Proteins are one of the three macronutrients needed in our everyday diet, along with fats and carbohydrates. The sources of proteins in our diet are varied: meat, fish and other seafood, legumes, dairy products, and also, insects!
Proteins, what purpose do they serve?
Proteins, both from animal and plant sources, are essential for our health as they possess major structural and metabolic functions in our body. Besides being a good source of energy in our diet, they play an important role in numerous metabolic chemical reactions. In addition, proteins are the base of the cellular structure, and thus of tissues and organs. They are also the backbone of fundamental elements such as enzymes, which are proteins acting as catalysts to bring about a specific chemical reaction, or hormones: chemical substances acting like messengers in our body.
Proteins, what it is, from a scientific view?
Proteins are the building blocks of every cells of living organisms. More specifically, each protein molecule is made up of small units called “amino acids” linked together. The length of the amino acids chains vary according to the protein’s type.
Human proteins are made up of 20 different main amino acids. Some of them are non-essential (or dispensable) as they can be synthesized by our body on a regular basis, while some are essential (or non-dispensable) as they must be integrated into our diet in order to meet our requirements. Our body cannot synthesize them.
Table of the different amino acids
While eating proteins, people often look at the quantity without necessarily thinking about the quality. However, to maintain good health, it is important to ensure a minimum required amount of each essential amino acids in our diet. This illustrates the importance of having a varied diet as the combination of different foods allows our body to meet the necessary nutritional requirements.
Therefore, some proteins can be considered as “complete”. This term means that each of the 9 essential amino acids are present in sufficient quantity, per gram of protein. Animal proteins are complete while plant proteins tend to lack some essential amino acids. Thus, some of them are considered as “incomplete”. As an example, cereals often lack lysine while legumes are generally deficient in methionine. Cricket for their part represent an excellente source of complete proteins.
The digestion begin once the proteins have reached the stomach. They are first cleaved in smaller fragments of amino acids, called “peptides” by some enzymes secreted into our gastrointestinal tract. At the end of this process, only individual amino acids remain, which are absorbed in the small intestine before travelling to the liver via the blood system. They will be used to synthesize new proteins, among other things.
On the other hand, extra amino acids will be degraded and used as an energy source, either immediately or later. In the latter case, they will be stored in adipose tissues, which are actually fat! For this reason, eating too many proteins in comparison to our needs does have any beneficial effects, once we have reached our needs in essential amino acids and energy.
Proteins, what are our needs?
The daily needs in protein differ according to different factors, including the composition in amino acids of the food as well as the physiological and nutritional stage of the individual. Nevertheless, dietary reference intakes have been calculated by scientists to help the population meeting a healthy and adequate diet. For instance, Health Canada recommends that a 18 year-old adult should eat 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. This means that a 65 kg individual would need 52 g of protein per day (0.8x65).
What if we don’t eat enough proteins?
Protein deficiency can induce, among other things, tiredness, dull hair, edema, difficulty in healing or muscle pain. However, malnutrition linked to protein deficiency is generally unsual in industrialized countries. Still, it is much more common in developing countries, where it can cause growth disorder in children/adolescent.
Proteins and sport
Proteins are involved in muscle synthesis. Muscle cells, also called “myocytes”, are made of two main protein filaments : “actin” and “myosin”, responsible for muscle contraction.
It is important to integrate enough protein in our diet when exercising on a regular basis in order to maintain lean body mass. The latter, opposed to fat body mass, represents all of the body's bones, organs, skin, muscles as well as fluids. Physical exercise has the characteristic of deteriorating some tissues of this lean body mass, mainly muscles. Proteins integrated in our diet help repairing and reinforcing the damaged tissues, making them stronger.
Depending on the type of sport practiced (endurance or resistance) and its intensity, energy and nutritional needs may vary.
Proteins and the Naak bar
Naak decided to use cricket powder as main source of protein in its product. Besides possessing a high concentration of complete protein (approximately 60%), this superfood is ecofriendly.
A Naak bar provides you with 10 g of protein, possessing all the essential amino acids needed to allow an efficient recovery!