Proteins are essential nutrients for the body. There are approximately 50 such essential nutrients that our bodies require and which can't be manufactured by it. These nutrients are divided into 6 main categories consisting of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. All of these nutrients are obtained from the food that we eat/drink.

Water is considered to be the most essential of these nutrients, followed by protein. Protein is the major structural component of all cells in the body, especially muscle. This also includes body organs, skin, and hair. Proteins are broken down into amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins. These are used as precursors to co-enzymes, hormones, immune response, cellular repair, and other molecules necessary for life. Also, protein is required to form blood cells, and it is used as a fuel only when carbohydrate and lipid resources have depleted to a low amount.

Protein Sources

Most of us have the misconception that we need to compulsorily include meat in our diet in order to get protein. This is totally false. Yes, meat is the best source of protein, but not the only one. Eggs, beans, nuts, peanut butter, milk, and milk products are also good sources. Eating meat provides all the proteins required by the body. Vegetarians need to have well-balanced meals with a lot of variety in their diet to get all the required proteins.

Types of Protein Supplements

Maximum number of users of protein supplements are those who exercise for long, especially body builders. It is also taken by those whose normal diet is poor in proteins. Health stores today are flooded with a variety of these supplements. You can easily get confused, which is why you should exactly know about the type of protein supplement required.

Whey Protein
Whey protein is the best and most popular protein supplement used by power exercisers and bodybuilders. Whey protein is obtained during the process of converting milk to cheese. It helps in producing amino acids that are used in building and maintaining muscle tissue.

Soy Protein
As the name suggests, soy protein is derived from soybean plant and is a good source even though it is not a complete single source of protein. Soy protein is claimed to be the next best source of protein after meat. Studies have shown that soy protein reduces LDL cholesterol, while maintaining HDL cholesterol.

Egg Protein
Egg protein is considered to be one of the best forms of natural protein. The egg's white is the proteinaceous part. Many people still consume raw eggs to get this protein; however, it is not the advised way of having it. The main issue pertaining to eating raw eggs is the contamination with the Salmonella bacterium with the secondary issue involving the availability of the B-vitamin called biotin. Eggs should be boiled or well-cooked before consumption to eliminate certain bacteria that could cause illness. Egg protein supplements provide all the benefits of this protein without the added cholesterol that egg yolk (yellow part) comes with.

Casein Protein
Casein gets digested very slowly and is a good source of protein. This supplement is best when taken at night before going to bed, since it is said to be effective approximately 6 to 7 hours after consumption.

Whey/Soy Isolate Protein
Whey/soy isolate protein supplement is the same as normal whey/soy protein supplement, except for the fact that it is much more concentrated in the level of proteins. Normally whey/soy protein supplements contain about 75 to 85% protein, while the isolate of both contain approximately 90 to 98% protein. The isolate variety is more expensive and usually used by those whose workout is extremely strenuous.

Hemp oil is rich in essential fatty acids, and hemp seeds contain protein which is complete and highly-digestible.

Body's Protein Requirements

It is very rare in developed countries to find people with protein deficiency. Many, especially children, in very poor countries suffer from a condition known as 'kwashiorkor' due to protein deficiency. It results in a skinny appearance and a bloated stomach. Adults who often feel weak, have poor infection resistance, go into sudden depression, and lack energy should get themselves checked for protein deficiency. On an average, a normal person should get approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Exercisers should get nearly 1 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight depending on the severity of exercise performed.

Protein is very good for the human body, but an excess consumption of anything good will surely result in unpleasant consequences. Excess proteins are of no use and must be eliminated from the body. This puts an extra load on the kidneys and liver. As long as one is young and healthy, the organs will be able to take the load. Its effects, which could at times be fatal, will surely begin to show as one gets older. Take protein supplements only if you are certain that you are protein deficient, if you exercise for long hours, or if you practice bodybuilding.

Disclaimer: This Buzzle article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.