Kids tend to eat a lot of carbs and little protein. If your kids are like mine, they tend to grab quick snacks such as granola bars, cereal, toast or fruit. Unfortunately, there is not much, if any, protein in these. Getting them to eat the right amount of protein per day is difficult.
Not just kids, but teens are especially in need of protein. My teens are up at 6am and spend the day at school. My daughter is so tired when she gets home, she sleeps for a few hours before dinner and homework time. Being able to cope each day with the pressure of academics, social drama and workload is a lot for a teen, so getting the right amount of amino acids is essential!
What’s so special about protein?
There are amino acids in protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of your body. They are essential to your body’s development as it builds, maintains and repairs your tissues. Your body needs to manufacture antibodies to fight off infection and hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout your system. Additionally, amino acids help grow muscle, increase your strength and improve athletic performance.
The body produces 14 of the 20 amino acids needed to keep your body working right. The remaining six amino acids must come from an outside protein source. Different types of proteins provide varying amounts and types of amino acids. Even though your body is creating 14 of the 20, it still needs the other six to help create the 14. If you don’t get the additional 6 from food, your body may not be able to function properly. You will see in the list below why each amino acid is important for your children’s health.
Each amino acid plays a specific role. I will briefly describe the role of each amino acid as related to children and teens.
Tryptophan – an essential amino acid
Tryptophan is the essential building block for numerous life-giving biomolecules such as enzymes, structural proteins, serotonin, melatonin and neurotransmitters.
Tryptophan can help with insomnia, anxiety, depression and PMS (common in teens). It also enhances relaxation and rest, soothes nerves and anxiety, helping children fall asleep and be more relaxed throughout the day. Additionally, it assists in controlling hyperactivity in children.
Threonine – an essential amino acid
Threonine helps the digestive and intestinal tracts to function more smoothly. It supports the central nervous and cardiovascular systems, the liver, and boosts the immune system, aiding in maintenance of strong bones and tooth enamel.
Isoleucine – an essential amino acid
Isoleucine increases endurance, heals muscle tissue and boosts energy levels. This amino acid participates in hemoglobin synthesis as well as in the regulation of blood sugar and energy.
Leucine – an essential amino acid
Leucine aids in burning fat without burning muscle. It spares the muscle proteins, leaving them to help in building and increasing muscle mass. Additionally, it helps in regulating blood-sugar levels, promotes the growth and recovery of muscle and bone tissues, as well as the production of the growth hormone.
Lysine – an essential amino acid
Lysine is important in calcium absorption and in building muscle protein, producing hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. A lack of Lysine can cause symptoms as slow growth, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and even reproductive disorders.
Methionine – an essential amino acid
Methionine is important in metabolism and detoxifying the liver. It can be used to treat depression, inflammation, liver diseases, and some muscle pains. This amino acid is particularly helpful for those using oral contraceptives.
Phenylalanine – an essential amino acid
Phenylalanine is most important because it is a precursor of tyrosine. Tyrosine leads to the formation of adrenaline. The adrenaline is then converted into a brain chemical utilized to produce noradrenaline, which is responsible for promoting mental alertness and memory, and also for the elevation of mood and for the suppression of appetite.
Phenylalanine helps treat conditions such as lack of energy, memory problems, depression, confusion, decreased alertness, and lack of appetite, all of which may be caused by a phenylalanine deficiency. Phenylalanine has also been shown to improve walking disabilities, rigidity, speech difficulties, and depression because it stimulates brain chemicals like norepinephrine and dopamine.
Valine – an essential amino acid
Valine is essential in creating a smooth nervous system and cognitive functioning. Valine aids in the improvement in insomnia and nervousness. It is also especially helpful to athletes for muscle tissue recovery, muscle metabolism and increasing exercise endurance.
Histidine – an essential amino acid
Your body needs histidine to regulate and to utilize essential trace elements like iron, copper, molybdenum, zinc, and manganese. Children tend to lack this amino acid. This amino acid is the precursor to histamine, a compound released by the immune system to combat an allergic reaction. Histidine is an animo acid required by the body to produce Metallothionein. Without metallothionein, a person can develop mineral-enzyme deficiencies and other mineral related dysregulations.
Cystine it is essential for reducing the effect of aging, the detoxification and renewal of skin and recovery of hair and nail tissue. Cysteine is used in creating antioxidants and protecting your brain and liver from damage made by alcohol, drugs and cigarette smoke. This amino acid also helps protect against toxins and damages caused by radiation.
Tyrosine supports and assists neurotransmitters in the brain. This amino acid, if used in full, helps reduce stress, improves mental alertness and mood, and even acts as an appetite suppressant. Tyrosine is essential for the production of hormones like thyroxin, which plays an important role in regulating metabolism, mental health, skin health, and human growth rate.
Arginine helps healing wounds, release hormones, and remove ammonia from your body. Many people use arginine in order to boost the immune system and improve athletic performance.
Alanine helps your body convert simple sugar (glucose) into energy, while eliminating excess toxins from your liver. Alanine is key to building muscles. It helps protect cells from being damaged during intense exercise.
This amino acid is necessary for stamina, brain and neural health. It also plays an important role in the forming of other amino acids. Aspartic acid increases your body’s metabolism and is also used to treat depression and fatigue.
Glutamic acid is considered the brain’s primary “food.” When it passes the blood-brain barrier, it utilizes all the excess ammonia, which is a toxic waste, and transforms it into glutamine. Glutamic acid also increases mental clarity and is used in the treatment of fatigue, mental retardation, schizophrenia and muscular dystrophy. Additionally, it helps detoxify muscle cells and is important for metabolizing carbohydrates.
This amino acid is responsible for keeping your skin firm and flexible. It helps prevent the breaking down of muscles, since it boosts your body’s level of creatine. It is also vital for maintaining a healthy central nervous and digestive system and provides protection against some types of cancer.
There are two things proline is responsible for. One, it is an essential ingredient in collagen, so is necessary for proper functioning of joints and tendons. And two, it helps diminish arterioscleroses. If your body does not get enough proline, your blood vessels cannot expand and contract as your blood circulates throughout your body. This amino acid is created from glutamic acid.
Serine is obtained from the amino acid glycine. Serine is essential for proper functioning of your brain and central nervous system. Serine’s function is to help form the phospholipids that are necessary for creating every cell in your body. Additionally, it plays a role in muscle formation and supports the immune system.
As you can see from the list, amino acids are not something to take lightly. If your children are having difficulty in school, sports or with their mental health, amino acids may be a big part of the solution.
How much protein should kids get per day?
The amount of protein an average person requires each day is .5 grams per pound of body weight. So, a child around 100 pounds would need 50 grams of protein a day to get all the amino acids they need. That can be easily achieved.
Below are some easy ideas for making sure your kids get protein each day.
Each of the following contains at least 25 grams of protein:
• Blend 1 scoop chocolate protein powder with cinnamon, a little milk and some natural sweetener
• Blend 1 scoop strawberry protein with fruit and ice
• Blend ½ scoop vanilla protein, 3 egg whites and 1/3 cup oats and cook like a pancake. Then spread 1 Tbs peanut butter on half and fold it. You could also put raisins in it
• Blend 1 scoop cookies and cream protein powder, coconut milk, a lot of ice and couple drops of peppermint extract. Blend until an ice cream consistency and top with chocolate chips
• High-quality protein bars
• One cup plain Greek yogurt with berries and a little natural sweetener
• 4 oz of turkey, chicken or other low fat meat
Remember, use only natural and organic sweeteners!
It is important to not only focus on getting enough protein, but also not to overdo the fat. Common proteins children like tend to be high in fat. An example is peanut butter. The average amount you might put on a sandwich is 2 tablespoons, which has a whopping 16 grams of fat and only 7 grams of protein. Choosing leaner proteins is better.
Hope Bundrant is a home school mom, co-founder of the iNLP Center and nationally qualified bodybuilding competitor. If you like this article, then visit Hope at BikiniHope.com for more fitness tips, recipes and personal development articles.