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Are All Proteins Equal?

When deciding where the bulk of our protein intake comes from, we can often get confused by the plethora of options available. Protein comes from many foods, including meat, nuts, plants, and supplements. But where should I source most of my protein, and more importantly, does it matter? For some, eating your daily protein requirements is easy, while others struggle for a multitude of reasons.

The most important factors when it comes to looking at high quality protein sources are amino acid content, digestibility, and micronutrient density.

Proteins are made from Amino Acids. These amino acids are what we are truly after when we want to hit our protein requirements. Each amino acid plays an important role within the body, and when we are missing certain amino acids in our diet, we will not be functioning at the highest level possible. Amino Acids can be broken down into 2 main groups, essential and non-essential. Non-Essential amino acids can be made in the body using other molecules, so if you are not acquiring enough of these from your diet, your body will take over and begin making them on its own. Essential amino acids can not be made in the body and must come from your diet. This is where the type of protein you eat begins to come into play. Essential amino acids are Valine, Leucine, Iso-Leucine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Lysine, Histidine, and Tryptophan. When you eat meat from an animal, the protein contains the full spectrum of amino acids, which gives your body everything it needs to function properly. Plant proteins, by contrast, generally lack essential amino acids, and leave your body vulnerable to the issues associated with being deficient in each amino acid you are not consuming. Not only does plant protein not give you the full spectrum of amino acids, but it is also hard to digest, and you may not even digest all the protein you consume. Animal product also contain many micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, which will help you reach your daily micronutrient goal as well. Supplemental protein, such as protein powders, are nearly as good as animal meat, so long as the protein powder is sources from an animal product, such as whey, casein, egg etc. Protein supplements only fall short of animal meat due to their micronutrient density, meaning they do not contain the same number of micronutrients as animal meat, but are still a superior choice to plant products.

Chris Still

BS Exercise Science


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