By now you probably know fine well that both proteins and carbohydrates are essential agents for the development of almost all vital functions. However, do you know exactly what they are and how they act inside the body?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, pay close attention to this article – it’ll answer everything!
Definition of carbohydrates and proteins
Shall we begin? First we’ll review what the two concepts that we’re going to develop later consist of.
ProteinsProteins are macromolecules formed by long chains of amino acids, which, depending on their physical and chemical properties, can be simple or complex. In fact, there is an immense variety, and they intervene in all the body’s processes, being essential for the growth and the immune system, for example.
CarbohydratesCarbohydrates, also commonly known as glucides or saccharides, are biomolecules that receive this name because they are composed entirely of carbon atoms, oxygen and hydrogen. Their main function is to provide immediate and structural energy to all living beings, being glycogen and glucose the primary forms of storage.
What role does protein play in your diet?
If you take into account that proteins are, in short, the main raw material that the body has to carry out its vital functions, you will have no trouble understanding that they must play a leading role in any healthy, balanced diet. In general, these molecules are responsible for making and maintaining healthy bones, skin, hair, muscles, and, ultimately, any element that is part of your body.
Your body is not ready to directly use the proteins you consume through food. In fact, once the food is in your stomach, your digestive system proceeds to break down the peptide bonds of the food to work with the amino acids separately to form new protein structures that can be used. In general, there are 20 types of amino acids.
What role do carbohydrates play in our diet?
Evidently, all physiological reactions that occur in your body, from your heartbeat to the action of breathing, need energy to be able to perform, and one of the substrates will be carbohydrates. So, in intense activities and sports practice, they are the main «fuel», and what’s more, they allow you to save protein, avoiding the use of it for other purposes than your own.
There are types of carbohydrates with important properties for maintaining the health of the intestinal tract and the microbiota, such as fibre.
Carbohydrates and protein: a calorie is not always a calorie
Calories are the units of measurement used to quantify the energy provided by food, and, therefore, it’s inevitable at this point to talk about the calorie value of these two types of macromolecules. It will probably surprise you to learn that, in both cases, this value is exactly the same, as each gram of both carbohydrates and proteins provides a total of 4 calories. This amount may seem high, but it is nothing compared to the 9 calories that each gram of fat provides.
You may think that, even though your body needs both protein and fat, consuming them can be harmful to you if you want to lose weight. But this is a serious mistake. Even if you don’t know it, protein is rarely stored as fat. In fact, they’re not used as direct energy either, as their purpose is the creation of tissues, hormones and enzymes.
What are the best sources of protein and carbohydrates?
An average adult should consume between 60 and 80 grams of protein per day (depending on weight and physical activity), the equivalent of three medium-size chicken fillets. However, the quantity of daily protein required will vary according to the person’s activity level, so it will be much greater than the previous recommendation.
On the other hand, these figures grow ostensibly in the case of carbohydrates, as it’s estimated that between 40 and 60% of the daily calories consumed must come from this source. The main sources of carbohydrates are found in foods such as oats, rice and wholemeal bread.