The human body uses three macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) and a number of micronutrients, (vitamins and minerals) from the time we are conceived to the time that we die. Our needs for each of these nutrients will change as we reach each new stage of life, with certain time periods needing nutrients in greater numbers because we are growing or for other reasons. In addition to the different stages of life, we may find ourselves in need of different nutrients because we are sick, injured, or pregnant. Whey, a beneficial type of protein is useful to the body, from the time of infancy up to the time of very old age. The needs of the body for protein, including whey, changes dramatically from time to time and varies depending on a number of factors.
It is not only important to get the right amount of protein but the right kind as well. Before discussing how much protein a body needs for every stage of life, the kinds of protein should be discussed.
Where Protein Comes From
Protein comes from both animal and plant sources. All animal based protein is complete; it has all nine essential amino acids needed for the human body. There are twenty amino acids, each playing a different role in the body including creating new amino acids, hormones, and enzymes. Each of these is vital to a different function of the body which include sleep regulation, digestion, and ovulation to name a few. While the body is making the others, it needs these nine amino acids to be replenished every day because not only can they not be made by the body, they are not stored either. Animal protein includes meat, of course, but also includes dairy foods like milk and cheese, as well as eggs. Whey is a protein that is derived from milk, a byproduct of the cheese making process.
Plant protein is incomplete because it lacks one or more of the essential amino acids. The exception is soy protein which is actually complete. Eating plant proteins in combination keeps there from being a problem with deficiencies; however, new vegetarians and some vegans may still see some problems from not calculating their needs correctly. Some may actually turn to amino acids derived from supplements to make sure that they are getting all that they need.
While doctors and nutritionists agree that you should always get your nutrients from whole food sources, it is not always possible. Using whey protein supplements can be a good way to make sure you are getting the protein that you actually need.
How Much Protein You Need
It might be surprising to learn that the highest level of protein that you need during your entire life is in infancy: The need is 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight decreasing into adulthood. By the time you have reached the age of 18 or so, your protein need has leveled out to around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, if you are a very sedentary person and rarely exercise, your needs will be slightly lower. If you are an avid exerciser, your needs will be slightly higher. Body builders and endurance athletes might need as much as 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight, although they do not get big based purely on their protein intake but rather because of their genetics, hours of time spent in the gym and overall nutrition.
In addition, you need extra protein when you are sick, suffering from trauma, burns, and recovering from surgery. Protein is vital to every cell in the body; however, protein that is higher than 35% of the daily calories may lead to kidney stones. Protein needs also increase when you reach the later stages of life. Whey protein has been shown to improve blood vessel function in healthy people as well as lowering blood pressure. It should be noted that whey protein has been used for health and nutrition since the time of Hippocrates who prescribed whey to his patients. Other benefits of protein include:
- It helps insulin work better so that you can maintain level blood sugar after a meal.
- It helps the optimal intake of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals all for overall good health.
- It supports the immune system.
- It helps preserve lean muscle mass.
- It improves vascular function.
Men need more protein than women because it is needed for the production of testosterone and helps with the normal level of circulation of red blood cells which is also increased in men.
The Problem with Too Much Protein
While protein is an important part of the diet, it needs to be in the right amount. Too much protein can change metabolism to ketosis. When the body is in ketosis, it is not burning carbohydrates for energy like it is designed to. Instead, fat is broken down to burn for energy creating byproducts called ketones which are then released to the blood stream. Ketones both suppress the appetite and increase urinary output which in turn can lead to electrolyte imbalances, dehydration, and osteoporosis. (Source: Osterweil) Too much whey protein may also lead to liver damage.
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