Saturday, July 4, 2009

Macronutrient Basics: Protein

11:25 PM by dody ·

There are approximately 20 or so amino acids that can make up a protein. Eight of them are considered essential and the body cannot make them on its own (the de nition of an essential nutrient), thus they are required from our diet. Technically, the non-essential aminos can be made from the essential aminos. There are also amino acids considered “conditionally” -
essential under certain conditions and or populations.
If you link several aminos together you get a peptide. Keep linking pep-
tides together and you get a protein. The shape of the individual amino
acids and resulting proteins is quite unique and highly speci c, so I won’t
go into great detail here. Su ce it to say, amino acids are the structural
unit of a protein molecule.

Protein (or more appropriately, amino acids) is the only macronutrient that
supplies nitrogen to drive lean tissue growth (anabolism). Although ath-
letes usually focus on the e ect that protein has on skeletal muscle, it is
equally important for people to understand that there are other disposal
sites of amino acid nitrogen in the human body.

In simple terms, these include structural proteins, DNA, RNA, phospholip-
ids, enzymes neurotransmitters, and bile acids, to name a few. The bottom
line is that there are many uses for protein in the body unrelated to just
building muscle.

We need protein to build or regenerate skeletal muscle. However, many
people don’t understand the other functions protein has within the body,
as alluded to above. Upon digestion, amino acids from ingested proteins
enter what is called the“free amino acid pool.” The amino acids can then be
diverted to di erent areas of the body for utilization depending on what
the body needs. For example, some amino acids are used as an energy
source through their conversion to glucose, using a process called gluco-

Others are used to synthesize proteins in many di erent tissues. Dietary
protein can also be converted to fat, though this is a very ine cient pro-
cess in humans and is not a major source of body fat, contrary to what you
may have been led to believe by some nutritional “authorities.”

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