Protein Breakdown: What Happens After You Eat Protein

A few weeks ago we discussed the key imbalances that get in the way of many people’s health goals. We identified that unbalanced diets are one of the major contributors to poor health, for many people that shouldn’t be news. One of the remedies that was discussed was managing the amount of protein you consume. Today, we’re going to dive into that topic more: learning the process of protein digestion and discussing why this is so critical to your health.

Let’s recap what we learned in the lastClose-up partial view of man eating steak with fork and knife post, just in case you missed it. First, you should consult a registered dietitian to find out the right amount of protein for you. If you don’t have access to one, or simply want a general guideline, you can use this online protein calculator. It’s essential that you eat protein within this healthy range to provide your body with the proper building blocks. However, these building blocks aren’t the complex chains of proteins that we ingest. Proteins are comprised of amino acids that are required by the body to function properly and efficiently. The body breaks down these proteins into peptides and amino acids in a process called proteolysis.

When we consume protein, the natural process of proteolysis begins. The process is defined by the body partially or completely breaking down protein molecules. In addition to breaking down protein molecules, the process eliminates abnormal proteins and controls cellular regulatory processes. For now, let’s focus on the breakdown of protein. A protein that is only partially broken down is known as a peptide, whereas a protein that has been fully broken down, its components are called amino acids. As we already know, amino acids are crucial to all life. The body uses these molecules to carry out vital functions and build new proteins. There are specific enzymes that allow this process to run efficiently, known as protease.

Protease is a category of enzymes. Some are produced by the body, others are found in foods, and more are produced by bacteria and other microbes. These enzymes support body processes like digestion, immunity, and blood circulation. The enzymes break down cell walls of unwanted organisms, toxins, and cellular debris in the body. The main duty that we care about is the breaking down of proteins in foods we digest. This step is crucial to ensure that we get the amino acids we need for our body to function. That’s why Univera’s OptiDigest contains two active ingredients, protease and zinc. Zinc may not sound relevant, but when combined with protease enzymes, it forms a specific type of protease called metalloprotease. This compound helps to further support the breakdown of proteins by the body.

The crucial role that amino acids play in the human body doesn’t end when proteolysis ends. The next step is crafting amino acids into usable protein molecules for the body. This process is known as protein biosynthesis or simply, protein synthesis. The body uses the amino acids that have been broken down from the protein consumed to create new proteins that the body uses to build and repair bones, muscle, cartilage, skin, and blood. Amino acids and these newly built proteins also give cells their structure, transport and store vital nutrients, remove waste deposits produced by our metabolism, and influence the function of organs, glands, arteries, and tendons. Proteins are also responsible for making enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals in the body. A large reservoir of amino acids is critical in this step of protein digestion—which is why protease is such an important enzyme!

Some people don’t produce enough protease in order to break down the proteins they consume. This means that even if you are eating the right amount of protein, you aren’t getting all the benefits because these proteins aren’t being efficiently used by the body. When the body processes insufficient protein, its ability to carry out its natural tissue restoration processes is inhibited.

Image of protein
Not all protein has to be meat. Some vegetables are good sources of protein.

A diet low in protein can lead to fluctuating blood glucose levels that are associated with energy highs and lows, as well as possibly muscle weakness. Let’s be clear: we aren’t advocating that you eat a ton of protein to make up for a possible deficit, as this can be equally unhealthy. If you are eating an excess amount of protein, the body won’t be able to process the overwhelming amount of protein molecules and a majority of the excess protein will be wasted and/or be stored as fat. So, it’s critical to stay within your healthy range.

Maintaining a healthy intake of protein, augmented with Univera’s powerful OptiDigest, supports the body’s ability to effectively process proteins and turn them into viable molecules that the body can use.