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The Importance Of Protein

When thinking of protein you probably think of someone walking out of the gym protein shake in hand after a weightlifting session. You may even think that protein intake is only important if you do resistance training. At the danger of generalising I will take a wild guess here and say many women probably think more about their carb intake than protein.

But getting sufficient amounts of protein is crucial for everyone, even if you don’t lift weights, for the following reasons:

It’s a structural building block for the body

Most bodily protein is located within the musculoskeletal system. This is the reason why especially people who perform resistance training are often concerned with their protein intake. If you are aiming to build more muscle you will have to supply your body with the building blocks. But even if muscle growth is not one of your goals, we all carry muscle in our bodies – it’s how we move our bodies. Therefore everyone should be eating sufficient amounts of protein.

Enzymes and cellular transporters

But of course protein goes beyond being in our muscles, it is also essential for enzymes as nearly all of them are made from protein (enzymes are catalysts for chemical reactions in the body). Cellular transports are more like a gateway to our cell membranes. And if that wasn’t enough proteins are also critical for the transport of a wide range of nutrients, for example haemoglobin.

Fluid Balance and PH Balance

Protein also acts as a helper when it comes to fluid balance in the body, allowing water to move between the cells and blood. In terms of the body’s acid-base balance protein is again a key player in helping us keep a neutral PH.

Hormones and Neurotransmitters

A lot of hormones are actually derived from amino acids (the building blocks of protein); one example is the human growth hormone, which contains 191 amino acids. Because some hormones (more specifically peptide hormones) also act as neurotransmitters proteins are not only key for our endocrine system (the system that is responsible for our hormones) but also the nervous system.

Immune System

A very hot topic at the moment with the whole world struggling to conquer a pandemic, white blood cells need protein to become functional. White blood cells help fight infections and therefore sufficient protein supply via our diet can help strengthen our immune system.

How much is sufficient for me?

Good question! And the answer is it depends on your size, activity level, body composition and of course your individual goals. But below is a rough guide for daily protein intake in g per kg bodyweight.

ActivityType of Exerciseproetin g per kg bodyweight/day
Light to moderateCardio1.2-1.6g
Light to moderateStrength1.5-2g
Moderate to vigorousCardio1.5-2g
Moderate to vigorousStrength1.7-2.2g
Pencharz et al., 2016

In summary, we need protein because it forms a large part of our structure and plays a key role in many bodily functions. How much protein you need will depend on your individual circumstances but I can say from my own experience that I have spent years under-eating when it comes to protein. Increasing my protein intake was an absolute game changer. My performance improved and my body composition started to change!

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