Proteins & Amino Acids: Importance & Dietary Needs

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  • 0:01 Protein in our Body
  • 0:25 What Are Proteins and…
  • 1:17 Complete and…
  • 2:30 Sources of Protein
  • 3:22 How Much Protein Do I Need?
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Can protein become fat? How much protein do we need? What's the difference between an essential and a complete protein? You'll find out that and much more as we go over the nutritional aspects of proteins.

Protein in Our Body

Lots of people drink protein shakes after exercising at the gym. Some even do so right before and during exercise. This is all done in order to help build muscle, which is made of protein. While protein is used for muscle, it's also used by so many other structures in our body, ranging from hair to bone! Protein is virtually everywhere and anywhere in our body, and we need it to live a healthy life.

What Are Proteins and Amino Acids?

But what are proteins really? Proteins are important nutrients made of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and are made from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen.

If a protein is a Lego building, then an amino acid is a Lego block. Amino acids come together like a bunch of small blocks to form larger structures called proteins. It's as simple as that.

I mentioned before how proteins are important in many structures, including bone and muscle. But proteins go way beyond making up the structures in the body.

For instance, certain types of proteins, called enzymes, help speed up biochemical reactions in our body. Without these enzymes, we simply wouldn't be able to exist.

These enzymes and other proteins help our body grow and repair itself in general.

Complete and Incomplete Proteins

But enough about the boring biochemical stuff! Let's move on to terms you've probably heard before on daytime TV shows.

There are twenty common amino acids. Of these, nine are considered essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are amino acids that must be obtained from the diet, because they cannot be made by the body.

Now, don't get too scared as I list off the essential amino acids. You don't have to memorize them for me, but I thought you may be interested to know what they are if you like to look for these things on ingredient labels on protein shakes. The essential amino acids are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lycine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Be that as it may, even remembering the much simpler stuff I went over, you'll now be able to understand what a complete protein is. A complete protein is a food that has all essential amino acids contained within it. A food that doesn't have all nine essential amino acids is known as an incomplete protein.

Sources of Protein

Knowing this, play along with me. Pause the video and list some of the things you eat throughout your normal day. Guess which ones are complete and incomplete protein sources. Once you've finished, continue watching the video or reading below as we go over the sources of complete and incomplete proteins to see which ones you eat the most of.

Okay, hopefully you've completed your little assignment. Complete sources of protein include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Soy

Basically, if it's a soy or an animal product, it's a complete protein source.

Common sources of incomplete proteins are:

  • Grains
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes (like peas)
  • Nuts

How Much Protein Do I Need?

Overall, it is recommended that, on average, 10-35 percent of a person's daily caloric intake comes from protein.

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