Proteins are molecules made up of amino acids, which are connected by a type of bond called peptide bonds. Proteins are found in meat, poultry, fish, meat substitutes (eggs, tofu, legumes, nuts, etc.), and dairy products.
This food group is often associated with athletes, and we almost always imagine muscular bodybuilders consuming significant amounts of protein or protein powder supplements. Is this really the case?
The functions of proteins
The first thing to know is that dietary proteins are essential for building and repairing muscles, but its function goes far beyond muscle mass. This is because these same proteins are necessary in the formation of tissues, organs, hormones, enzymes and antibodies in the body.
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It doesn’t matter if we are a great athlete or an amateur athlete, we have every interest in meeting our protein needs. These They will vary according to age, sex, weight, the nature of the sport practiced, as well as the frequency and duration of the efforts.
Vegetarians and protein
Are athletic vegetarians at risk for deficiency? Not necessarily. However, they must meet the needs of the body and ensure that plant proteins are combined to obtain all the amino acids they need.
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Hard? Not so much, for example, combining brown rice or quinoa with legumes, you get the complete profile. As for non-strict vegetarians who consume proteins of animal origin (dairy, eggs or fish), they have a slightly easier task, since these foods contain all the amino acids that the body needs. Keep in mind that soy (soy drink, tofu, tempeh, edamame, etc.) contains all amino acids, even if it is of plant origin.
A common protein-related question is about protein powder supplements. The growing offering from this industry can make it seem like a must when you start training, right? Not necessarily.
By definition, a dietary supplement is: “A substance or product that is consumed, in addition to the usual diet, with the purpose of increasing the intake of essential compounds, adding nutrients to the diet or guaranteeing a convenient alternative to foods consumed daily” (Nutrition committee, IOC; AMA, 2006).
The thing to remember is that if we consume enough protein in our daily diet, there is no need to add a “shake”, even if we train several times a week.
In fact, a protein supplement will have no effect if we already meet our needs for this nutrient. In addition, if we exceed our energy needs for the day, we will store the surplus in our fat reserves.
However, this type of supplement can represent a practical alternative (easy to carry, fast, etc.) for athletes who have little time and want to have an option on hand to recover quickly.
Caution is advised when choosing a supplement to ensure that it is safe and not contaminated with illegal substances. With that said, one can easily find food sources to create a homemade recovery drink: Greek yogurt, egg white and egg white, silky tofu, etc. Add frozen fruit, milk, soy or almond drink and you’re done.
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It is true that proteins have an important place in the diet, but we must not forget that in order for them to do their work in the body, we must not neglect the other food groups that complement the diet.