Proteins is a group of large biomolecules (macromolecules) made up of one or more amino acid chains.
The proteins are not all the same and differ from each other precisely in their sequence of amino acids. Within living organisms, this gives them specific biological functions, among which the plastic and support function stand out: in fact we find them present in large quantities in the muscle fibres and in the collagen, or in the supporting scaffold of many organs and tissues (cartilage, bones and skin).
In order to synthesise proteins, the body must have a certain amount of amino acids. These are substantially derived from the digestion of dietary proteins, even if in a different quantity and proportion depending on the food in question.
Proteins nutritional requirements
But how much protein should we take in a balanced diet? It depends, the protein fraction is not the same for everyone. They need it most: children and young people, women in pregnancy and during lactation, very busy sportsmen, those suffering from malabsorption or other conditions that determine a greater need.
However, the minimum proteins requirement for a sedentary male adult is 55 gm per day, while for women it is 44 gm; this should be enough to keep proteins stocks in 95% of the general adult population.
However, to get a more precise estimate of the daily protein requirement in a sedentary subject, it is also possible to use the factor of 0.8 gm multiplied to the kilograms (kg) of physiological body weight (not the real one). For children and adolescents, the factor explodes up to 1.5 gm; in case of gestation “a few grams” is added (6 gm / day).
Proteins and physical activity
As suggested by many research institutes, an adequate proteins intake in athletes would be indispensable for:
Gaining a higher level of muscular hypertrophy (body mass). Specifically, with training increases the proteins requirement, a need that should be met through a change of the diet to support muscle growth.
Maximise the recoveries between one training session and another. Physical activity, in fact, causes an increase in “muscle catabolism”, that is the wear and tear of the tissue because of exercise: to restore catabolic losses it is therefore necessary to take proteins, since in case of failure to supply, recovery between a session and the other would fail, jeopardising the final goal of training.
We know it that the most proteins-rich foods with the best biological value are those of animal origin: eggs, milk and derivatives, meat and fish.
In recent years, however, it has been discovered that even plant-based food can satisfy most of the proteins requirements. Especially leguminous plants are rich in these nutrients, provided however that they are correctly associated: in fact, vegetable proteins are deficient in certain amino acids, but if consumed in combination with foods that complete their profile in this respect, they give rise to a pool of amino acids super imposable to that of meat and fish.
Thanks to the association of legumes and cereals, such as wheat and red lentils or chickpeas or peas, it is therefore not essential to consume food of animal origin to reach the daily quota of high biological value proteins. This applies to sedentary subjects, but also to athletes. In fact, wellness lovers who combine the practice of various sports with a diet based on a limited presence of ingredients of animal origin are constantly growing.
By combining cereals and legumes, continuously varying them, there is also the great advantage of improving the intake of many other nutrients, such as iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, B vitamins, and also meeting the need for complex carbohydrates (starch).
Besides the classic combination of rice and peas or pasta and beans, it is also possible to try the combination of wheat and red or chickpea lentils, which can also be consumed through the pasta-based format of flour from these legumes.
How many proteins in a balanced diet?
Nutritionists recommend taking about 15-20% of the total daily calorie intake of 0.8-1 gm of proteins per kg of body weight throughout the day.
These proteins should derive 2/3 from products of animal origin and 1/3 from products of vegetable origin.
REMEMBER, the protein requirement is inversely proportional to age:
2 g / kg / day in the newborn, 1.5 gm / kg / day at 5 years, 1.2 gm / kg / day in teenage – adult age;
Are all proteins the same?
The amount of protein isn’t the only important parameter; in order for a diet to be considered balanced, we must also consider protein quality.