Protein and nutrition

What are proteins?

In the sports world in particular, we come across the term protein almost every day. But what are proteins actually?

Proteins are also known as proteins and are an important building material for various organs in the human organism. They are the building blocks of cells, tissues and organs. Best known is probably their role in muscle building.
But proteins also act as enzymes or hormones and perform important tasks in the body. As one of the three macronutrients alongside fats and carbohydrates, protein is also an important supplier of energy.

How does protein work in the body?

The building blocks of proteins (or proteins) are the so-called amino acids. If protein is supplied through food, it is broken down into individual parts in several steps during digestion.

Proteins are mainly digested in the stomach and small intestine; the pancreas supplies the enzymes that are important for this. The individual amino acids are then delivered to the portal vein in the liver via the blood.
Most of the important proteins are synthesized there. The breakdown of the proteins provides the body with some energy, around 4 kilocalories per gram of protein.

In addition, proteins are required for the construction of cells and are involved in the construction of the cell support structure. They are building materials for muscles, tendons and connective tissue, such as the well-known protein collagen.

As hormones, they are important

  • Messenger substances
  • Signal molecules and
  • Enzymes through which they catalyze other metabolic processes.
  • In the form of antibodies, they are part of the immune system and are involved in the defense against infections.
  • They sit on the membrane of cells and are involved in signal transmission.

Proteins are essential for the body and should be taken in sufficient quantities as part of a balanced diet. Vegetable as well as meat sources can serve as protein suppliers.

Read more on the subject at: Function of proteins

How Much Protein is Healthy?

The body needs protein. The supply via a balanced diet is essential so that all metabolic functions in the body can be carried out correctly and the body substance can be maintained.
Too little protein intake leads to weight loss, muscle wasting and numerous physical complaints.

These include, for example

  • Hair loss,
  • brittle nails,
  • an increased susceptibility to infections,
  • Indigestion,
  • No menstrual period
  • and other signs of deficiency symptoms.

The German Nutrition Society recommends different amounts of protein depending on age and gender.

Growing children, for example, have a higher protein requirement in relation to their body weight than adults. The DGE recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for adults between 19 and 50 years of age.
This need can vary depending on the level of activity. For some occupational groups who perform physically demanding work, a higher protein intake is recommended. Athletes can also have an increased need.
For bodybuilders, twice the amount of protein per day is sometimes recommended. The high protein intake should not come at the expense of carbohydrate and especially fat intake.

Not only proteins are essential for the body, but also fatty acids, as well as vitamins, trace elements and other elements. As part of a balanced diet, a slightly increased protein intake is not harmful to a healthy (especially: kidney-healthy) adult.

Read more on the subject at:

  • Dosing of proteins
  • High protein diet

How much protein does my body need?

First of all, everyone has a basic need for protein to protect their cells, to maintain or build up muscles and to keep the normal metabolic processes in the body going.

The recommendations of the German Nutrition Society are around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight in healthy adults. The need increases with high physical activity.

This applies not only to athletes, but also to people who do heavy physical work. In extreme cases, high-performance athletes can require more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight for protein.
In cases of increased protein requirements, it may be useful or even necessary to supplement your diet with protein shakes.In general, however, you should make your diet balanced and rich in protein and use natural protein sources if possible.

You might also be interested in these topics:

  • Protein powder
  • Protein shakes

What happens if there is too much protein in the diet?

With healthy kidney function, it is almost impossible to consume too much protein through diet as long as no other dietary supplements are taken.

Healthy kidneys work well even with a very protein-heavy diet and normally there are no health problems.

In contrast to carbohydrates, however, the energy from protein is not immediately available and a certain metabolic performance is necessary in order to make energy available. This is also the cause of tiredness and fatigue in the context of a low carb high protein diet, i.e. a low-carbohydrate and high-protein diet.
After a period of acclimatization, the tiredness and weakness should disappear, provided that the body receives not only protein but also sufficient fat, fiber and micronutrients such as vitamins and trace elements through the diet.

Too much protein intake can initially lead to weight gain if the body is supplied with more energy than it consumes daily. A high amount of protein in the diet can also lead to digestive problems such as gas. These are largely due to a lack of fiber. In addition, bad breath is common, especially when few carbohydrates are consumed. With a protein-heavy diet, you should drink plenty of fluids to protect the kidneys.

Also read: Kidney failure

What happens when there is a protein deficiency?

The consequences of extreme malnutrition and lack of protein are underweight and the loss of all fat reserves, including the so-called depot fat.

Children in particular are so weak that this extreme malnutrition is often fatal. These children also suffer from a so-called water belly, the belly bulges out because the albumin in the blood is insufficiently produced due to the lack of protein.
Fortunately, such cases are extremely rare in our latitudes, but an unbalanced diet and insufficient supply of proteins can also affect our health.

Symptoms include tiredness and decreased athletic performance. If less collagen is formed due to a protein deficiency, nails become brittle or hair falls out.
Proteins are also important actors in the immune system; a protein deficiency can be shown by a higher susceptibility to infection.

Edema can occur due to a lack of protein, especially in older people.

You might also be interested in this:

  • The protein deficiency
  • Protein deficiency edema

When should you supplement protein?

As a rule, an adequate intake of protein is possible with a balanced diet. This is especially true for non-athletes and amateur athletes who mainly do endurance training.

The protein requirement should be covered by natural foods, which can be meat, fish and eggs, but also vegetable foods. For adults, between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended. Unless directed by a doctor, taking protein in the form of supplements such as protein powder is only really necessary for bodybuilding.

Even athletes who do a lot of strength training and want to build muscle mass can resort to dietary supplements. A pure supply of protein powder does not, however, lead to muscle building; a demanding strength training must be completed for this.

Even athletes who want to lose body weight can use protein powder as part of a diet. If there is a calorie deficit in the diet, the increased intake of protein can at least partially slow down the breakdown of muscle mass, provided the muscles are still used. Supplements should at most supplement a balanced diet and the intake of all important macro and micronutrients, never replace them.

Read more on the subject at:

  • Lose weight with protein powder
  • High protein diet
  • Protein powder for the muscle

Protein for building muscle

Most of our muscles are made up of protein. They make up the structural elements and contractile units of the muscle fibers that make up our muscles.

Protein is therefore of great importance for building muscle. When the muscle fibers are overstrained, for example through intensive strength training, more proteins are built into the muscle fiber to protect against injury and overload.

An athlete should meet this increased need for protein through diet. The need for protein increases by around 0.8 grams, in some cases even twice as much. This in turn depends on the training intensity. Athletes who build muscle should therefore make sure they get enough protein from their diet.

Sources should be natural foods such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy products or naturally plant-based foods.

In some cases the additional intake of protein powder can be justified, however, as has already been emphasized several times, this can only supplement a balanced diet.

Read more on the subject at: Proteins for building muscle

How much protein is there in which foods?

Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is one of the macronutrients. Sufficient protein intake is essential for the body to survive.

The main source of protein supply should be natural foods; in individual cases, dietary supplements can also be used.
In addition to animal foods, many plant foods also contain a high proportion of proteins.

Meat is an important source of protein.
It consists mostly of muscle fibers and is therefore very rich in protein. The proportion is particularly high in chicken fillet or turkey breast.
These two foods come to around 30 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Pork fillet, salami or mixed minced meat have just under 20 grams of protein. In addition to meat, fish is a good source of protein.
Tuna fillet contains almost 25 grams of protein per 100 grams, trout with 22 grams a little less.

Eggs are also a reliable source of protein; whole eggs contain just under 12 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Among the dairy products, skimmed quark has a high protein content with around 13 grams of protein per 100 grams, not everyone's taste but at 30 grams a real protein bomb is Harzer cheese.

Skyr, an Icelandic milk product, is now very well known in our country and very rich in protein with 10.6 grams of protein.
But not only meat, fish and animal products are very rich in protein.

Vegetable proteins from legumes, nuts, grain and co. are a good alternative for athletes and non-athletes who want to eat consciously and balanced.

For example, red lentils contain 25.5 grams of protein per 100 grams, cooked soybeans 16 grams.
In addition to legumes, many nuts and seeds are also very rich in protein:

Mangles, for example, contain 19 grams of protein per 100 grams. Often used as a meat substitute, tofu can hold a candle to meat in terms of protein content: it contains 16 grams of protein per 100 grams.

However, cereals such as rice, corn, oats, wheat, rye, spelled and barley also contain protein and can easily cover the daily protein requirement with a balanced diet.

Vegetarians and vegans can therefore easily defend themselves against accusations of following a low-protein diet. Many professional athletes have long been plant-based and have had great sporting successes.

Also read our topics:

  • Protein-containing foods
  • How high is the protein content in the egg?

The egg white powder

Many people, especially athletes, add protein powder to their protein intake.
These are powders, mostly made from milk proteins, which have a high protein content with little fat and carbohydrates. Protein powder should never replace a balanced diet with sufficient protein intake. But especially athletes who have an increased protein requirement due to hard physical training can use protein powder as a dietary supplement.

The quality of a protein powder is determined by the so-called biological value. This describes how well the powder can be digested by the body and used to build up the body's own proteins.
Whey protein, for example, has a high biological value. Whey isolates have a very low carbohydrate content with a high content of protein and are therefore preferred by most athletes. Protein powder is usually mixed in water or milk, a quality feature of protein powders is their solubility in liquids. There are also numerous baking recipes with protein powder.

More on this: What should be considered when buying protein powder?

The protein shake

Protein shakes are now even available on the refrigerated shelves of supermarkets. Protein powder is stirred into a creamy shake in water or milk.

It is worth taking a look at the nutritional table, because the finished shakes often contain a lot of sugar and are real calorie bombs. In addition, protein shakes are much more expensive in the long run. If protein is supplemented, it is better to mix such a shake yourself.
If you pay attention to your calorie balance, you should mix the powder in water. Some powders dissolve more poorly in water, you can also mix the shake in a mixer. You can let your imagination run wild, protein powder often turns into a delicious milkshake with fresh or frozen fruits such as berries and ice cubes.

Read more on the subject at: Protein shake

The protein bar

Even with protein bars, consumers and especially those new to fitness can be quickly deceived.

Although they are high in protein, they are often real calorie bombs and high in fat. If you want to lose weight and eat a diet rich in protein, you should pay attention to your calorie balance and achieve a deficit. Protein bars are temptingly delicious, but not very filling.
They are more suitable as a larger snack between meals. If you want to supplement protein in addition to a balanced diet, you should rather use protein shakes. These tend to be more filling and contain fewer carbohydrates, fat, and calories.

If, on the other hand, you have difficulty meeting your calorie needs or want to consume excess calories, you can use protein bars.

This topic could also be interesting: Fitness bars

Protein tablets

There are the most adventurous products on the market to deceive consumers and get the money out of their pockets.

Protein tablets are intended to replace the intake of protein powder if you don't have a shaker at hand.

The recommendations are for taking over 15 tablets. This is the only way to consume the same amounts of protein in tablet form as protein powder provides.

This makes protein intake an expensive proposition this way. Instead of expensive powders and pills, consumers should opt for high-quality, nutrient-rich natural foods and cover their protein needs with a balanced diet.

The protein diet

Protein is one of the three macronutrients in the human diet. If protein is not supplied through the diet, the metabolic processes in the body do not run, our cells have no stability, muscle and organ mass is broken down, our immune system cannot work.

Protein is therefore essential for survival and an important part of our diet.
But besides protein, other nutrients are also of central importance for the correct functioning of our metabolism or for generating energy. Fats and carbohydrates, as well as fiber, vitamins, trace elements and other micronutrients are part of a balanced diet.

Only this can protect our health, our well-being and our performance in the long term.

Crash diets reduce the calorie intake at the expense of a balanced diet. They usually take on extreme proportions.
Crash diets should never be followed over a long period of time. They are very successful, especially at the beginning, but in the long term they are deficient in terms of essential nutrients.

If you want to lose weight, you should moderate your calorie intake but still provide your body with sufficient protein, fat, vitamins, trace elements, fiber, etc.
A protein diet is mainly based on the consumption of proteins. In order to keep the calorie intake low, carbohydrates are usually avoided.
Carbohydrates are not essential for generating energy, but for many people doing without carbohydrates leads to weakness, fatigue, circulatory problems or mood swings.

However, avoiding fats is much more worrying. Essential fatty acids in particular must be supplied to the body through diet; fat is an important player in our metabolism and is involved in the development of cells and hormones. There is nothing wrong with a balanced diet with a markedly higher proportion of proteins as long as all other necessary nutrients are supplied in sufficient quantities.

Read more on the subject under: Protein diet

Protein in the urine

Experts speak of proteinuria when more than 150 mg of protein is excreted in the urine per day. Small amounts of protein also occur in healthy people, but proteinuria can be an indication of kidney disease or other diseases.

The causes for this can lie “in front of” the kidney, which is called prerenal proteinuria. This includes, for example, the excessive destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis), for example through mechanical damage (e.g. during long marches), thermal damage (heating) or damage and destruction of blood cells by toxins, bacteria or parasites.

The most common form of proteinuria is renal proteinuria, which is caused by a dysfunction of the kidney. The kidney is no longer able to fulfill its task as a filter organ and proteins get into the urine unfiltered.

In postrenal proteinuria, the urinary tract is affected. A simple statement about the presence of proteinuria is given by the urine test strip, which is held in urine and changes color.

If protein is found in the urine, the urine must be collected for 24 hours, the bladder and urinary tract examined by ultrasound, and a urine culture performed. A biopsy may also be indicated for severe proteinuria or kidney failure.

Find out more about this: Protein in the urine

Protein in the blood

Proteins also occur in various forms in the blood. They are also called plasma proteins and they perform a variety of tasks.

The most common protein found in the blood is albumin.
It maintains the so-called colloid osmotic pressure, which keeps the blood in the vessels.

In addition, otherwise insoluble substances become water-soluble through their binding to albumin and can therefore be transported.

Hemoglobin, which transports oxygen in the blood, is very well known and important.
Another transport protein in the blood is transferrin, which transports iron. The HDL is responsible for the transport of blood lipids.

Antibodies, so-called immunoglobulins, also occur in the blood.

They are actors in the immune system and protect against infections and foreign antigens.

Protein deficiency

Real protein deficiency can only be observed in connection with extreme malnutrition.

The consequences of malnutrition are

  • extreme underweight,
  • Breakdown of muscles and fat reserves,
  • a weak immune system,
  • a slow metabolism,
  • Indigestion,
  • hormonal problems and many other symptoms that are also due to the lack of proteins.

In order to prevent a protein deficiency, however, you usually don't have to resort to powder straight away.
As part of a normal, balanced diet, sufficient amounts of protein can be obtained from natural foods, both animal and vegetable.
The protein requirement of an adult averages 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight with moderate training, and only increases significantly with greater physical exertion.

Many symptoms such as tiredness, poor performance or susceptibility to infection are partly due to other deficits, such as a lack of vitamins or trace elements.

More information is available here: The protein deficiency

Protein shock

From a medical point of view, a shock describes a life-threatening situation in which vital organs can no longer be adequately supplied with blood and oxygen from the body due to various causes.
Shock can result from an allergic reaction.
People who suffer from a milk protein allergy or egg allergy can suffer a life-threatening anaphylactic shock after consuming such products.
The “protein shock” per se that fitness circles talk about does not exist in this form.

However, if there are intolerances or allergies, foods that contain the allergens should not be consumed under any circumstances!

How many calories does protein have?

One gram of pure protein provides 4 kilocalories.

It provides as much energy as one gram of carbohydrates. Fat is 9 kilocalories per gram.