What is protein?

Proteins are large biomolecules that contain at least one long chain amino acid, they are useful for many different bodily functions. Proteins are essential in the maintenance and production of cells. Your cells die constantly and are replaced every day, to rebuild these cells your body needs certain resources including carbohydrates and fats, but most importantly it needs protein. Protein is an essential nutrient that the body has to consume for ongoing healthy cell maintenance.

What does it do?

Protein is absolutely essential to the maintenance and functionality of your cells at a micro level and for strength and muscle construction on a macro level. Protein chains inside your cells perform a wide variety of functions, from breaking down other organic structures to moving resources around the cells, as well as moving them between cells to different parts of the body. Once the protein chain is constructed the protein only has a short lifespan before it begins to break down and degrade.

Protein can be mostly found in animal products, such as red and white meats, eggs, cheese and yogurts, these proteins are rich in an amino acid called Leucine that is responsible for the translation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS). This is essential for ongoing muscle growth, repair and maintenance. Other great sources of protein can be found in nuts, legumes, beans and tofu – providing vegans with protein options as well. Recommended daily allowances for protein vary, however studies do suggest that athletes will benefit from consuming protein in the range of 1g per 1-1.5kg of body mass.

Protein is needed even when not exercising

Proteins are essential for maintaining energy levels because they are essential to the transportation of energy to the body, this process is necessary to have the energy just to go about your daily life, concentrate at work etc. Protein is also useful in the immune system, protein works in conjunction with other vitamins and minerals to ward off a variety of diseases and conditions.

Replacing cells is the biggest use for protein, when the body replaces a cell it looks for the material in your diet. When there is not enough in the diet to supply the body’s need for protein it then goes looking for it in other places. The body doesn’t store protein like it does with fats or carbohydrates, so it goes to places that utilise protein and strips it away. This can leave you feeling lethargic, as the lack of readily available protein will have your body overworking itself trying to find enough protein to create new cells.

Why we need protein after exercise

During workout the body suspends most immune system responses as it deals with the increased strain on the body. Protein is needed to kick start the immune system and bring it back to working normally. If this doesn’t happen just right then next time you exercise, the effectiveness of the exercise will be reduced.

During exercise your muscles are tested to great length, they can then stretch and tear. The brain communicates this in the form of pain, generally called either a stitch or muscle pains the next day. Protein is needed to build up and repair muscles, helping to strengthen them.