Five facts about protein

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Anyone who deals with the subject of protein should first be aware of the function of proteins in the body. Because only those who know what the body needs protein for are also able to use proteins correctly for their personal goals. So let's answer the question first:

What are proteins and why do we need them?

Proteins are made up of branched-chain amino acids. In the body, they are important building blocks for biological and chemical functions. Our muscles are made up of proteins to a very large extent, just like many different cells. About 15-17% of an adult's body mass is protein 1 . Protein building blocks and thus muscles give us the opportunity to move, to support our immune system and contribute to the growth and differentiation of cells.

We cannot produce all the amino acids in the body ourselves, which is why we depend on a high-quality supply. The recommendation for sufficient protein intake through food is between 0.8g to 1.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight 2 . This intake is absolutely sufficient for a classic cross-section of our population. But the situation is different for people and athletes who do intensive endurance or strength sports, i.e. train intensively several times a week. The protein requirement here is around 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. If the body is denied a sufficient supply, not only does the muscle mass suffer, but also our performance.

In the following we have therefore compiled the TOP 5 facts about protein for you

1. Protein fills us up

Many studies have already been successfully completed on this. If we supply enough proteins, this has a special influence on the feeling of satiety and also on the feeling of hunger. This means that proteins fill you up faster and, above all, longer than, for example, short-chain carbohydrates from a light bread roll or a croissant. When it comes to general satiety, however, proteins can also be compared well with fats. The difference in the energy balance alone makes it harder for fats: Proteins are 4kcal / g, fats 9kcal / 3 . This means: if you want to be slim and defined, you will fare much better with a good protein intake - ie less cravings and fewer between meals and snacks due to longer satiety.

2. Muscles need protein

Without protein, there are no muscles and less regeneration, because even sore muscles (small muscle damage (which inevitably occurs during training) need to be repaired with proteins. However, this also means that our metabolism and our own basal metabolic rate are significantly dependent on each other. That means more muscles burn more calories and increase the basal metabolic rate Per kg of muscle weight, an additional consumption of 13 kcal can be expected, with 2 kg of muscle mass therefore 26 kcal/day 4 .

3. The body does not store excess protein

Anyone who believes that their own protein intake is based on the motto “a lot helps a lot” is wrong. The reason: the number of proteins that the body can no longer use, for example because it can no longer absorb them due to oversupply, it does not store "for later", but excretes them. On the one hand, this means that the body only uses the proteins that it can really use and, on the other hand, we do not necessarily gain weight due to oversupply.

Nevertheless, caution is advised with a significantly increased protein intake, as this can lead to an overload of the kidneys. Because our kidneys are responsible for the breakdown and elimination. So the following applies here: It makes sense not to increase the intake by more than 1.8g per kilogram of body weight and not to overdo it with the maximum amount of protein per meal in order to avoid temporary excesses. The body can absorb between 25 and 30 grams of protein per meal.

4. Fat and carbohydrates dilute protein

In science this is called "protein dilution" (discovered by Australian biologist David Raubenheimer 5 ). We have learned that the body absolutely needs a certain amount of protein in order to maintain its physiological processes. So craves protein (we sometimes know this as cravings) but what he gets is a dilution from carbohydrates and fat. In this combination we tend to gain weight. In other words, you eat until you have enough protein. And with it, the amount of carbohydrates and fats also increases. We don't gain muscle, we gain body fat. This is often the reason why we always take in more food than we physically need.

5. How to recognize a good protein supplier

A good source of protein is not only characterized by a high proportion of protein, but should also be low in fat and carbohydrates. We know them from products such as low-fat quark, eggs or lean meat. This is how high-quality dietary supplements should be designed. Especially for high-protein dietary supplements. This is ideal for athletes and people who travel a lot but still want to provide their muscles with quickly available protein.

Another factor to consider when looking at protein suppliers is the composition of the amino acids they contain. As we already know, our bodies cannot produce all of the amino acids on their own. We have to absorb nine amino acids completely from food (there are 20 different amino acids in total). These 9 are called essential amino acids. When selecting the protein source, you should always ensure that the composition of amino acids is as complete as possible. These proteins are also called “complete proteins”. Pistachio, for example, is considered to be one of the most complete profiles. In the case of plant sources in particular, it makes sense to combine several sources. Bon appetit!

Source information:

1: German journal for sports medicine: "Pro Protein - Proteins and their importance in nutrition"

2: German Society for Nutrition: "Selected Questions and Answers on Protein and Essential Amino Acids"

3: dr Helmut Pabel: "Fundamentals of Nutrition"

4: Prof Dr Theodor Stemper wrote for F&G: "Stronger muscles increase the basal metabolic rate!", 03/2015

5: Extensive details on this, for example, in the nutritional compass by Bast Kast