Did you know that the human body is made up of around 45% protein? Now you can see how important protein is in maintaining a healthy body.
So what does protein do?
We need protein to help build and repair our body tissues, produce hormones, enzymes and essential chemicals to help build up antibodies that enable our immune system to resist disease, especially those that are caused by malnourishment.
Protein is also used as a fuel for the body to supply energy, build stamina and reduce fatigue caused by exercise and exhaustion. It also helps to regulate bodily functions such as muscle contraction, water balance and the transportation of nutrients around the body.
Without a good supply of protein we would probably all resemble stick insects, and find it really difficult to lift that bottle of beer to our lips at the bar while trying to impress a girl with the flex of a well-toned bicep!
The process of protein metabolism
All proteins are chains of polymer made from amino acids connected by peptide bonds. Once inside the stomach, digestive enzymes get to work by breaking down the protein bonds making polypeptides that provide amino acids for bodily use.
You may well have heard of essential amino acids. These are nutrients that the body cannot make for itself, so you have to get these from consuming protein rich foods. Non-essential amino acids are made within the body from metabolising essential amino acids, or by the normal breaking down of our own protein supply. Conditional amino acids are also non-essential, and are only produced by the body in times of illness or stress to give the immune system a boost.
The essential amino acids that cannot be made within the body are leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, phenylalanine and histidine. All these have to be supplied through food.
Non-essential amino acids that are made within the body are alanine, asparagine, aspartic acid and glutamic acid. Conditional non-essential amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.
You can also buy over the counter amino acid supplements that use different combinations to suit your particular nutritional needs.