This post is longer than usual, but I wanted to cover an important topic that I have probably not given enough attention.
When it comes to sports nutrition, most people know they need protein. But few know why. When asked, the majority will say that they need it “for energy.” And while our bodies do derive energy from protein, this is NOT the primary reason we need it.
Protein is the foundation on which our bodies are built. In fact, there are more than 50,000 different proteins found in the human body. When assembled properly, these proteins form our organs, bones, tendons, ligaments, blood, several hormones (including insulin and human growth hormone), our immune system, our neurotransmitters, and all of the enzymes of metabolism, digestion, and detoxification.
Amino acids are molecules made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sometimes sulfur. In total, there are 22 different amino acids our bodies use to make protein. These 22 amino acids are much like the letters of an alphabet. And proteins are the "words" they spell. Only 8 of these proteins are “essential,” however; they must be derived from our diets because our bodies cannot make them. The essential amino acids function like the vowels of an alphabet. You can’t spell many words without vowels, nor can you make many proteins without essential amino acids.
Some proteins are formulated from hundreds of different amino acids that have been linked together. For example, the structure of insulin (the hormone that regulates blood sugar)is created from a unique combination of 86 amino acids. Hemoglobin (the protein that carries oxygen in the blood) is comprised of more than 500 amino acids. Collagen (the protein found in our bones, tendons, ligaments and skin) has even more than that!
A protein's quality is judged by the amount and proportion of the eight essential amino acids it contains. Animal proteins have all of the essential amino acids, but vegetable proteins are often missing one or more. As a result, they are considered a lower quality protein source. When a protein like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, or whey is eaten, the digestion process breaks up the larger protein molecules into individual amino acids. Once broken down, the amino acids can pass through the wall of the small intestine and be used by the body.
Unfortunately, you can can consume large amounts of dietary protein and STILL be suffering from a protein (and essential amino acid) deficiency. There are several reasons why. The first is simply a lack of HIGH QUALITY dietary protein, which is a very common problem for vegans and vegetarians. The same is also often true for calorie-counting dieters; restricting calories often reduces protein intake. The larger problem is that most people don't fully digest the proteins they eat. The first reason is a bit of a catch 22: Those who are protein deficient aren’t able to manufacture enough digestive enzymes to break down the proteins they consume. And as we age, the overall production of digestive enzymes begins to slow, limiting the effectiveness with which our bodies can break down protein. Antacids (like Pepcid, Tagamet and Nexium) elevate the pH of the stomach, seriously compromising protein digestion.
Once the amino acids are available to the body, one of two things will happen: Either the amino acids will be used by the body to make protein (the anabolic pathway) or they will be used for immediate energy (the catabolic pathway). What determines whether the amino acids from the diet go down the 'make protein' or 'make energy' pathway? The answer to this question was only recently discovered.
The pathway, anabolic or catabolic, that a dietary protein takes is determined by the ratio and amounts of the eight essential amino acids in that protein. If the makeup of a protein has a ratio of essential amino acids that fits what the body needs, it's considered a quality protein suited to the anabolic pathway. If it's missing certain essential amino acids, or if the amino acids are not present in the proper ratio, it's a lesser quality protein that's unsuitable for anabolic use.
Nutritionists have a way to measure the quality index of a protein: The NNU or Net Nitrogen Utilization scale. Of the three major food groups (proteins, fats, and carbohydrates), only proteins have nitrogen. One can measure how many grams of nitrogen go into the body when a specified amount of protein is eaten and the nitrogen contained in the resulting waste products (urine and feces) is measured. The difference between what went in and what came out is what the body used to make its own proteins; that is the NNU value of that food.
Beef, poultry, fish, and eggs have an average NNU of 33%. This means that if you were to eat a can of tuna with 28 grams of protein, the actual amount of that protein the body could use would be 33% of that (9-10 grams). Dairy and soy products have a much lower NNU of 17%.
Vegetables and nuts have even lower NNU's (under 10%). This is why it is difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get an adequate supply of protein.
The demands of daily living break down the proteins our bodies need for ongoing, systematic maintenance. As a result, they need to be constantly repaired or replaced. Without enough high-quality dietary protein, the essential maintenance functions cannot be completed. Because our bodies have to manufacture more than 50,000 different proteins, it's easy to understand why essential amino acids are so critical to life, health, and performance.
It may come as a surprise, but VERY FEW athletes actually get enough high-quality protein for optimal health and performance.
Core 4's FundAminos (a powdered, essential amino acid blend) requires no digestion, is absorbed into the blood stream in 23 minutes after ingestion, and is 99% utilized by the body to make protein. One serving is only 4 calories.
Did you know powdered soy and whey protein (even the ultra-filtered, organic, and un-pasteurized varieties) are low quality proteins? The body can use ONLY 17% of their total protein content for anabolic purposes(like physical growth, repair, and maintenance). Over 83% of these protein calories are excreted as nitrogen waste. If you’re buying these types of proteins to re-fuel and replenish your body, $0.83 of every dollar you spend is literally being flushed down the toilet! In addition, it takes 2-4 hours for these proteins to be digested and available for use. So when your cells need access to protein for immediate repair and recovery, they'll just have to wait.
Opt for a QUICKER and MORE COMPLETE recovery by using FundAminos. It provides 3 times the amount of usable protein found in meat or fish and 5 times that of whey or soy. And it's up to 12 times faster acting. For additional product information, click here.