What Is Protein?
In addition to carbohydrate and fat, protein is an essential nutrient to promote growth and enhance human health. Thousands of different proteins exist in nature, and each type has a certain combination of amino acids — some have just two or three amino acids (dipeptides, tripeptides) and others have thousands. Most living things produce hundreds of different varieties of protein, and each has a certain purpose within that species.
Why Is Protein Important?
Protein serves many purposes, including:
Growth and maintenance of skin, bone, joints, muscle, nails and hair
Enzymes (a type of protein) support body functions by making important chemical reactions possible
Maintenance of fluid and pH balance
Formation of vital antibodies, blood clotting factors and immune factors
Hormones such as HGH and insulin (both are made from protein)
How Does Protein Work?
Most of the proteins that the body uses must be made "from scratch" from available free amino acids. If they're not available, as a last report the body will break down muscle and other types of tissues. This is why protein supplements are critical, especially for athletes and bodybuilders. Other benefits of protein include support for low cholesterol diets and for immune system health.
Here's how protein is created and used:
Protein-rich foods are first digested in the stomach
Enzymes dismantle them into free amino acids
Amino acids are absorbed in the small intestine
Only amino acids are absorbed; not the entire protein
Biological Value or BV of a protein measures how quickly and easily a protein source can be broken down by the body into free amino acids for building new proteins
Most popular and most effective protein supplements use sources with high BVs (casein and whey protein, egg white protein)
At All Star Health, we carry a wide range of high-performance protein supplements. These All-Star nutrition supplements include vegetable protein, whey protein, casein protein, pea protein and more. AllStarHealth.com is your premiere source for protein supplements from leading brands like Cytosport, Kind, Universal Nutrition, Optimum Nutrition, Ultimate Nutrition and Clif Bar.
Protein and Amino Acids
The human body requires 20 different kinds of amino acids. Some can be manufactured by the body, but the essential amino acids cannot. Those must come from one's diet, just the same as vitamins and minerals. In addition to biological value, another way to measure the value of a certain protein source is to measure the amounts and compare the range of amino acids that source contains. Complete proteins have all 20 amino acids. These complete proteins include all proteins that come from animal sources plus a few from plant sources like soy and hemp. For glutamine and arginine, those are conditionally essential, which means that they only need to be supplemented under certain circumstances. They're often seen as standalone supplements. See our amino acids department for additional information about the benefits of each of the amino acids.
Our protein powders and protein bars get their protein from various sources:
- Whey – derived from milk; most popular and most efficiently absorbed
- Egg White – high-quality source; nearly cholesterol-free
- Soy – most popular of vegetarian sources; provides isoflavones with hormone balancing and antioxidant properties
- Rice – great option for vegetarians who want to avoid soy
How Much Protein Is Needed?
Even among experts, recommendations vary. It typically depends on the individual and their goals. The amount of protein is given in grams per pound of ideal bodyweight, for a 24-hour day. Healthy non-athletes should consume about .4 grams of protein per pound. Bodybuilders and athletes who are just interested in building or maintaining muscle mass might require .8 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of actual body weight.
How to Use Protein Supplements
With so many types, protein supplements are easy to use. Shakes and protein bars, due to their convenience, are very popular. They provide the same protein as a large serving of meat with much lower cholesterol and fat (if any). There are protein dietary supplements in ready-to-drink shakes, meal replacement products (MRP) with added vitamins, weight gain products and low carb versions.
Protein Supplements – Side Effects and Cautions
The primary risk of protein supplements relates to liver or kidney disease or protein-restricted diets. There is also a caution for those who are allergic to certain types of protein such as soy. Protein supplements should not be used as your sole source of protein or nutrition.
As your doctor or nutritionist if you have questions about specific protein requirements or to find out if a protein supplement is right for your situation.