We have all been taught what a healthy, balanced meal should look like: lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of water, just enough carbohydrates and a good amount of protein. In fact, it is recommendable that protein be present in every meal.
Let’s get the myths out of the way
Unfortunately, there have been some unfounded rumors going round that proteins are detrimental to the kidneys as well as the bone mass. This is entirely untrue. Eating the right amount of proteins everyday has actually mitigated the onset of age-related muscle mass loss and subsequent bone loss.
So what is it good for?
The benefits of protein are numerous. Human bodies are actually made of a lot of protein; it is the most abundant substance in the human body second to water. Proteins are necessary in many life processes in the body and so need constant replenishment, primarily through diet.
So what are the life processes that proteins are needed for?
- Development, repair and maintenance of body tissues – this is especially true for children who are still growing and for older people who are losing muscle mass due to age.
- Energy – While carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy, proteins offer a major source of energy as well and this property is useful in weight loss.
- Manufacture of hormones, enzymes and antibodies, which are critical for normal body function.
This means that protein is literally necessary to sustain life.
Where can we get it?
We mainly get our protein from food. You see, proteins are made of smaller molecules called amino acids. These fall into two categories: Essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.
The body can synthesize non-essential amino acids but not the essential amino acids. Humans need to ingest both groups of amino acids for optimal health. They are present in both plant and animal proteins (albeit more readily in the animals than plants).
However, there are cases where we may not be able to get all the amino acids required simply from food such as:
- Athletes, body builders and people with physically demanding lifestyles.
- Vegetarians and especially vegans, who may find it hard to get all the essential amino acids from plants.
- The elderly experiencing age-related muscle mass and bone loss.
- People suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, liver disease and adrenal fatigue need more proteins that they can get just from food.
- Vitamin B or vitamin C deficiency, asthis has an effecton amino acid uptake.
Amino acid supplements
In these and other circumstances, amino acid supplements are necessary in reaching the required daily intake of protein. They are more energy efficient since it is easy to digest and assimilate them into the body. This is especially critical for patients with catabolic conditions that need to digest and assimilate nutrients with as little energy expenditure as possible.
Their ingestion is also in smaller quantities than food and other protein supplements, which is great for people with low appetites like cancer patients and the elderly.