We always hear how important protein is to a healthy diet. According to our textbooks, protein is needed by the body to build and develop muscles and to help tissues repair themselves after intense physical activity or while recovering from an injury. However, proteins and amino acids are so much more than just macronutrients and enzymes for the muscles and for tissue repair as they can also provide a number of different health benefits for individuals. In this article, let us look and define the amino group – its benefits of protein to our overall health. Read on and find out more!
Amino Acids, Amino Groups, and Proteins: Why the Acid in Proteins?
Amino acids are compounds that are very important to the different biological functions of the body. They are primarily responsible for protein development and growth. Organisms rely on proteins for their bodies to be able to develop muscles and create structures within the membranes of their cells. While these living things may be different from one another, they all need the said building blocks based on these chemical compounds.
Amino acids have a bond made up of two-carbons classified as an amino group. One of these carbons falls under the COO group or carboxyl group. This group contains two atoms of oxygen and a single atom of carbon. The said group is also charged negatively due to the fact that it is a carboxylic acid (-COOH) and has already let go of its (H) or a hydrogen atom.
The remaining components of the carboxyl group are referred to as the conjugate base. The amino group then connects to the second carbon. This group is termed the amino group due to the fact that the carbon atoms are bonded to an NH2 group.
Experts have identified around fifty (50) different types of amino acids, but there are only twenty (20) amino acids utilized by the human body to build and ensure the growth of proteins. Out of those twenty (20), nine (9) have been classified as essential meaning they cannot be produced by the body naturally making it necessary for humans to obtain the aforementioned essential amino acids from the food items they consume. Listed below are the different types of amino acids:
- Conditional Amino Acids- Tyrosine, serine, proline, glycine, glutamine, cysteine, and Arginine (only essential in young kids but not for older adults)
- Nonessential Amino acids- Glutamic Acid, Aspartic Acid, Asparagine, and alanine.
- Essential Amino Acids- Valine, Tryptophan, threonine, Phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, leucine, Isoleucine, and histidine.
It may be noteworthy to mention as well that there are side groups that make each amino acid unique from another. There are two main groups for the above-mentioned classification and these are non-polar and polar. These pertain to how the side groups are able to conduct their environmental interaction. For example, amino acids that are polar in nature are reactive while those that are non-polar are not very reactive towards their surroundings or their environmental situation.
The Benefits of Protein
There are a number of scientific studies that show the health benefits of a high protein diet. Listed below are some of the aforecited health benefits:
Protein can help control levels of hunger and appetite reduction
Protein, carbs, and fats, or the three major macros of the body, differently affect the body in their own distinct way. Evidence suggests that protein is the most satiating among the three (3) macros or put simply, it makes people feel more satiated with less food consumed or taken in.
This is due to protein’s lowering of ghrelin in the body, a hormone responsible for activating feelings of hunger or cravings. Protein has also been shown to increase peptide YY levels, a type of hormone that can make people feel satiated. Experts recommend that people replace their fats or carbs with protein to lose weight around their bellies or to lose weight in general.
Protein can aid in increasing strength and muscle mass
The building blocks of muscles is protein and as such, consuming the recommended amounts of protein can help people maintain their muscle strength and promote the further development of their muscles after working out.
There are a number of studies that indicate the effectiveness of increased protein intake on muscle gains. In addition, protein intake while attempting weight loss can also aid in the prevention of losing muscle during the said delicate period of weight management.
Protein is beneficial for the bones
There is a misconception that protein from animal meats and products can be detrimental to the bones. This theory came about from the belief that increased protein intake also translates to increased acid load for the human body.
Data suggests something contrary though, as protein, particularly those coming from animal-based products or food items, can benefit bone health and bone strength. It was observed that individuals who consumed increased amounts of proteins were able to maintain bone health until they are older and were lose prone to fractures and osteoporosis.
Women may benefit more from this as they are also more prone to osteoporosis after going through the state of menopause. Women can prevent this from happening by leading an active lifestyle and by eating food items that are rich in protein.
Protein can help reduce late-night cravings and snacking
Hunger is different from the sudden onset of food cravings. It entails not just the body’s energy demands but the demand of the brain for some type of reward. These cravings can be difficult to manage and the best approach to controlling them may be preventing them from happening.
Prevention can all begin with the increased intake of protein. A study conducted on men who are overweight showed that a 25% increase in protein intake lowered cravings by as much as 60%. Another study showed that late-night cravings can also be lessened if a high protein breakfast is consumed to kick start the day.
This can all be traced back to dopamine function, a hormone responsible for addiction and cravings.