Proteins & Amino Acids

Protein is one of three macronutrients used by the body for energy. These macronutrients include protein, carbohydrates and fats. Protein is found throughout the body - in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are and keep you that way.

Twenty or so basic building blocks, called amino acids, provide the raw material for all proteins. Following genetic instructions, the body strings together amino acids. Some genes call for short chains of amino acids, others are blueprints for long chains that fold, origami-like, into intricate, three-dimensional structures.

Because the body doesn't store amino acids, as it does fats or carbohydrates, it needs a daily supply of amino acids to make new protein.

In addition to its muscle building properties, protein is needed :

  • To keep a balanced PH level in the blood.
  • For muscle tissue preservation during dieting or cuts.
  • As energy source when there are no carbohydrates available.
  • To build and maintain proper hormone levels.
  • For necessary chemical reactions to take place.
  • To keep the body's immune system functioning properly.
  • For proper regulation of the body's fluid balance.

Protein and Muscle Growth

Increasing your daily protein intake while on a resistance training program helps to increase lean muscle mass. The human body is in a constant state of "protein turnover." Muscle tissue is continuously being repaired and replaced. To maximize this repair, you must maintain a protein positive nitrogen balance.

When you under eat protein, you confuse your body. It only has so many raw materials to work with, and can't repair everything it needs to repair. In this scenario, muscle can be lost. In addition, other vital bodily functions are compromised, such as hormone regulation and blood PH balance.

When you are involved with an intense weight training regimen, more muscle tissue than normal is in need of repair. This is the reason why weightlifters and bodybuilders need more protein. Muscle growth is more taxing on the body's nitrogen balance than muscle maintenance.

Frequent protein feedings insure a steady stream of amino acids, and help maintain a proper nitrogen balance.

Protein and Fat Loss

Protein foods are very thermo genic. Simply put, it requires more energy to digest protein. The human body has to work 30% harder to digest protein foods then it does to digest and process carbohydrates and fats. For this reason, a high protein diet boosts your metabolism and aids in fat loss.

Proper protein intake is also required for the body to properly mobilize stored fat for energy. If you under eat protein, your body will have a harder time drawing on fat stores, and may cannibalize muscle tissue for energy. This is one of the reasons why low protein diets can make you feel weak and tired.

Protein and Recovery

Protein plays a vital role in muscle recovery and workout "rebound." When you work out, two things happen :

  1. Your muscles are depleted of glycogen.
  2. Your muscles are damaged, and are in need of repair.

A steady stream of protein insures a proper nitrogen balance. And a positive nitrogen balance allows your body to be in "muscle repair mode". The faster your muscles repair, the faster you recover. Conversely, under eating protein foods creates a negative nitrogen balance. In this state, it will take longer to recover.

Extra protein is essential, especially for athletes who have frequent workouts, or for athletes who are cutting fat.

Protein food sources
Around the world, millions of people don't get enough protein. Protein malnutrition leads to the condition known as kwashiorkor. Lack of protein can cause growth failure, loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and death.

Typical protein food sources include: eggs, cheese, milk, chicken, seafood, fish, poultry, beef, pork, lamb, veal, soy, nuts and legumes. Some of the protein you eat contains all the amino acids needed to build new proteins. This kind is called complete protein. Animal sources of protein tend to be complete. Other protein sources lack one or more "essential" amino acids-that is, amino acids that the body can't make from scratch or create by modifying another amino acid. Called incomplete proteins, these usually come from fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts.

Vegetarians need to be aware of this. To get all the amino acids needed to make new protein and thus to keep the body's systems in good shape, people who don't eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products should eat a variety of protein containing foods each day.

How Much Protein do I Need?

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults in the USA is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This translates to approximately 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 200 pound individual, the minimum RDA requirement is 72 grams of protein per day. For a 150 pound individual, the minimum RDA requirement is 54 grams of protein per day.

Those involved with intense exercise, or individuals looking to add muscle mass, should consume at least twice the RDA's recommended minimums. It is generally advised that bodybuilders eat 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Another good guideline is to make sure that 20 to 40% of your daily calories come from protein sources.

Protein supplement foods have grown in popularity over the years because of several factors. They are convenient, and require no cooking time. Protein supplements are also cost effective, and can provide an average serving cost far below that of beef, seafood and even chicken.

The following is a list of common terms associated with protein supplements:

Isolate. An isolated protein source is one that has been chemically purified to remove most everything other than the actual protein source. Generally isolates are 90%+ pure protein.

Concentrate. A concentrated protein source is not as pure as an isolate, and generally contains 70 to 85% of the protein source. Concentrates contain more fats, carbohydrates, and in the case of whey protein, more lactose.

Blends. A protein blend is a combination of various protein sources and purity levels. A blend can be more cost effective than a pure isolate, and can also offer the benefit of having both fast digesting and slow digesting protein sources.

Weight Gainer. Weight gainers are high calorie protein powders meant to assist bodybuilders and athletes who are in need of rapid weight gain. They can be used as meals on the go, or in between meals as a means of adding extra daily calories.

Meal Replacements. Meal replacement protein products are considered to be entire meals in and of themselves. They contain a formulated nutritional and macronutrient blend that provides not only enough protein, but also an appropriate amount of carbohydrates, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals.

Recovery. A recovery blend is a protein supplement that contains any number of additional, non-protein supplement products meant to aid in post-workout recovery. These supplements range from creatine to multivitamin and minerals, and larger doses of glutamine and taurine.

Slow Digesting. A slow digesting protein source provides a long term stream of protein and amino acids meant to assist in keeping a positive nitrogen balance for longer periods of times. A slow digesting protein is a great choice for in between meals.

Fast Digesting. A fast digesting protein source, such as whey protein, acts quickly to help regulate bodily nitrogen levels, especially after periods of fasting. A fast digesting protein is also beneficial as a post-workout protein source.

Energy Bar. Energy bars provide a quick, healthy and sustained source of energy when you need a pick-me-up in between meals. While an energy bar does contain some protein, in general, it does not contain as much protein as a protein bar.

Amino Acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. While there are over 100 total amino acids, only 20 amino acids are considered standard. These standard amino acids are separated into two categories: essential and non-essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be created in the human body, and must be obtained from food. Non-essential amino acids can be synthesized, or created, in the human body.

Amino Acid Profile-An amino acid profile is simply the amount of amino acids, BCAA, and essential amino acids that are contain in a protein powder. When looking at an amino acid profile, you look primarily at the amount of essential amino acids and BCAAs per serving.

BCAAs Branched chain amino acids, also called BCAA, is a term that refers to a chain of the three essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. The combination of these 3 essential amino acids make up over one-third the skeletal muscle in the body and play a vital role in protein synthesis.

Essential Amino Acids

  • Phenylalanine
  • Valine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Isoleucine
  • Methionine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine

There are 12 non-essential amino acids. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by the body. It is important to have a protein powder with a good essential amino acid profile.

Protein supplements vs. regular food sources:

  • Fast digesting protein foods are best eaten early in the morning, and post-workout. The BV value of whey protein makes it the perfect protein source at these times.
  • Protein supplements can be cost effective. Some protein foods, such as beef and fish, can be quite costly per 30 gram serving.
  • Protein supplements are generally a more complete and balanced protein source.
  • Protein supplements are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, making them a multi-dimensional protein food.
  • Weight gainers offer high calorie foods that are easily broken down, and less filling.
  • Protein supplements come is a wide variety of flavors, and can take away some of the "blandness" that comes with a high protein diet.
  • Many protein foods can serve as a low-calorie means to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Protein supplements are more convenient, and require little to no cleanup.
  • Protein supplements are much less temperature sensitive, and generally require no refrigeration or heating.
  • Certain protein supplements have a higher biological value than real foods.
  • A protein shake can be easier on the stomach before bed.


Disclaimer: Nothing in this website is intended as, or should be construed as, medical advice. Consumers should consult with their own health care practitioners for individual, medical recommendations. The information in this website concerns dietary supplements, over-the-counter products that are not drugs. Our dietary supplement products are not intended for use as a means to cure, treat, prevent, diagnose, or mitigate any disease or other medical or abnormal condition.