Maximized Nutrition: The Power of Protein
Every cell in our body requires protein to function. Protein is made up of 21 amino acids and 9 of these amino are essential to the body. This means the body cannot make them and must obtain them from food and supplements.
When we think of protein, most of us think of MUSCLES! By the time the average person reaches their 60’s, they will lose about 30% of their muscle mass. Also, inactive adults have 3 to 8% loss of muscle mass every decade.(5) Along with muscle loss comes a decreased resting metabolic rate and fat accumulation. The three main reasons people lose lean body mass as they age is not eating enough protein, eating the wrong sources of protein, and decreased ability to digest protein. It is not enough just to eat protein. Your body must be able to properly digest and breakdown the protein source into amino acids to be used throughout the body.
Stomach acid and digestive enzymes are necessary for proper digestion. Enzymes are proteins, so if you are deficient in protein your body may not be able to produce enough digestive enzymes to properly digest the protein you eat, worsening a protein deficiency.(4) The use of certain medications, such as those used for heartburn, poor diet, and lifestyle choices, will disrupt our bodies natural production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. If you have a lot of bloating and notice undigested food in your stool, you may likely benefit
from digestive enzymes and Betaine HCL (stomach acid replacement). Taking a teaspoon to a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar is another way to improve your stomach acid production.
So what else does protein effect besides your muscles? Adequate protein in your diet also promotes weight management, regulates blood sugar, and improves bone health.(3) If the body does not have enough protein, hair will become brittle, skin will lose its elasticity and become saggy, bones will become weaker, and the immune system will have a lowered capacity to fight off disease and infection.(6)
Recent studies have shown that supplementing with protein can lower blood pressure, improve markers of endothelial (blood vessel wall) function, and improve vascular reactivity. Studies used whey protein and showed a decrease of 3.9mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 2.5mmHg decrease for diastolic blood pressure. This means if your blood pressure is 140/90, just by getting more adequate protein in your diet you
can decrease your blood pressure to 136/87.5.(7)
Not all amino acids get turned into proteins. Some amino acids will get converted to glucose to be burned for energy or in situations of over-consumption of protein, the unused protein and glucose will be stored as unwanted body fat, a process called gluconeogenesis. So it is important, as with everything in life, to find balance and consume in moderation.
The recommended Dietary Reference Intake (DRIs) for protein consumption for adults is 0.8gm per kilogram of body weight.(6) It’s important to remember this recommended amount is to prevent deficiencies, and for many it is inadequate to achieve and maintain optimal health and lean muscle mass. Those with more active lifestyles especially benefit from a higher protein diet.
- Stephanie Mahaney, Metabolix Clinical Specialist
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