Macronutrients: Protein

When reading about nutrition, you have probably stumbled upon the term “macronutrients” more than once, but what exactly are macronutrients? If you want to know the answer to this question then read on, because in this series consisting of three parts, I will explain macronutrients in detail and cover the individual macronutrients, as well as their effects in your body.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are the main ingredients of our food and thus the main suppliers of nutrients. They are those nutrients, that our body uses to gain energy during metabolism. You could say our body needs macronutrients to “work”.

What is protein?

Proteins are amino acids that are linked by a chemical compound (peptide bond) and they are divided into essential, semi-essential and nonessential amino acids. The former can not be produced by our body in sufficient quantity and must therefore be consumed via the daily diet. But as athletes, we also have an increased need for nonessential amino acids, which is why they also play an important role in our diet.

Protein: Effect

Proteins play a key role in building and renewing cells and tissues in our body, and thus play an important role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Protein itself is only metabolized as energy in rare cases, but has significant importance as building block for our body. In addition, proteins in our blood plasma serve, among other things, as a means to transport substances such as vitamins. Also, antibodies are made up of proteins, which is why they play an important role in our immune system.

Protein: Sources

Proteins are contained in plant and animal foods. As sources of plant based protein, the following foods can serve (non-exhaustive enumeration):

  • Legumes (e.g, lentils, beans, peas)
  • Nuts (e.g., cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts)
  • Quinoa
  • Cereals (e.g. wheat, rye, spelt)

You are probably more familiar with animal protein sources, such as those listed below:

  • Meat (e.g. chicken, turkey, beef)
  • Fish (e.g. salmon, tuna)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products (e.g. cottage cheese, curd)

Whether you choose plant or animal based protein sources makes no difference to the effect in your body. As a noteworthy difference, however, it should be noted that animal proteins usually have a higher biological value than plant based proteins. Biological value indicates how well consumed proteins can be converted into endogenous protein, so it makes sense to resort to protein sources of higher biological value.

But that does not mean that you should only eat meat, fish and eggs, because the individual foods not only serve as protein sources, but also fulfill other important functions. You should therefore always pay attention to a balanced diet and integrate both plant and animal proteins into your diet.

If you want to know more about macronutrients then read the next blogpost of this series here: Macronutrients: Carbohydrates.
Do you have further questions about protein and its effects? Let me know in the comments!
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