Protein: More than the white in the egg

They should not only keep you healthy, but also make you strong and slim. How Much Proteins Do You Need?

Legumes, dairy products and meat are important sources of protein.

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It doesn't work without it: Proteins are the building blocks of life. The protein molecules are in muscle fibers, enzymes and hormones, in the blood and in the immune system. All organs - even the hair - are made from it. Accordingly, depending on age and individual constitution, the body consists of around 15 to 17 percent protein. So that it stays that way and all functions can be maintained, we need our daily protein ration in the form of food.

But how much protein do we need? And does it make sense to help out with shakes and bars to stay fit, slim and healthy?

What you need to know about protein

Why do we have to eat proteins?

"Along with fat and carbohydrates, proteins are among the macronutrients, the three main suppliers of nutrients," explains Professor Johannes Erdmann, head of the nutritional medicine department at the Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences. "They provide the body with valuable amino acids and - as building blocks for new proteins - are involved in all functions of the organism."

There are 20 amino acids that the body needs, including eight so-called essential amino acids that it cannot produce itself. Since the body is constantly in action and cells are constantly being renewed, it is dependent on a regular supply of proteins.

How much protein does the organism need to stay healthy?

The German Nutrition Society recommends a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for adults between 19 and 65 years of age. Growing children and adolescents should eat a little more protein at 0.9 grams per kilo of body weight.

And for older people over the age of 65, experts even recommend around one gram per kilo of body weight. "The metabolism that builds up decreases with age. This means that older people need more protein in order to maintain their functions," explains Erdmann. "There are, however, major differences, which are probably genetically determined and also depend on individual fitness."

Do proteins make you muscular and lean?

If the organism does not get enough protein, it falls back on protein in the body and breaks down muscle mass. "Conversely, that does not mean that an extra portion of protein helps build muscle mass," says Monika Bischoff, ecotrophologist and head of the ZEP center for nutritional medicine at the Barmherzige Brüder hospital in Munich. Because muscles only grow through a training stimulus - no matter how much protein there is in the food.

Also, you don't automatically lose weight when you take in more proteins. Studies show the same effect, regardless of whether you eat less carbohydrates and more protein or vice versa. "It depends on the calorie intake. Excessive calories end up on the hips if it comes from protein-rich food," said Bischoff.

When do powder and bars make sense?

You don't need powder and protein bars to get the recommended amounts of protein. "A normal, balanced diet is sufficient," says Erdmann. For high-performance athletes, however, it makes sense to supplement them depending on the load. And for elderly patients who have difficulty ingesting food, it could help to fortify foods with a protein powder to ensure the necessary intake.

"Bars and shakes may be a practical solution for people who have no time or no inclination to cook," adds Bischoff. "But I recommend studying the list of ingredients in order to be aware of what's in the shake and then to decide whether a natural yoghurt, for example, doesn't make more sense."

Better animal or vegetable?

When it comes to the question of whether animal or vegetable proteins are to be preferred, individual taste can decide. "Animal proteins are considered to be of particularly high quality because the organism is better able to convert them into the body's own protein," said Bischoff. "On the other hand, too much animal fat is a disadvantage."

Hence, it ultimately makes the mix. Because the more varied the menu, the more likely it is that the body will get all the amino acids it needs with the protein intake. This also applies to a vegetarian diet. But a purely vegan diet can also meet the protein requirement - at least in adults. "If in doubt, I recommend taking a cooking course to learn how to prepare tasty vegetable proteins while ensuring a good mixture," says the expert.

Does an extra serving of protein harm the kidneys?

"Excess protein that the body cannot use is simply excreted again," explains Erdmann. Healthy kidneys are not damaged in the process. "However, caution should be exercised if the kidneys are damaged or if someone only has one kidney." And: if you eat a lot of protein, you should definitely drink plenty to support the organs.

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