What is Protein ?
Any of a group of complex organic macromolecules that contain carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and usually sulfur and are composed of one or more chains of amino acids. Proteins are fundamental components of all living cells and include many substances, such as enzymes, hormones, and antibodies, that are necessary for the proper functioning of an organism. They are essential in the diet of animals for the growth and repair of tissue and can be obtained from foods such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, and legumes.
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass. It is commonly found in animal products, though is also present in other sources, such as nuts and legumes.
There are three macronutrients: protein, fats and carbohydrates. Macronutrients provide calories, or energy. The body requires large amounts of macronutrients to sustain life, hence the term “macro,” according to the University of Illinois McKinley Health Center. Each gram of protein contains 4 calories. Protein makes up about 15 percent of a person’s body weight.
Benefits of protein
Health benefits of proteins include production and smooth functioning of enzymes and hormones and a proper cellular and muscular health. They facilitate molecular transportation, cell repair, and regeneration and provide mechanical and structural support to the bones and skin. Consumption of adequate protein ensures strong immune defense, efficient signaling of nerves and impulses, healthy hair, and maintenance of fluid balance in the body. Protein can also turn into an energy provider when required by the body..
The Power of Protein
It’s easy to understand the excitement. Protein is an important component of every cell in the body. Hair and nails are mostly made of protein. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissues. You also use protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is a “macronutrient,” meaning that the body needs relatively large amounts of it. Vitamins and minerals, which are needed in only small quantities, are called “micronutrients.” But unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reserv
Protein Deficiency Symptoms
1. You crave protein.
If you’re not eating enough protein, in the short term, your body may tell you by craving it, Hunnes says. You should give into these cravings. If you’re really jonesing for a chicken sandwich or a bowl of lentil soup, listen to your body and eat up.
2. You crave sugar.
“Protein (along with fat) digests slower than carbohydrates. If you eat a meal that is mostly carbohydrates, with not enough protein, it will digest more quickly and will cause your blood sugar to rise,” Rumsey says. This rise is followed by a drop—and when blood sugar is constantly spiking and dropping, we crave more sugar. The key is to eat protein with carbs so that everything digests more slowly, and the blood sugar changes are more gradual over time.
3. Your hair is thinning.
Hair is made up of mostly protein (keratin, specifically). If you’re consistently not getting enough protein, over time, you may notice your hair start to thin or even fall out. That’s because your body stops using protein for non-essential things like hair growth in an effort to preserve its stores.
4. Your nails and skin are weak.
Protein is also essential for nail and skin cells to grow. If you’re not getting enough of it, eventually your nails may get weaker and your skin may get flaky, Rumsey says. Hunnes adds that protein deficiency may also cause rashes or other dermatologic problems.
5. You get sick often.
“Protein is needed to build the components of our immune system,” Rumsey explains. “If you are under-eating protein, over time your immune system may weaken.”
6. You feel tired or weak.
“For most people, eating too little protein over the course of one day will not make you feel less energy or strength, particularly if you are getting a sufficient number of calories in that day,” Hunnes says. But long term, your body may break down your muscles to try and supply your body with sufficient protein, leading to loss of energy and strength, she explains. Low energy and strength can also be impacted by overall diet quality, sleep, stress, and lack of physical activity, so if you’re feeling this way often, it’s important to check in on all of your lifestyle habits.