Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet and plays a vital role in our bodies - from building and repairing muscle to supporting a strong immune system. Optimizing your protein intake benefits everyone, whether you're an athlete striving for better performance, someone trying to lose weight, or just someone who wants to improve their health.
What are Macros? An overview of proteins, carbohydrates and fats
Macros are the nutrients that our body needs in large quantities. They consist of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Each of these macronutrients plays a unique and essential role in our body.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They are crucial for building and repairing body tissues such as muscles, skin and hair. In addition, proteins play an important role in the production of enzymes and hormones, and they support the immune system.
Carbohydrates are our body's primary source of energy. They are broken down by our body into glucose, which is then used by our cells to produce energy.
Fats are a concentrated source of energy. They are essential for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and play an important role in brain function and heart health.
Why do proteins provide better satiety compared to carbohydrates or fats?
Proteins, carbohydrates and fats each have their own unique effects on our bodies. As we've already discussed, proteins are crucial for building and repairing tissue and supporting the immune system, while carbohydrates are our primary source of energy and fats provide us with a concentrated source of energy and are essential for the absorption of certain vitamins.
But what about the saturation? Research has shown that protein, compared to carbohydrates and fats, is the most satiating. That means that a meal rich in protein can keep you feeling full longer than a meal that consists mainly of carbohydrates or fats.
Proteins are harder and take more energy to break down than carbohydrates and fats. This process causes your body to burn more calories digesting protein than digesting carbohydrates or fats, which in turn contributes to a feeling of fullness.
In addition, proteins provide a slower and more steady release of glucose into the bloodstream compared to carbohydrates, which can help prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar and hunger pangs.
The role of protein in muscle building and recovery
In addition to their role as building blocks of the body, proteins play a crucial role in building and repairing muscles, especially after physical exertion such as sports.
When we exercise, especially during resistance or strength training, small tears occur in our muscle fibers. This is a completely normal process and is basically how we get stronger and build muscle mass. After training, our body works to repair these tears and make the muscle fibers stronger and thicker than before. Protein is the main nutrient that supports this recovery process.
Any protein we consume is broken down into amino acids, which can then be used by the body to synthesize new protein. This new protein can then be used to repair and strengthen the damaged muscle fibers. This is why consuming enough protein is so important for anyone who exercises, especially those trying to build muscle mass.
Not all proteins are created equal when it comes to muscle building and recovery. Some proteins, such as whey protein, are absorbed more quickly than others, meaning they can quickly deliver needed amino acids to the muscles. Other proteins, such as casein protein, are absorbed more slowly, which can help provide a steady supply of amino acids to the muscles over a longer period of time.
How many grams of protein does a meal usually contain if the label says "high in protein"?
According to the European Food Safety Authority EFSA, a meal can be considered a "source of protein" if at least 12% of its energy comes from protein. If a meal is labeled "high in protein", at least 20% of its energy should come from protein.
To get an idea of what this means in grams, we know that proteins provide 4 kilocalories (kcal) of energy per gram. For example, if a meal contains 500 kcal, and the label says "high in protein", then it should contain at least 25 grams of protein.