Proteins, source of essential amino acids

One of the most important sorts of nutrients that your body needs, are the proteins. Our body needs proteins every single day. Proteins are an essential part of our life and essential for the growth of cells and the recovery of muscle tissue. Proteins are made up of amino acids. During the digestion amino acids are under the influence of enzymes released from proteins. Many of those are essential, because your body can’t make these itself. These amino acids will have to be present in our food. When a protein provides all the essential amino acids it is seen as complete.

Proteins can come from meat or vegetarian source. All the proteins that come from meat are complete. Proteins of vegetarian source, with exception of soya proteins, are seen as incomplete as they miss one or more of the essential amino acids. Two proteins of vegetarian source can however be complementary; one protein can contain an amino acid that the other misses and the other way around. In this way some strict vegetarians can get their protein needs.

Most important functions of proteins:

  • contribute to the growth of muscle tissue.
  • contribute to the recovery of muscle tissue
  • contributes to the preservation of strong bones.

Which proteins are important for an athlete?

  • whey – non-vegetarian source of protein
  • casein – non-vegetarian source of protein
  • soya – vegetarian source of protein

Functioning of proteins
A combination of proteins can increase their functioning, like the combination of whey and casein. Whey is taken in quickly and has a short but powerful functioning, as were casein doesn’t work very fast, however it does work long. Soya has a shorter functioning than casein, but is slower than whey. So a combination of soya and casein is very good, for either building or recovering muscle tissue.

I want to highlight one special amino acid, because this one is very important for the trail runner and endurance athlete, namely: glutamine. Glutamine is present in our body; it’s a not-essential amino acid. However during intensive labour there is the possibility of it running out and then it does become an essential amino acid. So it has to be stocked up very well. For the recovery of our body glutamine is very essential. It limits the damage to our immune system and it helps damaged muscle recover. Too little glutamine in a body can cause injuries and long recovery periods.

Glutamine is very much present in cottage cheese, but also in yoghurt, milk and eggs. Besides this glutamine is present in soya, wheat, spinach, cabbage, beans, tofu, nuts and parsley. And in meat like: ox, chicken, pig, giblets (mainly liver) and fish. Many proteins like energy bars with proteins of course contain glutamine.

L-glutamine or glutamine?
On supplements it also often says: L-glutamine. What is the difference between L-glutamine, D-glutamine and glutamine? All α-amino acids (a part form glycine) have an asymmetric carbon atom. This means that these amino acids can be present in two forms, the L-form and the D-form. These two forms are the opposite of one another. The natural amino acids are present in the L-form. When we talk about glutamine we mostly talk about L-glutamine.

How many proteins do you need?

The amount is dependent on your fat free weight and the amount of physical exercise you do. The amount of fat free weight is easy to calculate.

When you don’t sport you need 1.5 gam per kg fat free mass.
When you sport on a regular base you need 1.7 gram per kg fat free mass.
As a bodybuilder you need 2.5 gram per kg fat free mass.

Set you weigh 80 kilo and you have a fat percentage of 20 percent. This means that you have 64 kilo fat free mass.
When you don’t sport you would need 96 gram protein a day (64 x 1,5).
When you sport on a regular base you would need 109 gram of proteins a day (64 x 1,7).
When you’re a bodybuilder you would need 160 gram proteins a day (64 x 2,5). This is an estimated calculation. I myself work with a program that calculates this all on bases of personal information and labour.

What do you feel when you take enough protein?

  • You have less notice of weaker moments during matches or intensive trainings.
  • Strengthening of muscle and a better condition.
  • Faster recovery after labour.

What contains proteins? Eggs, meat, fish, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, peas, dairy products like milk and yoghurt.

When is it important to eat proteins?
Of course proteins have to be a part of our daily food pattern. During a match it’s good to have a drink with you, which contains carbohydrates as well as proteins. Why? Protein contributes to the burning of carbohydrates. From a study done by John L. Ivy (2004) it appears that the ideal ratio of carbohydrates and proteins is 4:1.

After a heavy effort it’s important to, after you’ve stocked up on carbohydrates, stock up on proteins as quick as possible, this is for a good recovery of muscle cells. Do keep in mind that your body can’t take up more than 20 grams of proteins at ones. If you eat more. the proteins will be converted into fat. This is not what’s meant to happen.

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