What does protein do for your body? Adequate protein is one of the most important elements of any diet, but why? As a critical source of fuel, protein is a “macronutrient” responsible for building muscle mass. Just like carbohydrates or fibre, protein is crucial for making your body work the way it should. Many people, however, don’t understand just how valuable protein can be.
Your body needs protein to thrive, yet studies suggest that many adults aren’t getting enough protein into their diet, particularly as they start to get older. In America’s Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 50 is missing out on their recommended protein intake.
So, what is protein, and why is it so important?
What Does Protein Do For Your Body? The Benefits of Protein
There are more than 10,000 kinds of protein found in the human body, powering everything from your organ function to your hair growth and nails. Protein is a critical element of what makes human beings into the creatures we are – and it’s also essential to the processes that fuel your metabolism.
Experts recommend that we should get around 10% of our daily calories from protein. If you’re trying to figure out a gram amount for your daily diet, take your weight by pounds and multiply it by 0.36.
This is what protein does for your body:
1. Ensures healthy growth and maintenance
Perhaps the most obvious of the protein benefits is that it allows your body to continue growing and thriving. Your body’s proteins are constantly expiring and being renewed.
Under normal circumstances, your body generally breaks down the same amount of protein each day to build and repair tissues. However, during periods of illness, during pregnancy, and during breastfeeding, you use more protein, which means you need more in your diet.
2. Sends crucial communication signals
Some proteins can also be “hormones” – substances that aid the communications between tissues, cells, and organs in the body. These substances are made by endocrine glands and tissues and move through your body in your blood. Hormones like proteins and peptides are made from chains of amino acids. Examples of the kind of protein-based hormones your body uses every day include:
- Insulin: responsible for the uptake of glucose
- Glugcan: breaks down glucose in the liver
- HGH: stimulates the growth of bone and bodily tissues
- ACTH: improves the release of cortisol for metabolic function
3. Provides structure
Proteins come in many different shapes and forms. Some are fibrous substances, which can protect tissues and cells in your body.
Collagen, keratin, and elastin all help to form a connective framework throughout your body. Keratin is responsible for creating healthy skin, nails, and hair, while collagen is responsible for connecting bones, ligaments, tendons, and skin. Elastin is the substance that allows the tissues in your body to maintain their original shape after contacting and stretching.
4. Creates biochemical reactions
Enzymes are a kind of protein responsible for helping the various biochemical reactions that happen in the body’s cells (and around them). These enzymes can combine with other molecules to deliver various results. For instance, lactase enzymes work to allow the body to digest lactose (the sugar in milk). Without protein, we’d struggle with things like digestion, energy production, and even blood clotting. Lack of access to enzymes like these has even been proven to lead to disease.
5. Regulates fluid balance
Proteins can help regulate the bodily processes that maintain fluid balance. Essentially, this means that you have the right amount of water in your system. Globulin and Albumin are proteins in the body which attract and retain water. If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your levels eventually decrease, and this can lead to problems like swelling or oedema.
6. Manages blood PH
Protein plays a critical role in regulating the concentrations of various bases and acids in your blood and bodily fluids. Throughout your body, you have different PH levels. For instance, your stomach acid has a PH of 2, while your blood is usually at 7.4.
A constant PH is essential to good health, as the slightest change can be potentially deadly. Fortunately, your body regulates its PH constantly using proteins like “haemoglobin” – the protein in your red blood cells.
7. Improves Immune system performance
Proteins help to form antibodies or immunoglobulins responsible for fighting infection. These substances protect your body from harmful viruses and bacteria. When these invaders enter human cells, your body produces antibodies to get rid of them. Once your body has produced antibodies against a specific substance, your cells never forget how to make them – but they do need protein to recreate the antibodies in future.
8. Stores and transports nutrients
Proteins known as “transport proteins” carry substances through the bloodstream, into and out of cells. The substances transported by these proteins often include nutrients like minerals and vitamins, blood sugar, oxygen, and collagen.
Haemoglobin, for instance, is a protein responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. Protein transporters all have specific roles to accomplish when helping your body to thrive.
How Much Protein Do You Need in Your Diet?
The amount of protein you need for a healthy diet will depend on a range of factors. While there are daily recommended allowances to consider, some people will need additional protein to deal with different periods in their lives, like pregnancy. A DNA test can give you an insight into the kind of macro and micronutrient balance you’ll need to be as healthy as possible.
If you’re looking into protein benefits for weight loss, it’s particularly important to consider your calorie balance carefully, and how you can adapt your diet.
In general, recommended protein amounts are:
- Children under 4: 13 grams
- Child 4-8: 19 grams
- Children 9-13: 34 grams
- Women 14 and over: 46 grams
- Men 14 to 18: 52 grams
- Men 19 and over: 56 grams
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to find various great sources of protein in the modern world. You can stock up on a particular kind of protein that’s easy to absorb and great for muscle building in the form of “whey protein”. This substance is often available in powders and shakes and tends to be ideal for improving muscle performance during and after exercise.
If you’re looking for standard dietary protein, try:
- Eggs: Whole eggs have around 6 grams of protein
- Almonds: 6 grams of protein per ounce
- Chicken breast: 53 grams of protein for one breast (without skin)
- Oats: 11 grams for one cup of oats
- Cottage cheese: One cup (226 grams) has around 28 grams of protein
- Greek yogurt: One container (170 grams) has around 17 grams of protein
- Milk: One cup contains up to 8 grams of protein
- Broccoli: One cup (96 grams) has 3 grams of protein
- Lean beef: One 3-ounce serving has 25 grams of protein
What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Protein?
Protein is an essential component of any diet. Not getting enough of it could mean that you suffer from a range of health problems. These problems include swelling (when fluid builds up in various parts of your body) and problems with the quality of your hair, skin, and nails. Since everything in your body is made up of different kinds of proteins, you need consistent access to this substance to thrive.
Protein even affects your mood. That’s because your brain’s neurotransmitters are made up of the building blocks of protein (Amino acids). Lack of protein in your diet could change how your brain functions, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.
If nothing else, a lack of protein can often cause symptoms such as:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Loss of muscle mass
- Slower healing after injury
Don’t Underestimate Protein
Now you know the answer to the question, What does protein do for your body? Protein has many essential roles for your body. The substance repairs and builds your body’s tissues, allowing for metabolic reactions to take place that affects all parts of your life. As a crucial building block in your body’s structural framework, proteins also help with maintaining proper fluid and PH balance. Finally, they keep the immune system strong and store nutrients too.
Failing to get enough protein into your system could mean that you encounter a range of health issues that make you feel less than your best. Don’t underestimate the power of this macronutrient. To get your unique dietary profile and nutrition report based on your DNA, try the CircleDNA Premium Test to get your diet and nutrition reports.