Why can’t I get my protein from foods I eat? Do I need to take a protein powder? These are two of the most commonly asked questions which can easily be answered, and no you don’t need to have a nutritional degree to understand the basics. Here is how it all works.
Getting Protein from Food
The human body contains 100s of different proteins responsible for nearly every function. Collagen which is possibly the most well-known protein is responsible for providing elasticity to our skin. Protein I am discussing today is protein derived from food which is responsible for lean tissue repair and recovery, this type is made up of amino acids. Until relatively recently it was thought that there were only 20 amino acids available however we now know that there are at least 22 amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of tissue specifically lean tissue or muscle. You can get these amino acids directly from consuming animal products or combining non animal foods. However there are a number of issues you need to be aware of first. Here are the 3 fundamental facts you should know about:
- Animal foods take hours to completely break down and become available for the body to utilise.
- Animal foods contain anywhere between low to high levels of saturated fats, also contributing to cholesterol levels.
- The availability of nutrients and absorption of these nutrients into our body from animal foods (specifically nutrients from protein) is poor in comparison to digestion and absorption of whey protein powder. This is referred to as bioavailability which I have discussed in a recent article. Please note that I have only mentioned the down sides of consuming animal foods/products in comparison to consuming whey protein powder, simply so that I can drive my message home, but keep in mind animal products have a decent amount of nutrients that are also highly important. Todays’ article aims at explaining the difference from a protein angle only.
Breaking it all down, here are 3 good reasons that place whey protein in pole position:
- Animal sources of protein such as white meat, chicken, fish (let’s include eggs here) take approximately 2-8 hours to be broken down, digested and absorbed by our body. Red meats such as beef and lamb generally take up to 24 hours to be broken down and digested, sometimes longer. Your body cannot use the nutrients of these foods until those nutrients have been properly broken down and are ready from absorption. Animal products second to whey protein powder, contain the highest available protein nutrients
- Protein from non-animal foods such as vegetable proteins are only classed as complete proteins (a complete protein is one that contains all 9 essential amino acids) when consumed in combination. Therefore you need to combine vegetables to receive complete protein. Consuming rice protein on its’ own is not a complete form of protein and consuming pea protein on its’ own also is not a complete form, but when combining rice protein with pea protein then you are receiving complete protein (as all essential amino acids are present when combining the 2 proteins) and can safely say you have nourished your body’s requirements. Eating these foods unfortunately also contain amounts of starch and sugars.
- Whey protein powder, depending on the type (Whey protein combined with fats, WPI, WPC or other combinations) takes around 30 minutes for digestion and absorption. So an hour after you have taken your Whey protein, your body is already utilising the amino acids in this protein and has commenced the recovery process. Similar to animal products and unlike vegetables, whey protein contains all the 9 essential amino acids that are required to be a complete protein. Only ‘complete proteins’ can provide you with the nutrients you require to recover, repair and rebuild lean tissue.
It is extremely important to receive most of your nutrient intake from foods, but more often than not in today’s convenient driven society with junk foods and fast foods dominating the market place, it means you need to be prepared. If you are not prepared and are searching for food that will nourish your body properly, whey protein is a substantial option for you