Amino Acids, Protein and Muscles

How important is protein?

Well….without it, we wouldn’t be able to live and it is second to water as an essential part of nutrition, so the correct answer is:   VITALLY IMPORTANT!

We need it for the growth and maintenance of our body tissues, especially during pregnancy, lactation and during childhood!  It is a primary component of our muscles, hair, nails, skin, eyes and the heart and brain.  Our immune system also requires protein to build antibodies that will help fight infections and it is part of hemoglobin (red blood cells) and hormones that regulate our metabolism (thyroid) and insulin!

How much protein and what type of protein is optimal?

Let’s take a look at the optimal amounts which are questionable but I will take the nutritionist perspective which is in line with the  US government’s standard Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).   The amount of protein will differ from males to females, during pregnancy and lactation and if you are sedentary or active or even training for a sport race or competition.  The average person who does light exercise such as walking (30 minutes 2-3x week) and is female needs .75g per KILO of body weight and a male needs .8g per KILO of body weight.   If you exercise more rigorously and more often, then your protein requirements could increase to 1g, 1.2g and even 1.5g per KILO of body weight.  To figure this out, take your weight in POUNDS and divide it by 2.2 to get your weight in KILOS.  For example, if a person weighs 150lbs divided by 2.2, then they weigh 68kg.  Next you will take 68kg and multiply by .8g of protein to figure out how much you need for the day (68kg x.8g= 54.4g of protein/day).

The quantity is important but the quality is just as important!

If you are eating meat, eggs, dairy and whey as your some of your non-plant based protein sources, here are a few important tips!

Choose organic, grass-fed, free range and the animal was raised without hormones and antibiotics.

Conventional meat is laced with toxins, chemicals and has less nutrient value which makes it more inflammatory and disease causing, not to mention the horrific treatment of caged animals in mass production farms is inhumane!

If you eat fish:

Choose wild caught, smaller-sized fish such as anchovies, sardines, cod, haddock, sole and occasionally wild sockeye salmon.

If you eat plant-based sources such as tofu, edamame or soy:

Choose sprouted, organic tofu as it is easier to digest and cleaner than the processed tofu.  Soy and edamame must be organic and Non-GMO.  This insures it has not been made in a science laboratory and it is free of toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Certain protein rich foods are more easily digested than others.

Do you know what the NPU or Net Protein Utilization method of measurement is?

It helps us determine which protein rich foods are more easily digestible.  For example, eggs, fish, meat, dairy and peanut butter are 100% digestible, corn drops to 89% and beans to 82%.  This has nothing to do with the amount of protein, but is a good indicator to know so that we can take steps to make them more digestible or combine them with other proteins to get maximum digestibility and absorption.

What is protein?

Protein is a complex molecule made up of 22 naturally occurring amino acids.  These amino acids are the building blocks of protein and protein is needed to make muscle.

Of these 22 amino acids, the body naturally makes 13 and these are called nonessential, meaning we don’t need to necessarily eat the foods that contain them as the body can make them.  However, the body needs certain vitamins, minerals and optimal conversion to make these nonessential amino acids and not all of us have the ideal biochemical and metabolic conditions at every given time and prescription medication and our toxic exposure can increase our need for these amino acids.

It is important to make sure we are getting at least all of the 9 essential amino acids in our diet.  We do not necessarily need to eat foods containing all of the 9 essential amino acids in one sitting or even in one day.

If you are vegetarian or a meat eater, then you are likely getting enough protein requirements for your day via your food choices as complete proteins.  The 9 essential AA are Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Tryptophan, Valine, and Histidine.  However, those of us who are plantbased or eat a mostly plantbased diet often don’t get enough of lysine, methionine and tryptophan.

To make sure we get enough of these 3 key amino acids, we need to food combine:  eat beans or legumes with grains and seeds.  So sprinkle some sunflower seeds on your millet and adzuki bean salad and add a heap of greens, go for granola with chickpea milk, create a bowl of quinoa porridge, chia, flax and pumpkin seeds or a simple yet delicious organic peanut butter on whole grain or seed bread and how about an edamame tahini hummus with veggie sticks?  Check out my Recipes section for some of these mouthwatering recipes!

What are the best amino acids to build MUSCLE?

The 3 best amino acids to help build lean muscle are:

  1. Methionine is higher in dairy, eggs, fish and meats but also found in nuts, seeds and grains
  2. Creatine is found in muscle meat or red meat, but we would need to eat 1-2lbs of meat/day as rare as possible or ideally – raw!  When meat is cooked, it loses up to 40%.  I advise taking it as a supplement.  Creatine is the counterbalance to antioxidants and is a way for our muscles to obtain energy, non-aerobically without oxygen.  My favorite clean source of creatine is …..
  3. Lysine found in fish, meat and dairy, legumes, fruit and vegetables.