost all animal proteins are ‘complete proteins’ – which means that they contain all 9 types of essential amino acids. On the other hand, plant proteins are ‘incomplete proteins’ – which means they lack at least one, if not more, of the 9 essential amino acids.
As the requirement of protein can differ from one another, how much protein per meal can be absorbed has to be calculated by each individual as per their need. So, if you are a vegetarian, you must ensure you eat various plant-based proteins daily to fulfill all the essential amino acid needs.
How Does Protein Build Muscle Mass?
The body metabolizes the protein we consume daily into its structural amino acids, which are synthesized into muscle. About 80 percent of our muscles consist of these amino acids.
There are as many as 20 varieties of amino acids making up each protein molecule. Broadly, these are categorized into two groups:
- Non-Essential Amino Acids – which the body produces on its own
- Essential Amino Acids- are not produced naturally by the body; they have to be consumed through food products or dietary supplements.
There are 9 such essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.
Whey: Best Example Of Proteins For Athletes, Bodybuilders, And Senior Citizens
As we mentioned earlier, whey is an animal-based protein, mainly found in cow’s milk. Several extensive clinical types of researches have proven it to be obliging for animal proteins as far as its efficiency in developing and repairing skeletal muscles and tissues is concerned.
That’s because besides being a complete protein, whey protein is rich in branched-chain amino acids – a subtype of essential amino acids, which support superior muscle growth.
Going by this argument, whey protein is ideal for athletes, those who weight-train, elderly people, as well as post-surgery patients.
How Much Protein Should Be Consumed Daily?
Current research advises us to consume 1 gram of protein per kilogram of our body weight daily. Here, we get the answer for what proteins do for our body or what is the function of proteins. For people into strenuous activities, such as athletes and weight-trainers protein requirement is 2-3 grams per kilogram, depending on their training regimen and muscle-building goals. Similarly, if recuperating from severe injuries or surgery, your body would need higher amounts of protein daily, at least till you fully recover.
Moreover, as we age, our bodies require more protein even if we are not into strenuous activities. This is because the human body can start losing up to 5 percent of its muscle mass every decade after crossing the age of 40. So, elderly people, especially, would require a healthy supply of dietary proteins to maintain the vitality of their muscles and bones.
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The Significance of Protein Absorption
As important as consuming the required amount of proteins is how well our muscles absorb them – daily. Knowing how much protein per meal can be absorbed is also vital. This is one fact which many people may overlook.
On average, most people absorb 10 grams of protein every hour, with the most ideally consumed amount every meal at 30 grams. A few factors which play a role in maximizing protein absorption in our bodies include:
1. Eat Several Small Servings Rather Than Heavy Meals
You would have heard that bodybuilders eat approximately every 2.5 – 3 hours. That’s because of a good reason. Eating such smaller portions throughout the day, with each serving containing 20-30 grams of protein, increases your metabolic rate – and thus protein absorption.
Remember that any excess protein which the body doesn’t absorb is just so much waste! So eating smaller portions is best rather than the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
2. Protein Supplements With Absorption-Boosting Nutrients
Another trick to stimulate protein absorption in the body is by taking a few digestive enzymes such as protease and papain.
Towards this, you could try incorporating a protein supplement powder shake in your diet, which includes these enzymes in the overall composition.
HMB (β-Hydroxy β-methyl butyric acid) is another such nutrient you should keep an eye out for in protein supplements. This not only aids muscle growth but also enables you to sustain muscle mass.
Based on the protein absorption rate and your body requirements, we suggest you to take whey protein (which digests fast) immediately after your workouts. Take casein protein (which is slow digesting) at night when your body can process it slowly during your sleeping period allowing a steady protein supply within your body.
It is essential to include a sufficient amount of all essential amino acid proteins daily. These help with muscle mass and bone development and several other crucial bodily functions keeping our vital organs healthy. It also ensures all categories of proteins are assembled in the diet.
While animal proteins are complete proteins, plant proteins are not. So vegetarians must include a variety of plant-based proteins or include protein supplements to make sure all types of proteins are included in their diet.
It is better to eat several small portions of meals with proteins rather than eating two or three heavy meals in a day. This will keep a check on how much protein per meal can be absorbed by your body and ensure efficient absorption of the proteins you eat.