While most people associate protein powder with lifting weights and exercise, there are many other reasons for using this exceptionally popular supplement.
What is protein?
Proteins are made of amino acids that fall into one of 3 categories: essential, non-essential, and conditionally essential. Essential amino acids cannot be created by our bodies and must be consumed through foods or supplements. Non-essential amino acids, on the other hand, can be produced by our bodies. Then, those under the conditionally essential category are the amino acids needed in larger amounts when we face certain situations such as when under high stress. “Complete” proteins are those that provide all essential amino acids and can be especially important for vegetarians and vegans.
How do our bodies use proteins?
When we consume protein, our bodies break it down to release the individual amino acid building blocks. These building blocks are then used as needed to repair damaged tissues and make important neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes.
During exercise and physical training we push our muscles to do more than they are accustomed to and this results in tissue damage. This damage is felt as delayed-onset muscle soreness and not to be confused with pain during exercise as this is often a sign of injury. Our bodies then use amino acids to not only repair these damaged tissues, but to make them stronger than before.
Membranes surround and protect each cell in our bodies and contain many different types of proteins including those that help move nutrients from the bloodstream into the cell where they can be used. These membranes also have enzymatic proteins are necessary for our cells to perform essential life-giving chemical reactions such as ATP energy production. With an average cell having about 1 billion chemical reactions per second, getting enough essential amino acids (protein) ensures our bodies can make all the enzymes they need.
Our connective tissues as well as our hair, skin, and nails are all made of proteins. Ensuring adequate protein intake helps maintain elasticity and the healthy, youthful glow we all want. Tendons, cartilage, bone, and ligaments are all examples of the connective tissues that depend on sufficient protein – specifically, collagen and elastin. Collagen is protein that provides strength and structure to connective tissues, while elastin, just as the name suggests, provides the elasticity needed for free movements.
Our immune system uses a collection of proteins throughout the body. Some are used as communication tools like alerting leukocytes (white blood cells) that cells have been damaged and need to be destroyed. Others, like antibodies, are responsible for combating bacterial and viral invaders. Without enough protein, our defenses are weakened leaving us vulnerable to infection and disease.
Many crucial hormones and neurotransmitters are made from amino acids including hunger hormones, insulin, thyroid hormones, adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine to name a few. Amino acid deficiencies could cause hormone and neurotransmitter imbalances leading to a wide range of illnesses and other symptoms.
Having a protein shake between meals helps keep you feeling full and provides the energy you need between meals without snacking. It comes highly recommended in most weight loss plans because the benefit is undeniable. Plus, it’s so versatile! You can simply mix a scoop of your favorite flavor in cold water for an on-the-go treat, blend it with your favorite fruits for a delicious smoothie, or bake it into your favorite cookie recipe. The options are as endless as your creativity.
Have a great protein recipe you want to share? Put it in the comments section!
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