Protein is an essential nutrient. Protein is made up of chains of amino acids joined together by peptide bonds. There are 20 principle amino acids that can be joined to form proteins. The combination of different amino acids in the chain, the number of each individual amino acid and the cross chains between them will determine the overall structure of the protein molecule and thus its purpose.
Of the 20 protein synthetic amino acids, nine are essential and cannot be created in the body from other amino acids, therefore they must be obtained from the diet, or deficiency will result.
Uses of Protein
The main uses of protein are:
- Structural: Protein is used to make muscle tissue, collagen and other structural proteins. Without protein, our muscles will waste away, hair and nails will fall out and skin will break up.
- Enzymes: Enzymes are protein molecules that catalyse chemical reactions in our bodies. We have enzymes in our digestive system in order to break down food and in cells to metabolise nutrients
- Transporting oxygen. Haemoglobin and myoglobin are protein molecules that transport oxygen in blood and muscles respectively
- Hormones: A number of the body’s hormones are made from protein such as growth hormone, insulin and glucagon are proteins. These play a key role in anabolism and metabolism.
- Immune system: proteins make up a major part of constituents of the immune system helping us fight off disease.
- If other functions of protein are fulfilled then excess protein will be metabolised and either used as energy or stored as fat.
In addition to these principle functions, specific amino acids are incorporated into compounds to perform specific functions in the body.
Protein in Huel
All of the main ingredients in Huel are sources of protein and together all the main amino acids are present. The combination of brown rice protein, which is high in the amino acids cysteine and methionine but low in lysine, and pea protein, which is high in lysine, gives Huel the ideal amino acid profile to fulfil all the functions of protein.
However, one question we’ve been asked is why is Huel high in protein when it’s not aimed at bodybuilders or strength athletes? 30% of the energy in Huel comes from protein, which is classed as high. Indeed, someone on the Huel average of 2,000 kcal per day will be consuming 150g protein.
There are only four sources of energy in our diets: protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol. Protein and carbohydrate contribute four calories of energy per one gram, fats as a rule, supply 9 calories and alcohol about 7 calories. Obviously we didn’t want Huel to contain alcohol, so this leaves the other three. We didn’t want total fat to be over 30% of total energy intake as this is the desired level in the Healthy Eating Guidelines. We also didn’t want Huel to be high carbs because carbs aren’t essential and most people are cautious of consuming too much carbs, so we kept carbs at 40%. Therefore the remaining energy has to come from the protein ingredients.
Protein is also more satiating than other macronutrients, and one of the benefits of Huel is that it suppresses appetite curbing between-meal hunger pangs.