Protein – How Essential

I have taken some time to write since my last post for a few reasons. Primarily the topic is a hard one – Protein. Also, I am feeling much better and I am back to most of my regular training schedule. As a result, I am spending more time training but still getting to bed early. This past weekend was a great one – I went to a training camp my triathlon club put on. More on the experience in a not too future post.

Okay, on to protein. We need protein in our diet. How much, what type, what source – all topics that are debated frequently. A very good description of protein and its function I found on the site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here is the quote:

Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies. These body proteins are constantly being broken down and replaced. The protein in the foods we eat is digested into amino acids that are later used to replace these proteins in our bodies.

As an athlete, I am constantly doing activities that are breaking down my muscles. Protein is necessary to facilitate recovery and strengthening. I have dabbled in several dietary programs – vegetarian, vegan, and Paleo primarily. All had aspects I liked and I do not have any problem or issue with them. The US Department of Health and Human Services suggest protein make up 10% to 35% of daily calories. (see page 15) I have shared before I target 30% protein in my diet. For me I have found I recover best when I eat animal protein as a large source of protein in my diet. I have shared many times that I believe experiment, trial and error are them best ways to determine what works for each person.

What I do know is that there are 20 different types of amino acids that make up all types of protein. The human body can synthesize some amino acids, but there are 9 (some reports say 10) that the body can not make, these are called essential amino acids. They are essential parts of the diet since the body cannot produce them. A complete protein is a protein that provides all of the essential amino acids and this is found in animal protein. That said, combining beans and rice together for example can also provide essential amino acids. Vegan diets especially have to make sure enough incomplete protein foods are combined to produce the complete amino acids needed. For me, I found having a good amount of animal protein in my diet works best for muscle recovery and building. Of course lean animal protein is better because it is lower in saturated fats, so I have more fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. I also have a fair amount of dairy – eggs, milk, yogurt, whey protein, and cheese along with a mild amount of beef and bacon.

The topic of protein has been a difficult one for me to write on because I don’t have as strong convictions as I do with the proper amount and types of fats and carbohydrates the body needs. I respect those who follow a vegetarian or vegan plan as well as Paleo. It is still a very important part of the diet and knowing how much and what mix is important. Muscles get strong not directly by the physical activities we partake in, but in the healing process we experience in the muscle fibers that we break down in exercise. I see many people exercise hard, eat a heavy carb diet, and are either not losing weight or frequently getting injured – or both. Diet goes hand in hand with exercise.

My next post will be back to more of my typical posts – sharing my triathlon training experiences. And boy do I have some to share. It is good to be back and enjoying the sport I so love to be a part of. One final note – part of seizing the day for me is also appreciating those in our life who help build us up, a bit like how protein helps build our bodies. (Good tie in, huh?) Well two fellow bloggers have been checking in over the past few weeks while I have been dealing with my ups and downs of viruses and colds. I want to thank Jill at Jogging Jeans and Jim at Fit Recovery. Two friends I have made in this virtual world who have become quite essential to me.

5 thoughts on “Protein – How Essential

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  1. Thanks for the great post and the feeling is mutual. One of these days they’ll come up with tree bark that tastes like bacon, a lettuce that tastes like ribs and a broccoli that tastes like burgers and I’ll be able to finally embrace my inner vegetarian. Till then… 😉

    Joking aside, there is no doubt that when I get the ‘mix’ between carbs and protein ‘right’ (or even close) the results are simply excellent. There does seem to be a ‘butter’ zone.

    1. Ha! You nailed it – when I dabbled in vegetarianism I didn’t want to eat “substitutes.” If I am not eating meat I am not going to eat a soy substitute that looks like meat – chicken strips, hot dogs, turkey or hamburger. The closest I came was eating a black bean patty but it didn’t taste at all like a burger. I knew what I was eating.

      Ah butter – there is always a little room for the wonderful flavor! Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Hi! Hope you’re doing well. Just watched a “top 10” video on line and guess what’s the #1 most dangerous sport. Skydiving? Motorcycle racing? Football? Basketball? Bullfighting? Nope. Cycling. More people are injured in car/bike collisions than any other sport. OW! Hey, let me know next time you’re going for a ride and want some company. I’m needing to get the bike (bicycle) going. Motorcycle is running fine. 🙂 See ya.

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