“I don’t know. I just know it’s good for my muscles”, is the answer I mostly get when I ask people what proteins do. Yes, it’s good for your muscles, but what the heck is it’s function (just spurred “Conjunction, What’s Your Function” song in my head)!? Well if you aren’t sure what exactly what protein does or just need a refresher, then I am here for you my sweet, sweet audience.
Proteins are a subunit of a calorie. Put simply, a calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. “We derive energy from the energy-containing nutrients in the foods we eat; namely, carbohydrates, fats and proteins” (Nutrition: An Applied Approach, 2006). Basically what a calorie does is provides us fuel for energy. Just like a car needs fuel to operate, so do we.
Of course we all know that proteins contribute to our muscle mass. But they are also found in our bones, blood, and hormones. Proteins are major enzymes (speed up chemical reactions) that function in metabolism. Most of you have heard this in science class, but just to remind you, proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are approximately 21 of these little jokers. They each make different combinations and chain together in order to serve as a protein. Fun fact: our bodies form about 10,000-50,000 unique proteins.
So what do they do? Proteins do A LOT! Most importantly they help with cell growth, repair, and maintenance; act as enzymes and hormones; maintain fluid and electrolyte balance; maintain acid-base balance; maintain a strong immune system; and serve as an energy source as well.
Carbs and fats have a special storage form in our bodies, but proteins do not. So when we need them for energy, they’re taken from the blood and body tissues such as the liver or muscle. Remember, eat your recommended amounts of carbs and fats so you don’t have to steal these proteins from your muscles when you need energy.
There you have it! Now you know what proteins do! Go impress your friends…or just keep it to yourself. The decision is in your hands. You have the power….Yeah sorry I am rambling. Next week we’ll dive into the functions of carbs! Yay!
*Reference: Nutrition: An Applied Approach by Janice Thompson, Ph.D and Melinda Manore, Ph.D, 2006