Nourish - The Protein Puzzle: Why Protein Matters and How Much Do You Really Need?
Protein is a fundamental building block of life, playing a vital role in the proper functioning of our bodies. It is not just a macronutrient; it’s an essential component for a healthy and thriving existence.
In this blog series on why protein matters, we’ll explore why protein is so important and how much you really need.
Why Protein Matters: The Role of Protein in the Body
Protein is involved in a multitude of bodily functions, making it indispensable for overall health and well-being. Here are some of the critical roles protein plays and why protein matters:
Muscle Growth and Repair
Protein is the key to building and repairing muscles. This is crucial for fitness enthusiasts and athletes, but of course, it’s also important for anyone looking to maintain their muscle mass as they age.
Enzymes and Hormones
Many enzymes and hormones that regulate various processes in the body are made up of proteins. For example, insulin, which regulates blood sugar, is a protein.
Protein is essential for the maintenance and repair of various tissues in the body, including the skin, hair, and nails.
Some types of proteins, like antibodies, are vital for a robust immune system, helping the body defend against infections and illnesses.
Transport and Storage
Hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells, transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, ensuring all cells get the oxygen they need.
Meeting Your Protein Needs
Although we all need protein in our diets, here are 6 examples of individuals who would benefit from paying particular attention to their protein intake to support various physiological needs. Here’s why protein matters.
No. 1 – Pregnant Women
During pregnancy, protein needs increase to support the growth and development of the foetus, placenta, and maternal tissues. Understandably, adequate protein intake is crucial for foetal development, including the formation of cells, organs, and muscles. And of course, the mother herself also needs to maintain her own protein requirements.
No. 2 – Athletes and Active Individuals
Those who engage in regular physical activity, especially resistance training or endurance exercises, require additional protein to support muscle repair, recovery, and growth. As we know, protein helps repair and build muscle tissue after workouts.
No. 3 – Individuals on Special or Restricted Diets
For some people following vegetarian, vegan, or any kind of restrictive diet, these individuals may need to pay extra attention to ensure they get enough high-quality protein from plant-based sources to meet their nutritional needs.
No. 4 – Those Recovering from Injury or Surgery
Protein plays a critical role in tissue repair and wound healing, therefore protein requirements are higher when individuals are recovering from surgery, injury, or illness. This higher protein intake will help to support the healing process.
No. 5 – Elderly Individuals
Older adults may need more protein to counteract age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia) and maintain muscle mass, strength, and function. Adequate protein intake helps to prevent frailty and maintain mobility.
No. 6 – Those Looking to Lose Weight
Protein often helps to promote the feeling of fullness and satiety. As a result, this may aid those seeking to lose weight and also help preserve lean muscle mass during weight loss.
What’s the Recommended Daily Protein Intake?
The recommended daily protein intake will vary depending on several factors, including:
- Activity level
- Whether you’re pregnant or lactating
- Any individual health goal, such as bodybuilding, for example
- Dietary Patterns (e.g vegan/vegetarian)
- Whether recovering from injury
That being said, as a general guideline, many health organizations suggest a daily protein intake of around 0.83 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg).
This recommendation is based on the minimum protein needed to maintain basic bodily functions and health.
It’s important to note that this is a general guideline and individual protein needs will vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, muscle mass, and overall health.
Here’s an example of how to figure out what your protein requirements are:
For example, for a person weighing 70 kilograms:
- 0.83 grams of protein/kg of body weight = 0.83 * 70 kg ≈ 58 grams of protein per day
So, according to this guideline, an average adult weighing 70 kilograms might aim for a daily protein intake of approximately 58 grams.
I’d like to reiterate, this is the minimum protein needed to maintain basic bodily functions and health. So, if you’re working out or a very physical person, you’ll need to add more. Once again, it’s all very variable.
For Individuals Engaging in Regular Exercise
For individuals who engage in regular exercise, the protein recommendations often fall within a range that exceeds the minimum daily intake but might not require the high levels recommended for competitive athletes.
As a general guideline for individuals who are regularly active or exercise moderately, you’re looking at about 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This range provides a bit of a buffer above the minimum recommendations and supports muscle repair, recovery, and adaptation from exercise.
Let’s use our previous example of someone weighing 70 kilograms:
- 1.2 to 1.7 grams/kg/day = 1.2 * 70 to 1.7 * 70 ≈ 84 to 119 grams of protein per day
This range allows for flexibility based on the frequency and intensity of exercise. If you are someone who is engaging in a variety of physical activities, including resistance training or endurance exercises, aiming toward the higher end of the range might be beneficial to support muscle health and recovery.
For Individuals Engaging in Regular Intense Workouts or Athletic Training
For individuals engaging in regular intense workouts or athletic training, protein needs may be higher to support muscle repair, recovery, and adaptation. Recommendations often suggest a range of 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for athletes, depending on the intensity and type of exercise.
As we talked about earlier, during pregnancy, protein needs increase to support the growth and development of the foetus, placenta, and maternal tissues. Pregnant individuals typically require additional protein, and a chat with your healthcare professional will help you figure out your specific recommendations since they tend to vary.
As a ballpark figure though, you’re looking at about a 25g increase of protein per day, on top of your regular requirements during pregnancy.
That’s it for part one of The Protein Puzzle: Why Protein Matters and How Much Do You Really Need?
Check out part 2 here:
Want something else to read? Try:
- Plant-Based & Healthy Pre-Workout Snack Tips
- What’s the scoop on: Glutamine for Gut Health
- What’s the Scoop On: Seed and Nut Butters
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication