Most of our living cells would not exist without protein. Proteins are compounds that are the essential structure of these cells, giving them form and substance. There are many different kinds of proteins of which their blueprints are stored in the genetic codes of our DNA. There are codes for hair, skin, nails, brain tissue, muscle tissue, bones, organs, everything that we are made of. Without protein, none of this can be created.
So what makes one protein different to another?
Protein compounds are made up of various combinations of molecules called amino acids. There is a vast number of amino acids which are needed for many essential metabolic processes. However, in the case of building protein molecules, approximately 20-22 of these amino acids are used and subsequently classified as standard amino acids; the exact number is still unclear in the scientific field.
Each specific protein is made up of a combination of three of these amino acids. If you think of these 20-22 amino acids like letters of the alphabet, you could make a vast amount of 3 letter words. This gives you an idea of how many kinds of protein exist!
Essential Amino Acids Explained
Of the 20-22 standard amino acids, 8 (there are actually 9 for children) of them are essential. The body does not make them, so we need to supply them in our diet.
The following are the eight essential amino acids:
It is important to eat all of the essential amino acids every day. This ensures that every cell has continual access to the amino acids they need for maintenance, repair and growth. It is especially important for bodybuilders and athletes to consume enough amino acids on a daily basis for optimal muscle growth and repair.
Naturally, the daily quantity of amino acids needed by bodybuilders and athletes will be up and above that of moderate exercisers, and even more so than those who don’t exercise. The general rule put out by health experts and practiced athletes is to eat one to one and a half grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
For example, if you’re 200lbs, you will need 200-300g of protein per day. Although, it should be pointed out that you don’t want to eat all your protein in just one sitting! Spread it out evenly over 6 meals, ensuring the protein at each meal is balanced. A balanced protein is one that contains all 8 essential amino acids.
Bodybuilders may even eat eight meals in a day, including a pre and post workout shake. However, of all eight essential amino acids, there are three that are held in especially high esteem among bodybuilders. They are more often than not supplemented in higher doses than the other 5 amino acids and are called BCAAs.
BCAA is the abbreviation for branched-chain amino acid; the three essential amino acids that make up the BCAAs are leucine, isoleucine and valine. Unlike other amino acids, BCAAs are absorbed directly by muscle tissue.
In fact about 33% of all skeletal muscle is made up of combinations of the BCAAs, making it clear why they are important for building muscle. BCAAs are a key ingredient of a post workout snack or shake, especially when the muscles need a protein supply ASAP. At this point, the muscles don’t want to be hanging around waiting for the liver to metabolize other amino acids, of which not all will reach them.
A good protein supplement will provide an adequate dose of all three BCAAs. If you are looking for one, I’d recommend you check out the Gold Standard whey formula which consists of pure whey protein concentrate and isolate.
Protein and its BV Value
BV stands for biological value, which is a rating system for the quality of a protein. The higher the BV of a protein, the more its amino acids will actually be used for building and repairing cells, such as muscle.
This is obviously an important marker for athletes and is also the reason why whey protein powder has become the most popular in the market. Whey has the highest BV of all protein food sources, ranging from 104 – 159.
When the BV rating system was first developed, whole eggs were found to have the highest scores. Eggs were subsequently set with the benchmark BV score of 100. Even today with such diverse kinds of protein supplements available, eggs are still the second highest on the BV scale, displaced only by whey protein powder.
For a food source to score highly on the BV scale it will, of course, need to contain all of the essential amino acids. If just one is missing, the bio-availability of that food will drop considerably. The amount of BCAAs in a food source is the other fundamental marker.
As already stated, BCAAs are the only amino acids absorbed directly into muscle, making them the most bio-available of all the amino acids. Even though eggs contain all essential amino acids and good amounts of BCAAs, whey protein powder benefits us with twice as much leucine than eggs. This is a fundamental reason behind whey protein powders’ high score!
Did you like the post? Thanks to Gregory Edwards for this article!