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Understanding protein and its importance

The word “Protein” comes from the Greek word “Protos” which means “Of first importance”. Protein is the main component of the human body, if you were to compare your body to a building, protein would be the raw material. Like fats and carbohydrates, proteins are made up of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. The real difference between protein and the other two macronutrients is the presence of nitrogen. Scientists use nitrogen tests to compare protein utilization in the body by comparing the amount of nitrogen consumed with the amount excreted through urine, feces, and sweat.

Your body is a very complex machine that constantly changes, evolves and adapts to the circumstances you put it through. In fact, physicists have shown that your body changes or replaces 98% of its atoms in 1 year, that means, molecularly speaking, you’re not the same person you were a year ago, you may feel like you haven’t. You haven’t changed, but your cells, tissues, and organs are made up of entirely new atoms.

Protein plays a crucial role in these processes, as it is what your body uses to replace damaged or dead cells within. Where does all that protein come from? The answer is from the food you eat, hence the saying “You are what you eat”, and that is not an exaggeration either.

The smallest protein units are called amino acids; they are the “bricks” that make up the building blocks of proteins.

Proteins are made up of multiple amino acids linked together. There are 20 essential amino acids needed for the human body to grow. From these 20 basic amino acids, tens of thousands of different protein building blocks can be formed. Just as bricks are used to create different building structures (walls, paths, chimneys, ovens, etc.), amino acids are used to create proteins designed for different purposes within the human body.

Amino acids can be broken down into essential and non-essential amino acids. The human body is capable of manufacturing 11 of the 20 amino acids; these are called “non-essential.” The remaining 9 amino acids are called “Essentials” as the body needs to get them from food.

The list of “essential” and “non-essential” amino acids includes:

Essential amino acids (essential):










Non-essential (dispensable) amino acids:

to the girl



Aspartic acid


Glutamic acid






When you eat food, the body uses the amino acids contained in the food to make the proteins required for its various metabolic processes, however, when one or more of the non-essential amino acids is missing, the body has to make them within the liver.

To prevent the body from breaking down its own protein, you must provide it with foods that contain all 20 amino acids. These food sources are called “Complete Proteins.” Most of these proteins come from animal sources, such as meat, milk, and eggs.

Vegetables, legumes, and grains are considered “Incomplete Proteins” because they are missing or have more amino acids. For example, beans are very high in protein, but they lack the essential amino acid Methionine. One way to overcome this is by combining “Incomplete Protein” sources with each other to make a “Complete Protein” source. Rice and Beans is a prime example of this.

Protein cannot be stored for later use, unlike carbohydrates. This makes consuming at least one complete protein source with each meal critical to avoid negative nitrogen balance or muscle tissue breakdown.

As with the other two macronutrients, there are better sources of protein than others. A basic guideline to follow is to make your protein source as lean as possible.

Sources include:

chicken breasts

or Turkey Breasts

o Lean cuts of red meat


o Low-fat/fat-free dairy products such as milk, yogurt, or cheese

o Fish and other shellfish.

All of these sources will provide you with all the essential amino acids your body requires without the saturated fats associated with other animal protein sources.

As for combining “Incomplete Proteins” to make “Complete Proteins”, there are some simple guidelines to follow:

o Combine Vegetables with Grains

o Combine nuts with grains or vegetables

o Combine any animal protein with any incomplete protein

The question of how much protein an individual who wants to gain muscle should take is a subject of much debate. Some believe that a high protein, low carbohydrate diet with more than 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight is the way to go, others argue instead that much less protein is needed and that 50-60 grams a day is everything a healthy human adult needs.

However, for the purpose of gaining muscle mass, the most widely accepted guideline for active men is to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

A better approach to calculating total protein intake is to use macronutrient ratios. This means that you determine your total daily caloric needs and divide the calories from the three main macronutrients into percentages.

So, for example, a 190 pound man needs 3,000 calories to maintain his weight, he wants to add muscle mass so he eats an additional 500 calories, bringing the total to 3,500 calories per day. Of those 3,500 calories, 30% will come from protein, 50% from carbohydrates, and 20% from healthy fats.

Protein and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, and fat contains 9 calories per gram. So, if we do the calculations, we get:

3500×0.3=1050 – 1050 calories of protein

3500×0.5=1750 – 1750 calories from carbs

3500×0.2=700 – 700 calories from healthy fats

1050+1750+700=3500 – Grand total of 3500 calories per day

If you want to know how many grams of each macronutrient you need each day, just divide the total calories from protein or carbohydrates by 4 or fat by 9.

1050/4=265.5 – 265.5 grams of protein

1750/4=435.5 – 435.5 grams of carbs

700/0=77.7 – 77.7 grams of fat

With these simple formulas we not only know the number of calories you need from each macronutrient, but also the number of grams.

To summarize the article, I would like to outline the following points:

o Proteins are the essential building materials used to rebuild all tissues in the human body.

o The protein building blocks necessary for human growth are made of 20 amino acids, which can be arranged in tens of thousands of ways to produce the proteins needed in the body.

o Animal protein sources are an excellent example of “Complete Proteins” that contain all 20 amino acids.

o Vegetables, legumes, and nuts are “incomplete proteins” because they are missing one or more essential amino acids.

o Providing the body with complete protein sources is crucial to avoid negative nitrogen balance and muscle tissue breakdown.

o The most widely accepted guideline for the recommended daily intake of protein is 1 gram per 1 pound of body weight for men.

I hope by reading this article you get the basic knowledge of what protein is and why it plays such an important role in your body.

With this in mind, always remember to train hard, eat a lot, and rest to grow!

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