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We need protein to build or regenerate skeletal muscle. However, many people don't understand the other functions protein has within the body, as alluded to above.

Upon digestion, amino acids from ingested proteins enter what is called the "free amino acid pool." The amino acids can then be diverted to different areas of the body for utilization depending on what the body needs. For example, some amino acids are used as an energy source through their conversion to glucose, using a process called gluconeogenesis (Mathews, 1990).

Others are used as a substrate for protein synthesis of many different tissues. Protein can also be converted to fat, though this is a very inefficient process in humans and is not a major source of bodyfat, contrary to what you may have been led to believe by some nutritional "authorities."

Protein is also a very thermogenic fuel substrate in the body, meaning that its digestion, metabolism and storage require a great deal of energy, which is released as heat. Have you ever wondered why you may feel hot after a large protein meal? This could be the reason.

In fact, it has been shown that ingesting large amounts of protein can account for upward of 20 percent of daily energy expenditure (Robinson, S.M. et al., 1990). This means that as much as 20 percent or more of the calories from protein you eat are lost as heat and can't be stored as fat on your glutes or hips! From a thermal, hormonal, and biochemical point of view to be converted to bodyfat.

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