Good proteins: What you need to know about protein quality
Good protein quality: What you should look for
This is how importantgood proteins are
Proteins play an important role in a whole range of functions in our body.
This applies not only to processes coupled with a training stimulus, but also to everyday, vital metabolic pathways that are maintained by proteins.
For the immune system, for example, proteins play an important role, so too little protein intake can drive up the risk of infection significantly.
There is no question that an adequate protein supply is essential to maintain athletic performance – but also health.
But not all proteins are the same. There are good proteins and not so good protein sources. But which are “good proteins” and which are bad?
The structure of proteins
Even before we decide whether proteins are good or bad, we need to know how they are constructed.
Proteins consist of amino acids that are linked together by chemical bonds to form long chains.
In total, we know 20 different amino acids, which differ from each other by their residue.
So the basic structure of amino acids looks like this:
H2N represents the amino group, COOH is the carboxy group, and R is a residue that is different for each amino acid.
The specific sequence of amino acids is different in each protein. This makes each protein unique and therefore also influences the protein quality.
Classification of amino acids
The approximately 20 known amino acids can be divided into:
- Essential amino acids
- Conditionally essential amino acids/semi-essential amino acids
- Non-essential amino acids
Essential amino acids
Essential amino acids are also called vital amino acids and must be taken in with food, as the body cannot synthesize them itself.
There are 8 essential amino acids:
Conditionally essential amino acids
The term “conditionally essential” is used in natural science for substances that the body can normally synthesize from other substances, but must supply externally in certain situations (e.g. pregnancy).
Conditionally essential amino acids are e.g.:
Non-essential amino acids
Non-essential amino acids are also basic building blocks of proteins, but the body can produce them itself in appreciable quantities. For this reason, they do not necessarily have to be ingested with food.
Non-essential amino acids include:
- Glutamine, glutamic acid
- Asparagine, aspartic acid
Determination of protein quality
Thus, which amino acids are contained in a protein source significantly influences protein quality. This is how it is judged whether it is a “good” protein or a “bad” protein.
Here we can basically state: The more essential amino acids found in a protein source, the higher the quality of the protein.
The biological value
Biological value is a very well known measure for estimating protein quality. It is a measure of how much of the ingested protein can be converted into the body’s own protein.
The more of the ingested protein that can be converted into the body’s own, the better the protein quality.
The quality is calculated using the following equation:
The higher the biological value of the ingested proteins, the less protein needs to be supplied in order to achieve a balanced protein and nitrogen balance.
Animal proteins usually have a higher biological value than vegetable proteins. This has to do with the fact that animal sources of protein generally contain more essential amino acids than plant sources.
For this reason, chicken whole egg was also chosen as the reference protein with a biological value of 100. Thus, the biological value data for other foods compare favorably with the whole egg.
Attention: The values of the biological value do not correspond to a 100% conversion. (biological value 100 ≠ 100%). This means that the value of 100 can also be exceeded.
This is achieved through the clever combination of foods.
Combining protein sources: Practical examples
The amino acids of the different foods can compensate for each other’s limitations (missing essential amino acids).
Some values for biological value are:
Food and food combination
Whole egg + potatoes
Milk + wheat flour
Whole egg + soy
Whole egg + milk
Milk + potatoes
This combination of diverse protein sources is also very important for vegan athletes.
For those, it’s a little harder (but not impossible) to incorporate lots of “good proteins” into their diet – which is why it’s important to skillfully combine protein sources.
It might look like this:
e.g.: Legumes are low in sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and methonine. The content of isoleucine and lysine is high.
In order to get cysteine and methionine, you need to find a protein source that contains these amino acids. Relatively high levels of methionine are found, for example, in soy products such as tempeh or soy flour. But methionine is also found in cereals.
Combining pulses with tempeh, for example, improves the amino acid profile of the meal accordingly.
(The topic of veganism in sports is dealt with in more detail HERE discussed).
Especially after competitions/training sessions, however, it is not always easy to find suitable protein sources. In moments like these, high-quality regeneration products such as our Recovery Shake or our RECOVERY 8 are to be recommended.
In the Recovery Shake we have used pea and rice protein together to achieve a very high biological value.
Recovery 8 even contains all 8 essential amino acids in an optimal ratio, which helps to process the training stimulus and regenerate faster, especially after muscularly demanding units.
Vegetarian protein sources: 5 top tips
As we have heard, mostly animal foods consist of very good proteins. However, there are also many good vegetarian sources of protein.
Some clever foods to refine your meals with proteins we tell you now.
1. legumes (lentils, beans, peas…)
Legumes are a delicious vegetarian source of protein. They provide high quality proteins and also important minerals and vitamins.
Note, however, that legumes contain a lot of fiber. On the one hand, this is a good property, but fiber is digested slowly. This means you should rather avoid them before training/competition.
Legumes, for example, would make a good dinner.
If you want to increase the biological value of beans, you can combine them with corn. The low methionine content of beans is supplemented by the excess methionine in corn protein. In addition, the insufficient lysine content in corn protein is substituted by the abundant lysine present in bean protein.
2. kernels, seeds and nuts
Various seeds such as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds contain good proteins and can be added well to the salad, for example.
Another good tip are the chia seeds. The small seeds are true protein bombs and also provide good fats. Chia seeds are great to mix into your cereal or yogurt to boost the protein content of your breakfast.
Nuts are also very good sources of protein and can be snacked on in between meals. However, it must be remembered that nuts have a high energy density. So if you’re trying to lose weight, you shouldn’t eat too many nuts.
Among the nuts there are also differences in protein content. Among the nuts with the highest protein content are the peanuts (learn more about the peanut HERE ). Also in front are the almonds and cashews.
Most vegetables contain relatively little protein. However, broccoli has a good protein content.
In addition, broccoli also provides calcium, which makes broccoli a true superfood for athletes.
Quinoa contains about 15g of protein per 100g and is therefore a good source of vegetable protein. The grain is good as a side dish with vegetables or as an alternative to rice.
It is also particularly advantageous that quinoa has a very good amino acid profile. Thus, quinoa is one of the rare plant foods in which all essential amino acids are contained.
We also use quinoa for our products, for example, we use quinoa for our PORRIDGE BAR Quinoa and thus provide a high-quality, vegan protein source and plenty of carbohydrates.
Oatmeal is another good plant-based protein source. Like quinoa, oats also have a protein content of about 15g per 100g.
The amino acid profile of oats is also very good, which is why oatmeal is good for breakfast, for example. But also for sports products oats can be used well, we use oats for example for our PORRIDGE BAR .