At some time in life, we have all heard the word protein. However, we don’t focus on its importance.
Proteins are part of various tissues in our body, from muscle fibers to the brain and other vital organs such as the heart.
Including the recommended amount per day not only guarantees the proper functioning of these organs but is also associated with other benefits in nutrition.
This article looks at the importance of protein, the benefits, and how much is needed per day.
What are proteins?
Proteins are one of the three fundamental macronutrients. Like fats and carbohydrates, they are one of the most critical components of our body.
To understand what proteins are, you have to go to a smaller scale and look at their structural units: amino acids.
As if they were the bead of a necklace, the amino acids unite one after another until they form a long chain that starts the first structure of the protein.
Then according to the types of amino acids by which the proteins are formed, these unions give it a particular shape. This form gives it the function and plays a role in the importance of proteins.
What is the importance of proteins in nutrition?
The importance of proteins in nutrition is diverse. These molecules are of great importance for the regeneration of the muscular system, the hormonal balance as well as prevention of sleep disorders.
The best known importance of proteins is muscle reconstruction. Without this macronutrient, it is impossible to increase muscle mass.
To see it clearly, they can be compared to proteins are like the building blocks of muscles; building a house without the materials is impossible. Therefore, its importance is emphasized.
However, the importance of protein is not limited solely to the muscular system. This is one of the nutrients that are part of almost all the tissues of our body, the components of the skin, etc.
Proteins are essential to strengthen the immune system, the nervous system, and even the enzymes that participate in digestion are proteins by definition.
To emphasize its importance, the DNA molecule itself has as its primary function to provide the exact information on how to make proteins. DNA commands the body to create hemoglobin and other proteins of great importance, like a conductor to his orchestra.
In short, its importance is vital; without protein, there is no life.
How many proteins do you need per day?
An average person needs about 1.5 g of protein per body kilogram per day. This is the equivalent of about 105 g per day for a 70 kg man.
The amount of protein that a person needs per day varies according to their activity. When playing sports on a regular basis, this value can increase by up to 20%.
The recommended (minimum) amount of protein is 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight for a sedentary person and a maximum of 2.0 grams for high-performance athletes (2,3,6).
To achieve muscle hypertrophy, some trainers recommend eating a higher amount of protein. (3)
On the other hand, it has been proven that the digestive system can absorb 10-15 grams of protein per hour. Therefore, the amount of protein needed per day should be distributed between 20-30 g per meal. This is what is known as protein timing .
The importance of protein in the diet does not lie only in quantity but in its quality.
To obtain the benefits of proteins, you have to know how to choose them.
The best proteins provide a complete amino acid profile and are absorbed quickly. These are called proteins of high biological value .
Proteins of high biological value are found in various foods, particularly those of animal origin. However, they are also found in vegetables, cereals, and seeds. Egg white is one of the best known. Including good quality protein foods in the diet is essential in nutrition.
The most challenging amino acids to find in food and most important in the muscular system are the branched chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are the first to destroy themselves when intense physical exertion occurs. If they are not included in the diet, muscle mass is likely lost.
Proteins participate in all vital systems and functions of our body. For this reason, it is more correct to speak of importance or need than of benefits.
In any case, it is correct to affirm that a quantity of proteins has the benefits of improving muscle recovery and optimizing metabolic processes in our body.
In addition, some particular proteins such as glucosamine and chondroitin are essential to prevent diseases in the joints. The benefits of proteins are:
- Improve the neural system
- Prevent type 2 diabetes
- Regulate cholesterol levels
- Improve muscle recovery processes
- Ensure joint health
- Prevent insomnia disorders
- Ensure hormonal regulation
- Increased fertility in women.
Foods with the highest amount of protein
As a general rule, it can be said that products of animal origin are the foods that have the highest amount of protein. Eggs, meats, and dairy products have the best absorption percentage.
For those who carry out a vegetarian diet, alternatives such as nuts and pseudo-cereals can effectively provide the amount of protein that is needed per day.
White cheese or lean cheese are the dairy products that contain the most protein (20-30 g per 100 g). A figure is comparable to the content of meat. Hard and semi-hard cheeses such as Parmesan have higher amounts of fat. Abusing the consumption of these foods is not the best idea to cover the amount of protein needed per day.
in 100 g
|Whey supplements||70 — 75 g||95 – 99%|
|Meats (beef, chicken, fish)||20 – 30 g||95 – 99%|
|Dairy products||10 – 30 g||90 – 99%|
|Eggs||12 – 15 g||95 – 99%|
|Nuts||10 – 25 g||65 – 70%|
|Cereals and pseudo-cereals||12 – 15 g||40 – 60%|
|Fruits and vegetables||2 – 3 g||65 – 70%|
Table of protein content in food vs% absorption.
Vegetable proteins – The importance of combining them well
The protein content in plant foods is generally lower than in foods of animal origin. As a general rule, seeds and flowers are foods with a higher amount of protein than the stems and leaves of the same plants.
Some plants and plant derivatives (such as soy protein) are high in plant protein content. However, its quality is usually relatively lower.
Although many plant foods have lower protein quality, they can be combined for better results. For example, rice protein is high in methionine but low in lysine. In legumes the amino acid content is inverse.
If these two plant foods are eaten together, the amino acids of one protein can compensate for the deficiency of the other, resulting in a protein of high biological value. (8)
This is of utmost importance for those who follow a vegan diet.
Mushrooms are high in protein content.
Mushrooms and other kinds of mushrooms are among the products that top the protein foods list. Food from the Fungi Kingdom (mushrooms) is an excellent option to cover daily needs.
Combining mushrooms, nuts, and spinach with a portion of beans is enough for an average person to reach the necessary protein per day. However, it is also of great importance to consider the absorption percentage and the correct amino acid combination.
|Food||Protein content 100 g||% absorption|
|Soy protein||30 – 50 g||90 – 95%|
|Dried mushrooms||20 – 30 g||70 – 80%|
|Beans||20 – 25 g||65 – 70%|
|Lentils||20 – 25 g||65 – 70%|
|Chickpeas||20 – 22 g||65 – 70%|
|Nuts (various)||10 – 25 g||65 – 70%|
|Spinach||3 – 4 g||65 – 70%|
|Papas||2 – 3 g||65 – 70%|
|Fruits (various)||2 – 3 g||65 – 70%|
|Berries||1 – 2 g||65 – 70%|
Table of the number of foods with proteins of vegetable origin
How to know when there is a lack in the diet? – Symptoms
The lack of protein in the diet causes various symptoms, from a loss of muscle mass, chronic fatigue, mood swings, even a decrease in defenses, and more incredible difficulty in concentrating.
Lack of protein is common in people who lead a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet for long periods. Ensuring that you provide an adequate amount of protein is essential in nutrition.
With age, protein synthesis gradually slows down. This is the case with collagen, an essential protein for the support of the organs and the maintenance of the skin. Upon reaching adulthood, the body loses about 1-2% collagen per year. Taking hydrolyzed collagen is an excellent strategy to prevent it. (5)
Lack of protein in women
A lack of protein in women can cause hormonal changes and menstrual cycles. According to studies, a protein diet is associated with low testosterone in women. Some doctors have even used it as a treatment to improve fertility. (4)
These results suggest a close relationship between the amount of protein ingested with female reproductivity. Adequate consumption of this macronutrient is of great importance for a correct hormonal balance, as well as to ensure the production of estrogens.
Proteins are one of the 3 essential macronutrients.
The importance of proteins in biological terms is simple: without them, there is no life.
The importance of proteins in the human body ranges from recovery to proper nerve function and the muscular system.
The structural components of these molecules are amino acids. Those of good quality (high biological value) provide essential amino acids and are absorbed quickly.
One of the myths about protein is that the more you eat, the better. The recommended daily allowance for the average person is 1.0 – 1.2 g per kilogram of this macronutrient by body weight. Consuming more than this amount has no additional nutritional benefits.
The foods with the highest amount of protein are meats, eggs, and dairy products. Including pseudo-cereals, mushrooms and nuts are of great importance to cover the daily needs.