What is protein? Still a popular topic today.

Probably the most used word in diet and nutrition today is the word protein.  It doesn’t matter if your plantbase, paleo, keto or if you eat Captain Crunch every day.  It always comes back to protein. Do you get enough of it? Where do you get it? Supplements or food? 

Let’s just dive in to what exactly is protein.

We’re going to get a little scientific:

Proteins are long-chain molecules built from small units known as amino acids. They are joined together with peptide bonds. Your body needs 20 different amino acids to grow and function properly.

Protein is found throughout the body—in muscle, bone, skin, hair, and virtually every other body part or tissue. It makes up the enzymes that power many chemical reactions and the hemoglobin that carries oxygen in your blood. At least 10,000 different proteins make you what you are.



So your saying to yourself “great 20 amino acids, like I’m not busy enough, I’ve got to consume all these amino acids in a day to go along with work, shopping, exercise,  taking kids to games, practices…”

Hold on it’s okay, take a breath, get back in the moment.  Let’s cut that number down to nine, feel better now?  We cut the number to nine because our bodies produce eleven out of the twenty, otherwise known as non-essential.

Here are the Nine amino acids that we would need, otherwise known as essential.—histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine—known as the essential amino acids, must come from food or supplementation.

Here’s the complete list of 20:



  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid / Aspartate
  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Cysteine / Cystine
  • Glutamine
  • Glutamic acid / Glutamate
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine

How much protein do I need? This is debatable, but here’s what one source says:

The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.

  • For a 140-pound person, that means about 50 grams of protein each day.
  • For a 200-pound person, that means about 70 grams of protein each day.

Secret 8

So what’s the best way to intake your essential amino acids?  There are a variety of ways, you’ll have to take in consideration your health and lifestyle. The baseline is what diet you follow.

The food we eat not only effects human health, it also impacts in other ways.  Agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally, the accumulation of which is driving climate change at a rate unprecedented in human history. However, not all foods have an equal impact. Production of animal-based foods tends to have higher GHG emissions than producing plant-based foods—and dairy and especially red meat (particularly beef, lamb, and goat) stand out for their disproportionate impact.

Related article: Climate Change: What can I do today?


Try diversifying your protein sources with tofu, edamame, tempeh and soy. Legumes (beans) are also great plant sources of protein and, when combined with bread, pasta or rice, they contain all the essential amino acids. Many of these sources are key ingredients in meat alternatives that are on the market today, along with many homemade meals as well.44987915-meaning-word-under-a-magnifying-glass-to-illustrate-looking-for-searching-and-finding-a-definition-c.jpg

For additional meanings of what amino acids are see the following list:

Valine, Leucine & Isoleucine

  • All of these 3 amino acids are called branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
  • They perform the important functions of increasing proteins and serving as an energy source during exercise.
  • BCAAs are amino acids present largely in myoproteins.


  • An important amino acid as it is an energy source for the liver.
  • One of the amino acids which most easily used as an energy source.
  • Reported to improve alcohol metabolism.
  • Used as a material for synthesis of glucose (blood sugar) needed by the body.
  • Essential to the health of the live


  • An amino acid needed to maintain normal functions of blood vessels and other organs.
  • Plays an important role in expanding blood vessels to facilitate the blood flow.
  • Nitric oxide, which is required to expand blood vessels, is made from arginine.
  • An amino acid that is useful in eliminating excessive ammonia from the body.
  • Reported to enhance immunological function.
  • Arginine possesses various functions, which the body utilizes when necessary; like when blood flow is insufficient during exercise; or when ammonia, a fatigue-causing substance, is increased; or when body resistance is likely to decrease.


  • An amino acid needed to maintain normal functions of the gastrointestinal tract and muscles.
  • One of the amino acids contained most abundantly in the body.
  • Plays a role in protecting the stomach and intestinal tract.
  • Used as an energy source for the intestinal tract in particular.
  • Reported to protect the liver and to increase alcohol metabolism.
  • Essential to the health of the liver
  • Glutamine is used as an energy source for the intestine and is an indispensable component to maintain its normal function. This amino acid is also used to enhance liver function


  • It is a representative essential amino acid.
  • Tends to be insufficient when we are on a diet centered on bread or rice.
  • Deficient in flour and polished rice.
  • Flour lacks lysine the most, especially when compared to the ideal amino acid pattern.
  • The deficient amino acid should be supplemented to enhance nutritional value.
  • A project by the United Nations University has shown that lysine tends to be deficient in developing countries where people depend on flour as their protein source.
  • If amino acids such as lysine are deficient it may lead to growth failure.

Aspartic acid

  • Contained in asparagus in large amounts.
  • An amino acid which is most easily used as an energy source.
  • Maybe used as an ingredient of nutrient preparations.
  • Aspartic acid is an amino acid which is located most closely to the TCA cycle, the site of energy production.
  • The TCA cycle can be likened to the engine of a car. Based on this mechanism, each of our body cells generates energy.

Glutamic Acid

  • Glutamic acid is often referred to as Glutamate.
  • Contained in wheat and soybean in large amounts.
  • An amino acid which is most easily used as an energy source.
  • An important taste component of Japanese stock soup. It is contained in various natural foods.
  • Reported to accelerate early recovery from fatigue during exercise.


  • The main component of “collagen” which constitutes the skin and other tissues.
  • Serves as a fast-acting energy source.
  • Proline is a most important amino acid as a natural moisturizing factor that brings moisture to the skin


  • Cysteine is easy to be deficient in the infants.
  • Synthesized from methionine in the human body.
  • With infants the ability of this cysteine synthesis activity is not sufficient.


  • An essential amino acid which is used to form active sites of enzymes.


  • An essential amino acid which is used to produce various substances needed by the body.


  • An essential amino acid which is used to produce histamine and others.


  • An essential amino acid which is used to produce various useful amines.


  • Used to produce various useful amines and is sometimes called aromatic amino acid together with phenylalanine and tryptophan.


  • An essential amino acid which is used to produce various useful amines.


  • It is an amino acid which is located close to the TCA cycle (place of energy generation) together with aspartic acid.


  • Used to produce glutathione and porphyrin, a component of hemoglobin.


  • Used to produce phospholipids and glyceric acid.

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