Proteins are made from amino acids, there are twenty amino acids in total that make up protein and, according to the BBC, twelve of these are classified as non-essential and can be made by the body whilst eight of these are classified as essential and need to be consumed in our diet.
What types of protein are there?
Some proteins are of a higher quality than others, for example if you are muscle building with protein food you will be looking towards foods such as eggs and meat for their high-quality protein which gives your body more of the essential, muscle building amino acids than a lot of other protein foods.
Just like carbohydrates, which can be broken into simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates, different proteins are absorbed and synthesised at varying rates by the body.
The most quickly digested protein is whey protein which is why it is a sensible choice for directly before and following exercise. The major protein found in milk is casein and casein releases amino acids slowly making it a great choice for slow release protein throughout the day or to consume at night-time.
Which foods should I eat?
Eggs are quite famously the best protein source that you can have in your diet. A medium sized egg will provide you with a massive 6g of dietary protein. The protein in eggs is said to have the highest possible biological value which means that it contains all twenty of the amino acids in protein in a way that is easily digestible. Egg whites as part of an exercise and diet regime are an excellent choice.
Milk and dairy products are jam packed with protein as well as providing you with an excellent source of bone strengthening calcium. After a hard workout a great recovery drink (as well as a treat) is a chocolate milkshake as it gives the body a shot of refuelling carbohydrates as well as a potent mix and both whey protein and casein which gives the body fast and slow release protein. If chocolate milk is not to your taste then the same refuelling effect can be achieved from a milk based smoothie drink. If you have problems digesting lactose then you can get the same useful blend of whey protein and casein from yogurt which, having most of the lactose taken out, is much easier to digest.
If you cannot tolerate any dairy then you could use soya replacements which are not only effective as post workout recovery drinks but have also been proven to reduce the risk of cardiac disease as well as lowering cholesterol.
Lean meats such as chicken (without the fatty skin) and certain cuts of beef are great sources of lean protein. Pork is also a great protein source, as long as you skip the fatty cuts, as it contains branched-chain amino acids which play a key role in muscle recovery.