Proteins are the building blocks of life. Almost every living cell contains protein. Protein is required by the body to make new cells and repair old ones. Proteins and the amino acids which comprise them regulate every metabolic function in your body from building muscle, as well as regulating sleep and energy.
Protein is especially important for pregnant women, children, and teens where it is needed for healthy growth and development.
Sources of Proteins
Proteins are found in many foods, including lean meat, fish, and eggs. Other good sources of protein are beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
While it’s best to get your protein from whole foods, protein powder from whey or other plant sources can help in increasing your protein intake.
Amount of Protein
It’s important to remember that your body doesn’t store protein in the same way it does carbohydrates or fats. You need to consume protein on a daily basis.
While you will see lots of recommendations for daily protein consumption, how much protein you need depends on many factors, including your age, sex, health, and the amount of work, exercise, or physical activity you engage in.
Average adult men should be consuming approximately 0.84 grams per kilogram of body weight. Average women, slightly less at 75 grams per kilogram of body weight. For an average adult male weighing 80 kilos, the recommended amount of protein would be approximately 67 grams of protein per day.
An average adult female weighing 50 kilograms should be consuming approximately 37 grams of protein daily. These are the recommended amounts published in the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
Some people are going to require more or less protein. Pregnant women need older adults who generally require more protein than the recommendation above. If you have liver or kidney disease you should eat less protein. If there is any question, you should consult a doctor or nutrition specialist.
Individuals who engage in heavy exercise need more protein. Endurance athletes and weight lifters require more protein. Bodybuilders might need as much as 1.5 to 2 grams per kilo of body weight daily.
If you don’t get enough protein, your body can start to break down. This is rare in developed countries but can be the result of certain medical conditions, or improper diet. Protein cravings, sugar cravings, hunger, weakness, and fatigue may all be signs you aren’t getting enough protein.
Loss of muscle mass, slow healing injuries, swelling of your feet or legs, and impaired immune system, are all serious conditions, and if you experience any of these you should consult your physician. Your doctor can help you determine if these conditions are caused by low protein intake or other causes.
A recent study conducted in the United States found that more than 1 out of 3 adults over the age of 50 were not getting the daily recommended amount of protein they need.
Since protein is such a critical part of being and staying healthy, getting enough protein on a daily basis is extremely important to maintaining good health.