Build with Proteins- ever noticed that eating proteins in the middle of the day keeps us more alert throughout the afternoon?
The neurotransmitters that dominate the brain are influenced by what we eat, which will in turn affects how we feel. Fats essentially make up the brain and its neurons, but interaction between the two occurs via the proteins that we eat. Brain cells communicate via chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters are composed of amino acids that are the building blocks of proteins. Consumption of carbohydrates can increase levels of the amino acid tryptophan in the brain (by raising the ratio of tryptophan to other amino acids in the bloodstream) and this can often make one feel tired. The overall effect of this is that it boosts the levels of the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin, in the brain. Serotonin is a crucial element for normal sleep patterns, learning, blood pressure, and appetite, to name a few functions.
On the other hand, eating proteins boosts the levels of another amino acid called tyrosine, which cues the brain to manufacture norepinephrine and dopamine—other kinds of chemical messengers in the brain. Norepinephrine and dopamine keep us energized because they enhance alertness and activity. Importance of Proteins The origin of the word, protein, is the Greek word proteios, meaning, “of prime importance.” In the nineteenth century, proteins were considered the holy grail of a healthy diet. Proteins provide the body with energy as well as help to build and maintain it. Next to water, proteins are the most abundant substance in the human body. All body fluids, with the exception of bile, sweat, and urine, contain proteins. Every cell in the human body contains proteins. Proteins are a major part of hair, skin, eyes, muscles, organs, and glands. They are used to build and repair tissue, making them a very important factor in the growth of children. If we have been exercising regularly, but not losing weight, a lack of proteins may be to blame.After an exercise bout, the body requires quick carbohydrates, and a fast supply of amino acids. The immediate availability of carbohydrates can cause a spike in the insulin levels of the body. In this way, the cells of the body access the glucose and amino acids that are necessary for a speedy recovery from strenuous workouts. We cannot reap the benefits of a workout without proteins. Post exercise, our muscles are tired; proteins help to restore the muscle tissue. More muscle mass in the body is conducive to burning more calories, as well as giving strength and energy to engage in a vigorous workout the next time around. Without the amino acids reaching sites of action, exercise really doesn’t work. Fats and carbohydrates, both, provide us with energy, but cannot replenish the muscles like proteins.
Protein intake when combined with physical activity is a key factor in preventing obesity and promoting metabolism. Proteins also perform a vast array of functions within living organisms, in the form of different enzymes that are responsible for many chemical reactions. Enzymes are proteins that increase the rate of chemical reactions in the body. In fact, most of the necessary chemical reactions in the body would not efficiently proceed without enzymes. For example, one type of enzyme helps in digesting large protein, carbohydrate, and fat molecules into smaller molecules. Another kind of enzyme assists in the creation of DNA. Proteins are thus the building blocks of life.
Hemoglobin is an important protein that is responsible for carrying oxygen from the respiratory system (lungs) into the bloodstream. Proteins are also involved in the creation of some hormones. Hormones help control body functions that involve the interaction of several organs. Insulin, a small protein, is an example of a hormone that regulates blood sugar (plays a key role in diabetes patients). It involves the interaction of organs such as the pancreas and the liver. Secretin is another example of a protein hormone. It assists in the digestive process by stimulating the pancreas and the intestine to create necessary digestive juices. Antibodies are large proteins that help prevent infection, illness, and disease. These antibodies identify and assist in destroying antigens such as bacteria and viruses. They often work in conjunction with other immune system cells. For example, antibodies formed by proteins identify and then surround antigens, in order to keep them contained until they can be destroyed by the white blood cells. summarizes all the bodily functions that require proteins.
(excerpts from the book “Science of Healthy Diet” by Swami Mukundananda)