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TOA Tips - Physical Therapy: Importance of Protein

In the above video, Physical Therapist Mario Novo discusses the importance of making sure we are not deficient in protein. Protein is one of the three macronutrients that make up an essential part of our diet, meaning our bodies do not synthesize or create their own protein and we must get it from an external source. Protein is vital to maintaining muscle mass as well as bone density. It is not uncommon during post-surgery recovery for people to lower the amount of food they consume, due in part to loss of appetite from taking pain medication, and inadvertently lower their overall protein intake as well. Mario also discusses the benefits and importance of making sure you are eating high quality protein and what foods to consume that contain better quality proteins.

Ensuring we are getting enough protein is important for the maintenance and creation of every cell in our bodies. Protein is an important building block of our bones, muscles, skin, cartilage, nails, and hair. Our bodies use protein to build and repair vital tissues. Protein helps oxygenate our blood cells, ensuring our entire body is supplied with the nutrients it needs. Protein aids in creating enzymes that aid in digesting food and creating new cells as well as body chemicals. Protein is also helpful for our bodies to regulate hormones. As you can see, ensuring we meet our protein intake requirements is incredibly important for maintaining proper bodily function.

Post-surgery, protein becomes even more vital for our bodies as we go through our recovery period. A certain amount of muscle loss is inevitable post-surgery. When protein intake is insufficient, skeletal muscle serves as our body's primary source of essential amino acids required to maintain whole body protein synthesis. Therefore, there is an increased need for dietary protein post-surgery to meet our bodies elevated amino acid needs and reduce the risk of muscular catabolism. Maintaining proper protein levels in the body can help mitigate muscle loss and ensure that our recovery goes smoothly and has as minimal as possible negative impact on our bodies and overall health post procedure.

As mentioned by Mario, not all protein sources are equal. Some foods provide us with higher quality proteins than others and it is important to be cognizant of where you are sourcing your protein from to ensure optimal bodily function and recovery post-surgery. Some of the best sources of protein include meat and animal products such as chicken, fish, and eggs as well as lactose free dairy products and vegetables as these protein sources include the least number of inflammatory byproducts, meaning they are some of the best protein sources that will cause minimal gastric irritation. Proteins from red meat conversely do typically contain more inflammatory byproducts and should typically be avoided if possible, during surgical recovery to ensure you are recovering properly.

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