Pyramid Science

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Muscle Protein

Amino acids are the materials from which protein synthesis occurs. A protein is a long chain molecule made up from hundreds of amino acid residues in a set order. This sequence differentiates one particular protein from any other and the actual amino acids will vary. There are 20 amino acids used by the human organism and these building bricks make up the entire set from which all protein matter is made. The essential amino acids are those which the human body cannot make for itself and must be supplied in the diet. The rest are the non-essential amino acids which can be synthesised within the body, but can use an essential amino acid as the source ('non-essential' tyrosine from 'essential' phenylalanine).

The assimilation or anabolism of amino acids into specifically the proteins actin and myosin leads to the material from which muscle is made. These aggregate molecules are very specific in their structure but nonetheless are made from a very basic set of amino acids. It is important to realise that dietary sources of protein provide the amino acids from which all human needs must be met. The body upon ingestion of food will break down (catabolise) this protein into the constituent parts and use the resulting pool of amino acids to resynthesise the proteins it will need either for growth or repair.

Anabolism and Catabolism

Once the body has used those amino acids it requires, the excess will be used as a fuel source since the body cannot store such material. The quality of the dietary protein is closely related to the amount of sufficiency or deficiency of any of the amino acids. If the food sources do not provide any one of the eight essential amino acids then the body will catabolise structural proteins into the constituent amino acids, take what it needs for good health and if the rest cannot be used elsewhere burn them as a fuel. Removing an amino acid from a protein destroys that protein and its original function but provides the amino acid that is required for a more critical, yet specific, purpose. Poor diet will ultimately lead to slow destruction of the body. For every 1 gm of a protein mixture taken in the diet only a tiny proportion of the constituent amino acids will be used in the muscle growth process. All the body requirements must be met from this source. Hypertrophy is increase in size of an individual cell and may explain why large body parts respond faster than smaller ones where bigger fibres are stimulated and grow faster.

  • The idea of amino acid anabolism from dietary protein can be illustrated by considering a block of bricks. Suppose the block is made up of 1000 bricks from a range of ten colours and has a size 10 x 10 x 10. If an equal number of bricks of each colour is present then there would be 100 bricks each of the 10 colours or 1000 bricks (= 10 x 100). Now suppose that bricks of only 3 of those 10 colours were needed. Some 700 bricks of the entire block would be useless. And if only 1 were required? Of those original 1000 bricks, 900 would not be of any use.


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