From a steak fresh off the grill, to a baked piece of tilapia, to a steaming hot bowl of rice and beans, protein is one of the most important things we have in our diet. It is a vital component of all the cells in our bodies and is used for a variety of essential functions such as building and repairing of tissues, enzyme and hormone production and makes up the important building blocks of bones, muscle, cartilage, skin and blood.
Ever since the ancient Greeks, protein has been recognized as vital for life, stemming from its origin from the word ‘protos’, meaning “first position or rank”. By now, you have heard of protein being a crucial component not only for physique improvement, but a healthy, functioning body and from a young age, we are programmed to know that “protein makes you grow big and strong”.
Each protein is made up of amino acids which are smaller molecules, often known as the building blocks of protein due to their ability to be assembled into different various forms of protein. Sure, they may be lumped all together when food is consumed as the sum total ‘protein’ but it is important to realize that not all proteins are the same. For example, the sequence of amino acids that creates your morning egg whites has a much different arrangement than your sirloin steak. Each different protein source has its own sequence of amino acids and once they are broken down in the body via digestion, they can be absorbed and utilized in the body.
Once protein has been ingested and undergoes digestion, your body goes to work breaking them down into their individual amino acids which are then used to create the specific proteins that are needed throughout the body. Once the amino acids are in the blood stream, there’s no way to tell whether they are from egg whites or a steak originally, but rather they are all part of the overall amino acid supply.
As long as there are enough of the amino acid building blocks for your body to use, it can manufacture its own unique proteins as needed. These individual proteins include enzymes for chemical reactions, the chemical messengers known as hormones, immune function and of course the building blocks to the structures of your body such as muscle, bones, skin, etc.
Animal sources for proteins tend to be the most complete in terms of providing all of the essential amino acids that the body needs, therefore are referred to what we call a ‘complete protein’. Vegetable and other plant based proteins which include things like nuts, beans, lentils, grains, etc. are lacking in one or more of the essential amino acids and are therefore considered ‘incomplete proteins’.
For those seeking to go the plant route and get all the essential amino acids, this can be accomplished by combining different plant based protein sources to utilize what is called ‘complimentary proteins’. It is important to note that the sources don't necessarily have to be eaten in the same meal to be considered complimentary, but rather that they are consumed at some point throughout the course of the day.
So, how should you consume your protein? It is best to get your protein from a variety of assorted sources throughout the day, and it can consist of multiple sources such as red meat, white meat, fish, dairy, vegan sources or even a premium protein supplement such as EVL Stacked Protein. The key is that you’re getting in at least 1g per lb of bodyweight, divided up among all of your meals.