Proteins are molecules that contain Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen in their composition and unlike fats and carbohydrates (Carbohydrates) they also contain Nitrogen.
But why is it important that we ensure sufficient protein intake? Because proteins have different functions in the body.
- Structural function: In tissues and organs, that is why we say that it is what helps us maintain and build muscle mass.
Regulatory function: Eating enough protein helps us regulate
our hormones and neuropeptides.
- Transport function: In blood cells and transport proteins.
- Immune Function: Helps our immune cells work properly.
- Energy function: They intervene in part of the energy we need.
And, therefore, a deficit or lack of it could trigger imbalances in our tissues, organs, immune system, hormones...
Protein can be found mainly in dairy products, fish, eggs, meat, legumes and nuts. As a curiosity, egg protein is considered the reference protein for humans, having a high biological value.
In general, foods of animal origin have proteins of a higher biological value than those of plant origin, although it should be noted that foods of animal origin provide cholesterol, saturated fats and purines, which means that an excess of These may be associated with health problems.
But… does this mean that the more protein we consume the better? Definitely not.
As we have mentioned, proteins contain nitrogen and nitrogen can only be eliminated through urine, in the form of urea. Therefore, a high intake of protein supposes an increase in the excretion of urea and in order to eliminate this urea correctly we must drink enough water.
The important thing is to take into account how much protein we should consume depending on the moment in which we find ourselves; pregnancy, childhood, adolescence, caloric deficit, old age, the type of physical exercise that is being carried out... since it is not interesting neither an excess nor a lack of proteins.
An excess of protein can help us to:
- Increase our fat%
- Increase uric acid
- An organic overload (liver, kidney…)
In turn, a lack of protein in the diet will be responsible for:
- A decrease in performance
- Loss of muscle mass
- Decreased basal metabolism.
Another very common question is how many grams of protein should we consume per day and this will depend on different factors. Broadly speaking, for endurance athletes, the recommended intake is 1.2 / 1.4 g/kg of body weight/day. For strength and power athletes, it is 1.4 / 1.8 g/kg body weight/day.
In our current society, a correct consumption of
protein is given so much importance because we tend to forget about it. We make ourselves toasted bread (carbohydrate) with olive oil (fat) but… what about protein? We also tend to have a large plate of pasta (carbohydrate) with
olive oil (fat), garlic and salt, but… And the protein?
In conclusion, we must consume enough protein since protein helps us feel more satiated, maintain our muscle mass, regulate our hormones, our immune system, have enough energy and help blood cells and transport proteins , but let's not fall into the mistake of thinking that more is better.