What does protein do for our bodies?
What does protein do for our bodies? We take a look and also show you 4 amazingly simple energy packed protein ball recipes.
It is commonly known that fats and carbohydrates provide our body with energy that allows us to function effectively on a day to day basis, but proteins role in the human body is often less discussed.
This is a shame, because protein is arguably the most important one, out of the three key Macronutrients found in food (Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates).
The protein that we consume is made up of small compounds known as amino acids.
Amino Acids are often considered the building blocks of the body, because they are the molecules used in the repair and growth of damaged human tissue.
They are used to produce important hormones and enzymes, while also playing important roles in a host of other processes.
Keeping this in mind, it is safe to say that without protein we would be in a bit of trouble.
It is also important to note that Protein molecules are comprised of long chains of amino acids that are ‘bound’ together.
The length and shape of this chain varies greatly between protein types (and the sources they come from), and determines the speed at which they are broken down into amino acids and absorbed through the digestive system.
20 types of different Amino Acids
There are 20 different types of amino acids found throughout the body, of which 11 can actually be produced within the body.
The remaining nine are known as essential amino acids and are considered essential because they cannot be made by the body – and subsequently must be obtained through diet.
As a result, the physical consumption of protein is integral to maintaining the health of the body at a cellular level, and building and repairing muscle and connective tissue.
Proteins role in exercise
Now, as mentioned previously, when it comes to exercise specifically, carbohydrates and fats are where we find all our energy – but that doesn’t mean that protein doesn’t have an important role to play.
So what does protein do for us during exercise?
When we exercise at a moderate intensity we actually stress and damage the body at both a tissue and cellular level.
While this may not sound like a good thing, it is actually essential to adapting and improving – assuming we have adequate protein available.
During exercise we stress the cardiovascular and muscular system to a point where it is currently unable to cope with the demands placed on the body.
What does this stress do?
This stress tells the body to adapt to a point where it can handle this increased load, and subsequently it uses amino acids to repair and build new muscle tissue, and create new cells capable of handling increased lactate production.
This essentially improves our capacity to handle exercise at a given intensity.
But (there is always a but), it is important to note that this only occurs if we have enough amino acids available to facilitate this process. If we do not, the body will not recover quickly enough to adapt to this stress, essentially leaving us in the same place as where we started.
This means we need to eat enough protein to allow the body to recover and adapt from the stress of exercise.
Protein and Body Composition
Now, while we know that maintaining an adequate protein intake is essential to maximize the effects of exercise (by facilitating the recovery processes associated), it is also important to touch on the question of what does protein do for body composition?
Maintaining a relatively high protein intake is known to be an excellent way to improve muscle mass (and increasing the growth and repair of muscle tissue) and aid recovery.
Interestingly, muscle mass is what is known as active tissue – meaning that it requires energy to maintain its basic physiological processes.
Keeping this in mind, by eating a decent amount of protein we can increase our lean muscle tissue and therefore increase the amount of energy we burn at rest – increasing our capacity to lose fat over time significantly.
Energy we burn
In combination with its capacity to improve muscle mass, protein also has the highest thermic effect food of the three key macronutrients (Thermic effect of food describes the amount of energy required to break down and digest what we eat).
As a result, by simply eating more protein we can increase the amount of energy we burn digesting our food – which can further improve fat loss capacity
And finally, Protein is also extremely satisfying at a physiological level.
Protein has the highest satiety rating the macronutrients, and as a result actually makes us feel fuller for longer.
This is likely to reduce overeating throughout the day, causing a reduction in daily energy intake.
How much protein should we eat?
So, now we have a good idea as to why maintaining a decent protein intake is so important, it’s time to establish how much we actually need on a daily basis.
Now, first thing that we should mention is that the authorities on health recommend a daily intake 56 grams of protein per day to maintain health. This amount does vary very slightly in response to your age, gender, activity levels, and weight.
But it is also incredibly important to state that even though this information does come from a governing body, this is what most health and fitness professionals would consider an extremely low protein intake.
Is this enough protein?
I would argue that it is not anywhere near sufficient to promote muscle growth, adapt to exercise, or promote changes in body composition.
Especially when we consider that the body is in a constant state of rebuilding. Throughout the day we are rebuilding and creating new tissue, building new hormones and enzymes, and building new cells.
With this in mind, it is important we consume enough protein to sustain these processes comfortably.
Additionally, assuming we undertake regular exercise at a moderate intensity, we are going to need more protein to repair and grow tissue that is damaged during exercise.
So taking all of this into consideration, a recommended protein intake of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight should be more than adequate to meet those requirements essential to maintaining metabolic processes, and building new tissue.
Protein Packed Energy Balls
While we understand that 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight may sound like a lot, it shouldn’t be that difficult to consume.
But if you are having some difficulty achieving an adequate protein intake, we have a solution…..
4 simple protein ball recipes
If you would prefer to make these at home why not try the following recipes.
They outline some great high protein snacks that also taste fantastic!
1. No Bake Oatmeal Protein Energy Balls
- – 1 ½ cup of rolled oats
- – 2 scoops of vanilla protein powder
- – ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- – ½ cup of peanut butter
- – 2 tablespoons of honey
- – 2-4 tablespoons of almond milk
- This recipe is as delicious as it is simple.
- First step is to add all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Then proceed to add the honey and peanut butter– stir to combine.
- From here we simple add our milk slowly until we get a nice sticky consistency.
- Finally roll into balls and store in the fridge – you will thank me later!
2. High Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls
- – ½ cup of peanut butter
- – ½ cup of chocolate protein powder
- – 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
- – 1 tablespoon of honey
- – 10 dates
- – 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
- Start these off by adding all of the ingredients into a blender blitzing until they are completely combined.
- Then proceed to add small amounts of water to the mixture (while stirring) until it is a nice and sticky consistency.
- Roll into balls and store in the freezer!
3. Almond and Cranberry Energy Balls
- – 1 cup of rolled oats
- – 1/3 cup of almonds
- – 1/3 cup of shredded coconut
- – 1 tablespoon of flaxseed
- – 1 tablespoon of honey
- – ½ cup of almond butter
- – 1/3 cup of chopped cranberries
- Start by baking the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes
- Then place in the fridge until cool.
- Then add butter, add the baked mix, flaxseed, honey, and cranberries into a large bowl and mix thoroughly – producing a thick and sticky mixture.
- Roll into balls and store in the refrigerator.
4. Easy Choc-Almond Protein Balls
- – 1 cup of raw almonds
- – 1 cup of raisins
- – 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
- – 1 cup of shredded coconut
- – ¼ teaspoon of salt
- Start by blitzing the almonds in a food processor until a creamy butter is formed – then add raisins and mix until everything is nice and smooth.
- Add in the salt and protein powder and mix until everything is thoroughly combined.
- Proceed to roll into balls and cover in coconut.
- Either enjoy immediately (and you will enjoy them) or store in the fridge!
To round it up
Considering the importance of protein, relative to optimizing health and recovery processes, it becomes apparent that ensuring that we consume adequate protein is absolutely essential.
With this in mind, we should strive to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.
While this may sound like a large amount, it is easily obtainable if we consume high protein snacks throughout the day.
The best of these are the high protein energy balls outlined in this article – which are both incredibly easy to make and taste absolutely delicious too!
Lets Us Know…
We’d love to hear if you tried any of the above protein ball recipes and loved them!
And please do share any other fantastic recipes you know of that can benefit others in the comments below.