Protein, along with fat and carbohydrates, is one of the so-called macronutrients, or macros for short. This nutrient serves the body largely for energy production and as “building material”. Protein is therefore equally popular with both bodybuilders and weight loss enthusiasts, because a protein-rich diet not only supports muscle building, but also weight loss. Why? We clarify that in our special.

The tasks of protein

Proteins perform heavy work to keep the human machine alive: They are, so to speak, the basic building blocks of our body and a component of muscles, organs, skin and hair and contribute decisively to the formation of hormones and enzymes.

Or in short: Without protein = no life! Even our immune system can only function if we provide it with sufficient proteins. No other nutrient can step in to build ligaments, connective tissue, cells, and antibodies, or to replace damaged structures (such as.B. stressed muscle cells after exercise).

Amino Acids: The Protein Building Blocks

Proteins have a wide range of functions, but are themselves made up of small individual parts: the amino acids. All proteins generally consist of 21 amino acids, which can be chained and branched in the most diverse combinations. Due to the structure and arrangement of the individual amino acids, the different chains fold and tangle in a characteristic way and thus obtain the necessary form for their respective tasks.

Just think of amino acids as individual building blocks that, when put together, make up a protein molecule.

The majority of amino acids can be produced by the human body itself, they are therefore not essential (non-essential or. semi-essential). Precondition: There is enough raw material, i.e. protein, available. Much more important are the remaining 9, the so-called essential amino acids, because they must be ingested daily through food, since the body is not able to produce them itself.

The essential amino acids include: 

  • Methionine
  • Lysine
  • Valine
  • Leucine
  • Isoleucine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Tryptophan
  • Threonine
  • Histidine

Attention: As soon as only one of the essential amino acids is missing, the blueprint for a certain protein can no longer be properly implemented. In such an “emergency”, the body simply falls back on other sources of protein. Sounds pretty clever at first, but there’s a catch: your muscles consist of the protein building blocks you need – and this is exactly where your body helps itself. This may work for a short time, but in the long run your hard-won muscle mass will shrink. This is to be prevented in any case: Provide constantly for replenishment in the protein and/or amino acid camps. But not all protein is the same – because the quality must also be right. And this can best be determined using the “biological value”.

By the way: Amino acids are not only important in their function as protein building blocks. They also form the basis of various compounds that perform important metabolic functions in the body, among other things. Example: L-carnitine consists of the two amino acids lysine and methionine and plays an important role in fat metabolism, among other things.

Biological value: Quality instead of quantity

The biological value is a kind of “evaluation standard” with which you can easily assess the quality of a protein. The biological value indicates how well the body can utilize protein from food, i.e. how well it can convert it into the body’s own protein. The more endogenous protein can be formed from 100 grams of ingested protein, the higher the biological value. So far, so logical. The whole egg (i.e. egg white + yolk) with a biological value of 100 is considered the highest value among natural foods and is virtually the “gold standard. Other foods are compared and evaluated with this value. Here is an overview:

Animal vs. Vegetable protein

Meat and dairy products consistently achieve better values for biological value than vegetable protein sources. Of course, there is a reason for this: the more similar the ingested protein or the. the amino acid structures are to the body’s own protein, the better (keyword: biological value) we can utilize it. And since we humans are more similar to a cow than to a legume, animal proteins usually have the edge in terms of usability. But if you think you just have to reach for fish, meat and eggs, you are far wrong. Because, as is often the case, it’s the mix that makes the difference! The more different, protein-rich foods you eat, the higher the chance that you will get all the essential amino acids for optimal muscle building.

By the way: Vegetable protein also provides you with all nine essential amino acids. But that doesn’t make plant-based proteins inferior or “second-class protein” by any means. In addition, animal foods often contain a lot of fat and a high proportion of saturated fatty acids and cholesterol. Vegetable or cereal proteins, on the other hand, are naturally accompanied by more healthy unsaturated fatty acids and are cholesterol-free. They also provide a good portion of fiber, which fills you up and aids digestion. It’s best to combine plant and animal sources of protein on a daily basis – that way, you’ll get the benefits of both.

Protein-containing foods: the top protein sources

Combining is the magic word in connection with proteins anyway. Because if you combine different protein-rich foods in a meal, the amino acids they contain complement each other optimally and the biological value of your meal increases. It is even sufficient to eat the individual components separately within about 4 hours. This is especially interesting for vegetarians and vegans, as they can get close to the biological value of animal proteins without them, and in some cases even exceed it. Due to the interaction of the different protein sources, the biological value can even exceed the reference value of 100 – for example, potatoes in combination with eggs have a biological value of 136, eggs and soy 124 and eggs and milk 119. Therefore, remember: The combination of different protein-rich foods makes the difference!

Enough of the theory, let’s get down to the practice: which foods should end up on your plate now? Here are our top 5 plant and animal protein sources. animal protein sources.

Top 5 plant-based protein sources:

  1. Tofu
  2. Oatmeal
  3. Potatoes
  4. Legumes
  5. Nuts

The top 5 animal protein sources:

  1. Beef
  2. Eggs
  3. Chicken
  4. Tuna
  5. Low-fat curd cheese

This is too monotonous for you in the long run? Then click your way through our top 20 protein suppliers

So important is protein for muscle building

As mentioned above, protein plays a crucial role in building muscle, because training alone (no matter how hard) will not make your muscles grow. Protein provides your body with the basis for building new muscle fibers – because muscles are made of protein. But protein not only serves as a building material, but is also essential for regeneration. During the smallest stresses (and even more so during injuries), protein is consumed for regeneration. After a hard workout, such small injuries occur in your muscle cells and fibers, whose damaged structures the body repairs during the regeneration phase with the help of proteins. Prerequisite: You provide it with the building material protein in sufficient quantities through the food you eat.

But what actually happens if you supply your body with too little protein? Since we do not have a protein store in our body, in this case the body looks for its own protein – and attacks your hard-earned muscles. The result: muscle loss. But even this principle only works for a certain period of time. In the long run it makes you tired and flabby. Not really what you want, or?

How much protein do you need daily for muscle building?

In order to avoid exactly this case, you should make sure that you consume sufficient protein every day. If you are only interested in a healthy and balanced diet, you can follow the guidelines of the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung). This recommends a daily protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. A man weighing 80 kilograms should therefore consume 64 grams of protein per day. However, if you want to gain a lot of muscle mass, you can have much more, namely up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This is the maximum amount of protein that the body can use per day. For our 80-kilo man, this results in a daily protein consumption of 160 grams.

The following table gives you an overview of what amount of protein per day is optimal for you:

Lose weight with protein – this is how it works

The fact that a protein-rich diet not only pushes muscle building, but can also help you lose weight, has long been known. But why is that so? It’s simple: compared to other nutrients, protein satisfies you in the long term, because the body needs longer to process it. And if you’re fuller for longer, you’re not in danger of constantly snacking or going overboard with your main meals. Plus, protein stabilizes your blood sugar levels. If you combine proteins at every meal, the blood sugar level does not shoot up so quickly, large insulin spikes do not occur – as would be the case, for example, with large carbohydrate mountains (pasta, rice, etc.).) would be the case. And insulin spikes must be avoided when losing weight, because the hormone inhibits fat burning and leads to cravings.

Another plus of protein: It is a true metabolism booster. Maybe you know this: After a protein-rich meal, you work up quite a sweat afterwards? No wonder, because protein food boosts your metabolism much more than a fat- or carbohydrate-rich diet, since the body has to work hard to utilize proteins. The energy consumed is released in the form of heat, so your body temperature rises – you start to sweat. If you eat a diet rich in protein, your metabolism will be boosted, which will have a positive effect on your energy metabolism. Last but not least, a protein-rich diet also prevents you from the dreaded yo-yo effect. As you have already learned, in an emergency, the body turns to the protein in the muscles to get the protein it urgently needs. The consequence: muscle loss. And less muscle reduces your basal metabolic rate, keyword yo-yo effect. But if you continue to consume sufficient protein during your calorie deficit, you have nothing to fear.

By the way: Losing weight with protein is not only easier for yourself, but also for the people you have to put up with every day: Psyche and emotions are significantly influenced by amino acids, because neurotransmitters (“happiness hormones”) are built from them. So there’s no such thing as a bad mood when losing weight with protein.

How much protein should you eat every day if you want to lose weight?

Now we come to a crucial question: How much protein do you need to consume in order to achieve optimal results when losing weight? You should consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This is considered by the DGE as a “guideline”, see it as a minimum. Peel best a value of 0.8 to 1.2 g. Example: A man weighing 80 kilograms may consume about 100 grams of protein per day. And don’t worry if you need more: Up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day is perfectly okay. In order for your body to properly utilize the protein you ingest, it needs sufficient fluids. Water is best – and drink at least two, preferably three to four liters of it a day.

Protein powder: sense(full) or nonsense?

Although your protein needs can be well met without the “helpers” from the can, protein powders can usefully complement your daily menu. In particular, ambitious athletes who regularly push themselves to or beyond their limits benefit from protein supplements. Because especially after an intense load, whether in the field of strength or endurance (for example, after a marathon), it is enormously important to quickly provide the body with proteins for regeneration. Protein powders guarantee this in the purest form of protein. That means: (almost) without carbohydrates or fats. This point is also interesting for those who want to lose weight, because protein shakes saturate well with a comparatively small amount of calories (a 30 gram serving has about 110 – 130 calories). In addition, the powders usually contain all essential amino acids – not a matter of course and can be achieved with natural foods only by combining different suppliers.

Not to forget: Protein shakes are also a super invention for the lazy among you: they are easy to transport, ready to eat in seconds and never get boring, as they come in a wide variety of flavors. In addition, you can even pimp them a bit with fresh fruits and co. even pimp them a little. Cumbersome shopping, pre-cooking and taking away are a thing of the past with the practical powders. But remember: protein powders do not fall without reason under the food supplements. They are meant to supplement your regular meals, not replace them completely.

Whey protein and Co: What kind of protein powder is right for your goal?

For almost every goal, there is now a suitable protein powder on the market. We present the most common types of protein powder and tell you which ones will help you best on the way to your personal goals.

Whey protein: The certainly best known protein powder is the whey protein (engl. Whey = whey). It has a high biological value and reaches the bloodstream of the body very quickly. Thus, it is available particularly quickly as a building block for new tissue and for the repair of damaged muscle cells. Especially directly after exercise, it is important for your muscles to be supplied with protein as quickly as possible. Whey protein is therefore ideal as a post-workout shake. Also recommended: In the morning after getting up, because after the nightly fasting period your body is craving for amino acids.

Casein protein: Casein protein is milk protein. More precisely: the protein part of the milk that does not end up in the whey (about 80 percent). Casein is less soluble than Whey and contains a larger proportion of lactose. For sensitive athletes it is therefore only conditionally suitable. Milk protein provides your body with a high-quality starting material for building and repairing (new) tissue. The contained amino acids cause a reduced absorption speed, the absorption in the gastrointestinal system becomes so slow and constant.

The result: your body has protein building blocks available for a longer time window of up to 8 hours. Casein has such a long satiating effect and is therefore preferably taken before bedtime. In fitness circles it is even nicknamed “night protein. The long-lasting feeling of satiety also makes casein a faithful ally in the fight against pesky pounds. So if you want to lose weight, you should soon make friends with casein powder if you haven’t already done so.

Multicomponent powder: The name says it all: This type of protein powder is composed of different types of protein, mainly casein and whey. The idea behind it is simply to combine the advantages of both in one product and thus to supply the body with protein in the short, medium and long term. It is therefore suitable for all athletes who are looking for an “all-in-one” solution and would like to drink your shake at different times, but do not feel like using different products.

Soy Protein: As the number of vegans and vegetarians is constantly growing, the market has long since reacted and developed various vegan protein powders.

The most common among them is the soy protein powder. In terms of protein content, it is, along with rice, the front-runner of the vegan alternatives to Whey and Co. Disadvantage of vegetable protein powders: You can usually recognize them directly by their consistency and taste – a floury character is (unfortunately) often normal. Nevertheless: for people who abstain from animal products or also lactose intolerant people, soy protein powder is a good substitute.

Isolate vs. Concentrate: Whether your product is labeled isolate or concentrate is determined by the production process used. Generally, isolates are of higher quality. Here, a special process has been used to increase the protein content by up to 90 percent, while at the same time minimizing the fat and carbohydrate content to about 1 percent. The end product therefore also contains only a very small amount of lactose. The concentrate, on the other hand, is still rich in lactose, the fat content is around 5 percent, and the protein content fluctuates somewhere between 29 and 80 percent. The advantage of isolate is the lower price.

Too much protein: disadvantages of a high-protein diet?

High-protein diet models repeatedly criticized for alleged negative health effects. The favorite example of many opponents: a possible impairment of kidney function. Dozens of studies have addressed this question.

The result: many statements about the disadvantages of a rich protein intake come from animal models or studies that dealt with kidney patients.

“At a protein intake of 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight, no influences on kidney function are to be expected,” says Professor Klaus-Michael Braumann of the Institute for Sports and Exercise Medicine from Hamburg. “Even at amounts of 3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, the kidney works efficiently to remove accumulating nitrogen compounds.”Since proteins are broken down to urea, which is disposed of by the kidneys, you should, however, ensure a balanced fluid intake. If the urine becomes darker than light yellow, it is best to drink 1 to 2 glasses of water right away.

Dr. Moritz Tellmann comments on the question of whether protein is really harmful:

Protein-rich recipes

Whether building muscle or losing weight: Protein should become your dearest ally. Eating a protein-rich diet really isn’t that hard, even if you usually leave the cooking to your sweetheart. Here you will find protein-rich recipes that will quickly bring you closer to your dream of a defined body. Now all you have to do is decide what to have today. We have plenty of protein-rich recipes for every occasion and every need: