Protein is Necessary, but Carbohydrates are Essential

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Answered by: Matthew, An Expert in the Healthy Living 101 Category
Protein is the superstar of today's health culture. Glamorized as the key to weight loss and the most important ingredient in muscle building, it is universally regarded as primary ingredient of a healthy lifestyle. By contrast, many people believe carbohydrates are a 'necessary evil'; part of our everyday life but one on which we must keep a constant, suspicious eye. This perspective is at best problematic. Carbohydrates are essential to human health, and without them your body cannot function properly.

But does such a striking dichotomy really make sense of human nutritional needs? Yes and no.

The body's need for protein cannot be seriously disputed, especially for active people. Protein's exclusive ability to supply the amino acids necessary for rebuilding muscle after exercise justifies its prominence. Yet carbohydrates--which are the body's energy--make them equally necessary.

Whenever you exercise your body uses energy. It is easier for the body to use energy that is immediately available rather than converting stored energy (fat) into a useable form. Thus, athletes drink Gatorade to maintain their muscles' energy levels during competition. Protein provides just enough immediate energy to keep muscles working, but not enough to stop the body from using fat for more energy. Most of the time this is a very good thing. But during a workout your body's supply of energy depletes more quickly and requires a more direct and abundant source of energy.

Your body will not wait for the conversion of stored energy to start filling its energy needs. If there are no immediate energy resources to draw on, and ff the body's protein supply is being used to rebuild muscle, it will seek out another source of energy. That search will end with the body cannibalizing its own muscle for energy.

If, immediately following a workout you eat, say, an apple, banana, or a few grapes your body will quickly use it to supply your muscles' energy needs. Consequently, your body will make maximal use of its protein supply for muscle building. Thus, as the answer with protein is not “as much as possible” so with carbohydrates the answer is not “as little as possible”. One is not inherently glamorous, and the other is not inherently troubled. Both need to be consumed in proper proportion so that each can help the other perform its function in the body. You might think of it this way: if protein is the horsepower of an active lifestyle, carbohydrates are surely the gasoline.

The importance of carbohydrates in your diet is easy to see. They allow the body to function normally and appropriately use its protein supply. Without carbohydrates the entire energy and muscle building system breaks down. They may not be glamorous, but carbohydrates do the hard work of supplying the body with the energy necessary for all human activity. If you are trying to lose weight or simply live a healthy lifestyle, it is true that protein is critical. Despite their often maligned reputation it is clear that carbohydrates are essential to a healthy lifestyle.

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