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PROTEIN IS NOT JUST FOR BUILDING MUSCLE

THE ROLE OF PROTEIN IN OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

 

We’ve all heard or read how protein helps us to build muscle, improve strength, improve athletic performance and how it also helps to improve recovery time. But were you also aware that our body uses protein to make the enzymes, hormones and the antibodies necessary to fight viruses and bacterial infections?

 

If your answer is no, then you’re not alone. In fact, most people may not associate how protein relates to their immune system. The reasons may vary for not knowing, but the fact remains: protein plays a key role in our immune system.

 

That is yet another reason why it’s important to consume a diet that contains sufficient protein, in order to help keep us in “positive nitrogen balance” - That’s when the amount of protein we consume throughout the day is greater than the amount of protein we lose daily through normal metabolic processes - and that amount is unique to each individual.

 

As mentioned earlier, our body is continually making antibodies from protein. Antibodies which are specific to the constant array of invading organisms we face every day. So, by staying in positive nitrogen balance we help ensure that our body is better prepared to handle invading organisms and the daily tissue repair functions, while still meeting the additional protein demands we impose on ourselves when we embark on our physical fitness goals.

 

So how can we help our body stay ahead and in positive nitrogen balance? Eat a healthy diet with more protein. See table below.

 

Now, if you happen to be adding a protein supplement to your daily routine, then you are making it that much easier to stay in positive nitrogen balance and help your body out. And if you’re adding a whey protein supplement, then you may be doing even better. Why? Studies show supplementing with a whey protein helps boost glutathione - our body’s most powerful naturally occurring antioxidant, which scavenges free radicals and toxins and is involved in keeping us healthy – Plus, whey protein is also rich in glutamine and the branch chain amino acids, which play a key role in intestinal health and a reduction of skeletal muscle loss in times of stress.

 

In summary, consuming a diet that is high in protein goes beyond just supporting our physical fitness aspirations. It supports our immune system, which naturally ranks as a top priority on our bodies checklist.

 

Table 1. USDA food database reference amounts for protein foods:

Food amount

Amount of protein

1 Tbsp. (16 g) peanut butter

3.5 g

1 large egg

6 g

1 cup (244 ml) soya milk

6.5 g

1 cup (170 g) quinoa

7.5 g

1 cup (244 ml) whole milk

8 g

1/4 lb. (114 g) hamburger patty

18 g

1 cup (128 g) sesame seeds

22 g

4 oz. (114 g) boneless skinless chicken breast

23 g

4 oz (114 g) sockeye salmon

25 g

1 cup (168 g) chia seeds

31 g

1 cup (95 g) soy nuts

37 g

1 medium (156 g) lean steak

46 g

 

Some interesting links:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116

https://www.britannica.com/science/antibody

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/101/6/1317S/4564491