6 Key Facts about Protein

April 8, 2011 | by Dr. Jess

We are delighted to have guest contributors to our blogs and newsletters.  Today I'd like to share with you an article by Dr. David Minkoff of Body Health and Lifeworks Wellness Center on everything you need to know about protein for better health and performance. First a little bio on David Minkoff, MD: Dr. David MinkoffBiography Dr. David Minkoff graduated from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1974. He is Board Certified in Pediatrics and is Fellowship trained in Infectious Disease. In 1997, Dr Minkoff and his wife Sue founded LifeWorks Wellness Center in Clearwater, one of the foremost alternative health clinics in the US and today he remains the Medical Director. He is also the founder of Bodyhealth, a company he began to provide the public with the best supplementation possible. Passionate about fitness, Dr Minkoff is a 38-time Ironman triathlon finisher and completed his eighth Ironman World Championship in Kona in October 2010.

6 Key Facts Everyone Should Know About Protein

Few nutrients are as misunderstood as protein. See if you know these six key facts about this essential nutrient for your body. 1.     Protein Makes Up Your Body's Structure
  • Protein is an essential component of the diet and helps your body repair muscle, grow tissue, regulate hormones, control metabolism, defend against illness, and more.
  • Protein is what makes up your ligaments, tendons, muscles, hair, nails, skin, teeth, tissue, organs, and bones. About half of the non-water mass of your body is made up of protein.
  • Since most of the body's proteins are continually broken down, the body needs to manufacture thousands of proteins every day to replace them.
  • The more active you are the faster your proteins break down, and more protein you need to replenish them.
  • Individuals typically need 1 gram of protein daily for each kilogram of their body weight. For example, a 180-pound man would need at least 80 grams of protein a day to meet his body's needs; a 140-pound woman would need a minimum of 60 grams.
  • Protein cannot be stored for later use, like fat or carbohydrates can, so the body needs daily replenishments.
2.     Proteins Are Made Up of Amino Acids Just what is protein? Protein consists of smaller units of amino acids. These amino acids, formed of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms, are literally the building blocks of the human body. From these amino acids, your body can make hundreds of different proteins that perform different functions. On its own, the body can manufacture 14 of the 22 amino acids it needs. But the other 8 cannot be made by the body and must be obtained from the diet. These eight amino acids are called "essential amino acids" and include:
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine
The body uses the amino acids obtained from dietary protein or amino acid supplements to build the body's proteins, which become the structural foundation of the body and the molecules that sustain life. 3.     Protein Digestion Releases Nitrogen Waste Amino acids not synthesized into protein become converted to calories or energy. However, converting protein to calories or energy requires your body to strip the amino acids of their nitrogen atoms, creating nitrogen waste. This nitrogen waste from the metabolized protein arrives at your kidneys as a toxic "urea," and must be filtered out. For example, a hen egg, the highest protein food, makes only 48 percent of its protein available to the body. The rest of the egg converts to calories and produces nitrogen waste in the process. For individuals with reduced kidney function, the amount of nitrogen waste produced from protein digestion can actually harm their kidneys. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 20 million people have reduced kidney function and don't even know it. Not only does the toxic nitrogen waste considerably strain kidneys, but in high amounts can cause weak kidneys to further decline. Therefore, to maintain optimum health and fitness, you must include enough dietary protein to keep up with losses. Since the diet alone often does not accomplish this, supplementing with an optimum protein source is recommended. It is for this reason that Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) was created. It is the optimum protein therapy. 4.     Inadequate Protein Intake Damages Your Body Daily protein/amino acid intake is required to maintain or normalize cellular turnover and optimize the body's protein synthesis. Without sufficient protein, the body either lets cells die or breaks down other muscles and tissues to get the protein it needs for repair and other functions. The body may actually "eat itself" to acquire the necessary amino acids, or borrow the amino acids from the immune system or body functions to meet its protein needs. If you workout and don't have enough protein to rebuild your body, instead of getting stronger, you will become weaker and be subject to injury. Whether due to restricted diets, illness, skipping meals, poor diet choices, and so on, inadequate protein/amino acid intake can compromise your health and affect the following body functions:
  • Bone cell synthesis
  • Red blood cell production
  • Heart cell turnover rate
  • Neurotransmitters/mood
  • Sense of well-being/stamina
  • Immune function/antibodies
  • Enzymes/hormones
  • Skin elasticity/muscle tone
  • Organ function/pH balance
  • Mobility/joint integrity
Many people are unknowingly protein deficient. Protein levels may actually be normal in standard blood panels, but in deeper tests of the serum, many individuals have deficient amino acid levels. Even marginal deficiencies can magnify the effect of every disease. We have never seen a vegetarian who is not protein deficient. 5.     Most of the Protein We Eat Is Burned as Calories Although you get much protein through your daily diet, the body cannot, unfortunately, digest and use all of it. A nutritional label may indicate 10 grams of protein in a food, but your body won't assimilate all 10 grams. Most likely you'll assimilate only 10-20% and convert the rest to calories. Why? Because in order for protein synthesis to take place, all 8 of the essential amino acids must be present. All 8 must be at the cell at the same time; otherwise protein cannot be made. Protein cannot be stored, so these essential amino acids must either be in place or the body will burn the protein as energy, or store it as fat. Another factor determining the amount of protein synthesis that takes place is the proportion and ratio of these amino acids. For each creature in the animal kingdom, the proportion and ratio for maximum protein synthesis varies. 6.     Many People Have Increased Protein Needs Many individuals need protein well beyond the regular requirements. Endurance athletes and other highly active people have increased muscle breakdown and body wear, and need more protein to rebuild their bodies and prevent injury. The American Dietetic Association says that when athletes do heavy strength and resistance training, they need more than twice the amount of protein as normal to rebuild and repair their bodies. Not just athletes need more protein. Middle aged and elderly people have extended body breakdown too. The hydrochloric acid in their stomachs, which activates the pepsin enzyme that digests protein, drops to half its regular level as individuals enter middle age. So the protein they eat may never be digested and their bodies break down for lack of it. Much of aging is probably due to this factor alone. Children and adolescents also need more protein because their bodies are constantly growing. They have an increased need for new cells, new tissue, and other building materials. Dieters who starve their bodies, menopausal women with imbalanced hormones, patients recovering from surgery or illness, individuals looking to support healthy kidney function, and others who want to maintain their immune system all have greater needs for protein. For the athlete in the early season who works on strength training and must add muscle, strengthen tendons and cartilage require adequate amounts of high quality protein. MAP should be used to do this. 2.5 tablets per 40 pounds of body weight (with a maximum of ten tablets) should be used pre-workout on easy days and after each workout (2 hours after the first workout) on hard days. You will notice the difference very quickly and it will last you for the whole upcoming season. STAY TUNED:  Innersport will be (unscientifically) testing MAP on several of our amateur and elite athletes and post results/reviews/testimonials in our next newsletter.
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