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Are you getting enough protein?

When we increase our exercise demands the body begins looking for additional nutrients and key sources of fuel in order to repair , recover and power the muscles. When we deprive the body of these important key nutrients (macros) we begin to get muscle breakdown , soreness and injury.

As some of you know I am currently training for the Gibb River Challenge , a team relay spanning 660km over 5 days. This year our team of 3 are attempting it solo. This requires careful planning of training and a good understanding of food needs in order to fuel.

Over the next few weeks I will be talking about food , specifically macronutrients in order to fuel and recover the system. So for this blog we will look at protein.

Proteins are found in every cell in your body, and are foundational for muscle, bone, skin, tendon and ligament structure. As your body makes new protein, it continually replaces dead or damaged cells to facilitate normal growth and maintenance. For example, skin cells typically live for 30 days, as these cells die, new ones composed primarily of protein grow underneath as replacements. Similar processes occur with muscles, hair and fingernails.

Proteins are essential for growth and maintenance of your body tissues. Through digestion and absorption, proteins from the foods you eat are broken down and then reformulated, via genetic instructions, into many kinds of proteins, each with a unique function.

Muscles, hormones, enzymes and antibodies are all made of proteins. Proteins aid blood clotting, fluid balance, buffering, vision and transportation of vital substances throughout your body. Protein can be metabolized for energy when carbohydrate and fat are in short supply.

Proteins carry lipids, vitamins, minerals and oxygen throughout your body. For example, hemoglobin, a blood protein, carries needed oxygen from the lungs to body tissues. Some proteins act as pumps in cell membranes, permitting substances to move across cell membranes. Proteins regulate fluid composition and balance in the body, preventing excessive fluid retention. Balancing materials in and out of cells is essential for nerve transmission and muscle contraction. When imbalances occur, body processes such as heart beat, muscle and kidney function are affected.

So what are some signs and symptoms of Protein Deficiency?

1. Cravings

Carbs, sweets, caffeine, chocolate, pastries, chips.....all point to unstable blood sugars, with inadequate protein consumption and cravings closely linked.

A comparison of high carb and low fat diets : low fat and vegetarian diets show a stronger link with cravings. When a diet is robbed of good fat sources , cravings come on for high sugar, high fat non-nutritional foods , this craving and consumption leads to imbalances in blood sugars.

2. Muscle and Joint pain

When the body is forced to store protein, or does so naturally as weather cools the reserves are stored around synovial joints which is then used to rebuild muscles and joints after exercise. During a chronic lack of adequate protein, the synovial fluid is the first source of protein that becomes depleted leading to joint and muscle pain.

3.Can't sleep well

Without protein the body craves excess carbs and sugars, which creates a dependancy on sugars for energy. However, we burn through sugar and carbs quickly creating high energy highs and lows. Sleeping through the night requires burning fats, rather than sugar. If you are only accustomed

4. Low energy, moodiness and stress

A diet high in protein can support a more stable mood. Without protein to stabilise the moods the tendency increases to experience exhausting highs and lows in energy and moods. Overtime the highs and lows exhaust the body's reserves leaving you with no energy to calm yourself down.

5 Your age 50 or over

In the same way we need to increase protein through winter months to build up and insulate the body, so too do we need to increase these macronutrients to create the same kind of rebuilding and insulation. The percentage being around 1.3% per kg of body fat. Increasing protein intake as we age helps minimise muscle wastage and rebuild the tissue that supports our structure.

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