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Protein has been deemed by the World Health Association as “essential for optimum growth in children.” They also suggest that newborn infants require complete dietary proteins that contain about 37% of the weight in essential amino acids, while adults on the other hand, require about 15%.
Amino Acids are the building blocks of protein and can be broken up into two different groups; Essential and Non – Essential. Essentials are not produced by our bodies so we must get them in the form of food or supplementation whereas the ” Non-Essential” can be produced by the body are no less essential than the “Essential.”
Protein is often a “Hot Topic” with all of the fad dieting going around; Atkins, South Beach, Medi -Fast and even Smoothie Diets to name a few. A lot of these diets are very high protein, low carb and high fat. Some are so extreme as to tell you not to eat Fruits and Vegetables, while others swear that no protein is the way to lose weight! While you may lost weight it will probably be water, gastrointestinal bulk and lean muscle tissue which should not be your goal…..
Tsk, tsk, tsk! Even if you aren’t an athlete your body still needs Proteins - aka (amino – acids), Carbohydrates - aka (Glucose) and Lipids – aka (Fat) These are your major Macro – Nutrients your body (including your brain) need in the right amounts to optimally function.
Now the that being said the nutritional requirements of any individual are directly based upon that person’s activity level, conditioning and goals. We could throw a few more variables in there, but you get the picture - your specific needs will be different from your neighbors and so on.
So how can you tell if you are gettting the right amount of Protein? Nitrogen! The answer lies in the structure of the amino acids. In addition to their composition of carbon and hydrogen atoms, amino acids have the unique characteristic of containing nitrogen as part of their molecular structure, which gives us the ability of measuring the nitrogen balance of an individual.
Rule of thumb is if you are looking to maintain the body mass you have you want equal nitrogen in and equal out. If you are looking to add lean muscle mass (such as an athlete) you want a nitrogen surplus. If you are deficient - you may want to bump up your protein intake.
Nitrogen can be measured by testing urine and there has been a test developed to test the amounts to give individuals and athletes a rough idea of their nitrogen balance. While it may take some time and tracking every day to measure, it should allow you to combine and test different protein sources and come up with your own individual protein regimen that is right for you.