A Little Bit of Science
Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body. They are made up of amino acids, and help build muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. Next to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body, and most of it (around 60% to 70%) is located in the skeletal muscles.
There are 20 amino acids that are required for growth by the human body and all but eight can be produced in your body. These eight amino acids, called essential amino acids, must be supplied by food and/or supplements. The other twelve non-essential amino acids are made within the body, but both essential and non-essential amino acids are needed to synthesize proteins. What does all this mean? It means that if you don't supply your body with the essential amino acids it needs, your body may be limited in the amount of protein it can use to build muscle.
Getting the Right Kind of Protein
Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. These foods include beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk and just about anything else derived from animal sources. Incomplete proteins don't have all of the essential amino acids and generally include vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. So, if you're a vegetarian, does this mean you can't get complete protein? Not at all. Below is a chart listing some incomplete proteins. To get all of the essential amino acids, simply choose foods from two or more of the columns.
|Grains||Legumes||Seeds & Nuts||Vegetables|
|Barley||Beans||Sesame Seeds||Leafy Greens|
|Corn Meal||Lentils||Sunflower Seeds||Broccoli|
|Pasta||Soy Products||Other Nuts|
|Whole Grain Breads|
Next page: How Much Do You Need?