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The Macronutrient Mess- Part II- Protein!

Now it is time to examine the first of the three macronutrients that we will be discussing over the next few weeks- protein.

Protein is used primarily by the human body for structure. It is not a readily available energy source, (although it can be converted to energy in an emergency), but instead, is used as a building block to build our muscles, bones, skin, hair, and all kinds of other things inside our bodies. Protein is made up of smaller building blocks called amino acids. There are some amino acids that your body can make on its own, hence they are called “non-essential”, meaning that your body can make them when needed. There are also other amino acids that you cannot make yourself. You must acquire them from your diet, making them “essential”. We like to use an analogy involving Legos when we explain this to our clients. Frankly, we just love Legos. Either way- imagine that you have a Lego car, but what your body really needs is a Lego boat. So your body will take the Lego car that you give it, disassemble it into its individual pieces, which are those amino acids, and it will reassemble them into a Lego boat, as needed! The benefits of consuming a high amount of protein in the diet are vast. Protein helps you retain muscle mass, which in turn can help keep your metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn every single day, running at a high level. Digesting protein also requires more energy, which can further boost your metabolic rate. Protein also provides satiety, which in our opinion, is quite different from bringing fullness. One could eat a kale salad until they got full, but in a few hours, they would be starving. Satiety means that you feel fully satisfied for many hours. At this point, we must state that there is a big difference in the quality and bioavailability of the protein choices that you make. There is absolutely no question that animal protein is more complete and absorbable than plant protein is, at least for humans. Regardless of what the latest Netflix documentary tells you, no, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is no replacement for a few eggs as far as the protein quality goes. Out of all of the amino acids, those building blocks of protein that we mentioned earlier, leucine seems to be one of the most important, especially when it comes to triggering muscle protein synthesis, or muscle growth. This is critical, especially as we age. Again, animal sources of protein are the champions here. You would have to eat double the amount of soy protein to achieve the same leucine levels that are available in just 25 g of whey protein. Our protein intake recommendations are the easiest for us to make, compared to the other macronutrients, and so we will do that here. The standard guidelines recommend a protein intake that we believe is well below optimal. Sure, we could use nutrition guidelines to get the minimum recommended dosage of certain n