Protein is one of the essential macronutrients needed by the body to function. 

Protein’s main role is to repair and build muscle but it is also involved in a number of important processes in the body, including: 

  • Tissue growth and repair
  • Energy production
  • Immune function
  • Hormone production 
  • Nutrient absorption.

Protein is made up of amino acids, some of which the body is able to produce itself and some of which we need to obtain from our diet – these are called essential amino acids. 

Five reasons to eat more protein

Essential amino acid deficiencies can negatively impact our entire bodies including our nervous, reproductive, immune and digestive systems. So, eating protein is essential for the body to function. 

1. Muscle Growth and Repair

Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle, making it crucial for athletes, bodybuilders and anyone engaging in regular exercise.

2. Supports Weight Management

Protein can help increase feelings of fullness and reduce appetite, which may aid in weight loss or weight maintenance by preventing overeating and reducing cravings.

3. Boosts Metabolism

Protein has a higher thermic effect compared to carbohydrates and fats, meaning your body burns more calories digesting and metabolising protein. This can support weight loss efforts and help maintain a healthy metabolism.

4. Maintains Bone Health

Adequate protein intake is important for maintaining bone density and reducing the risk of osteoporosis, especially as we age. Protein provides the building blocks needed for bone tissue formation and repair.

5. Supports Immune Function

Protein is necessary for the production of antibodies and immune cells, helping your body fight off infections and illnesses. Including sufficient protein in your diet can strengthen your immune system and promote overall health.

These are just a few of the benefits of eating more protein-rich foods. However, it’s essential to consume a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients from different food groups for optimal health.

How much protein do I need?

The amount of protein you need depends on your goals, body composition and dieting considerations.

For the general population, a minimum intake of 0.8g/kg per day represents the minimum amount to avoid conditions associated with a protein deficiency.

However, this intake is not optimal for most and higher protein intakes will help maintain healthy hair, skin and immune function, promote weight loss and retain muscle mass.

 So, how much protein do I actually need? Generally we recommend 0.8g/kg-1.2g/kg per day for health and weight loss/ management.

An endurance athlete or someone looking to gain muscle would require more.

The elderly also need higher protein intakes in order to reduce the risk of age-related diseases, such as sarcopenia. This is because lean muscle mass becomes less sensitive to stimuli such as protein (amino acids) within the body and resistance training.  

How can I get enough protein in my diet?

A simple way to ensure you’re getting enough protein is to aim for a serving in each main meal throughout the day, with a high protein snack in-between.

 A visual serving of protein would be one palm-sized portion of meat or fish for women, and a 1.5-2 palm-sized portion for men. That’s around 20-30g of protein per portion if you’re a woman, and 30-40g of protein per portion if you’re a man. 

To find out more about how to get enough protein in your diet head over to our article on protein sources.