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Protein 101: Why it matters to YOU

Written by Colton Rooney


What is a Protein?

Proteins are one of the essential macronutrients (the other two being carbohydrates and fat) your body needs to:

  • repair damaged cells and tissues

  • promote muscle growth

  • help minimize muscle tears and severe injuries

  • support the immune system

  • help the body function properly

Proteins are comprised of twenty amino acids, most of which are created by the body and nine others that can only be obtained from your diet. These nine amino acids are called essential amino acids that we receive through foods high in protein such as chicken, beef, pork, eggs, and seafood, to name a few.

So, now that you know the basics, you may be thinking... how does this help me? Well, depending on your age, gender and activity level, the answer differs. Keep reading...



Protein in Adolescents (age 10-18)

Generally, for normal adolescents, research suggests an intake of 0.54 - 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight to promote a healthy lifestyle. Adolescence is a crucial phase for proper protein intake due to body development, including the production of new hormones and enzymes. Many adolescents experimenting with increasing protein in their diets neglect the fact that protein-rich foods are very filling. Therefore, eating all the protein that the body needs in one meal is not practical. Instead, protein-rich foods should be spread across the course of the day in healthy and not taxingly large portions. Similarly, many adolescents also neglect the idea of eating a variety of protein-dense foods from both animal products and plant-based foods such as peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and beans. The American Heart Association supports the notion that “choosing healthy sources of proteins, mostly from plant sources; regularly eating fish and seafood; substituting nonfat and low-fat dairy products in place of full-fat versions; and for people who eat meat or poultry, choosing those that are lean and unprocessed” can reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.


Protein in Teen Athletes

As the frequency of intense workouts and activity increases, adolescent athletes require a slightly more substantial protein intake than their peers. Teen athletes are shown to be more effective in their athletic performance with about 0.7 - 1.0g of protein per pound of body weight. Athletes, specifically more elite competitors, tend to put more constant stress on their muscles and body through intense strength training or long tests of stamina. For athletes to consistently repair muscle tissue and build permanent muscle, a proper protein intake is necessary.


Many adolescent athletes are also faced with misconceptions about the quality of protein-dense foods. The key difference between high quality, or "complete" proteins and low quality, or "incomplete" proteins is the number of essential amino acids in the product. Complete proteins feature all the essential amino acids while incomplete proteins lack one or more of the essential amino acids. Complete proteins like eggs, lean meats, and fish products contain all nine of the essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins may include foods such as processed meats, low quality protein powders, and vegetables. However, some of these incomplete protein options are a very healthy part of the diet for other reasons and should be complimented with complete protein foods. Making the distinction between a complete protein and an incomplete protein can prove helpful in seeing more effective muscle growth and results from exercise.


Protein in Adults

Normal adults require about 0.54 - 0.7g of protein per pound of body weight. Adults begin to lose muscle mass in their 30s and 40s (a condition called sarcopenia). This loss of muscle mass has an important impact on metabolism and other health concerns. Adequate protein intake is essential in mitigating these issues. Protein consumption can also aid in weight loss, as a high-protein diet tends to be lower in calories and helps to reduce appetite. Adults may also be concerned with weakness that accompanies aging, yet adequate protein intake can help minimize the risk of fragility. Adequate protein intake contributes to building lean muscle mass, and therefore strengthens bones to help reduce the chance of age-related bone deterioration. With a healthy protein intake, not only are the physical benefits evident, but emotional benefits also include increased confidence from more noticeable results from strength training. High protein intake during strength training is also integral for adults to reduce the risk of pain or injury during training.


Protein in Elderly

Due to age, elderly individuals are prone to facing health issues such as severe sarcopenia, illness, weight loss, or hospitalization. A protein intake of 0.54 - 0.7g per pound of body weight is essential to maintaining muscle mass. Healthy, lean muscle is a well-known contributor to bone health and improving various health-related issues such as frailty, metabolic disease, and mental health conditions. Elderly individuals often experience a decline in appetite and therefore may not be able to eat the same large quantities as their younger counterparts. This highlights the importance of maximizing protein intake. Rather than eating low-quality and zero-protein foods, this demographic should prioritize caloric intake to include quality proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and other essential micronutrients.


Conclusion

Whether you are an adolescent, athlete, adult, or senior, the benefits of protein remain the same. The key difference for each demographic is the quantity needed and the protein's intent. A protein-rich diet is a smart way to maximize progress at the gym, maintain healthy muscles and bones, and gain confidence in your changing body!


CoreForm360 supports every demographic in their journey toward a confident body and a feeling of accomplishment with the help of a protein-rich diet! Learn more about us here...




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