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Picking the correct protein: From human metabolism to preference

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Protein sourced from plants and animals offer unique benefits and formulation challenges, particularly in sports nutrition applications.

Considering an individual’s genotype, age and specific needs, the selection of appropriate protein sources is important. Animal proteins are the “gold standard,” as they contain all the essential amino acids (EAAs) required for human metabolism and growth of human tissue, and they are highly digestible. The challenge comes for those that prefer vegan sourcing, as most vegetarian forms of plant proteins are deficient in one or more of the EAAs requisite for maximum efficiency.

Finding a healthy balance

Some health professionals are concerned that despite the benefits of animal protein, excessive levels of accompanying dietary fat may prove problematic. With the introduction of more advanced processing technologies, derivative products such as casein, soy and whey have gained widespread acceptance. Of course, there is also the need to balance protein intake from any source.

Some postulates that lead consumers to selections of protein supplements as part of their training regimen include:

  • Higher protein intake needs are common in athletic populations.
  • Animal proteins remain an important source of protein; however, potential health concerns exist from a diet rich in only protein derived from animal sources.
  • With a proper combination of sources, vegetable proteins may provide similar benefits as do proteins derived from animal sources.

Protein explained

What is protein exactly and how does it work? First, proteins are nitrogen-containing chemical substances formed in the human body by amino acids. The fundamental structural components of muscles and other bodily tissues, they are used also to produce enzymes, hemoglobin and hormones. To be appropriately used in the human body, proteins must be metabolized into their simplest components, namely amino acids.

Twenty amino acids have been identified as essential for human metabolism and resultant growth. Of these, 11 are considered nonessential in adults—meaning they can be synthesized within the body so do not need to be consumed as part of the diet. The remaining nine amino acids are deemed essential because they cannot be synthesized by the body and, therefore, must be consumed as part of the diet. A lack of EAAs in a dietary protein source potentially compromises the ability of the body to grow, maintain or repair damage to tissue.

The full article appears in the Sports nutrition: Protein – digital magazine. Visit the link for more.

Mark A. LeDoux is founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Natural Alternatives International Inc. Established in 1980, the organization has facilities in the U.S. and Switzerland engaged in the research, design and manufacture of nutritional supplement programs and products for multinational clients. LeDoux is a proud member and leader of many industry organizations.

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