If you’ve looked into embarking on a fitness journey, you know how often people highlight the importance of protein in your diet. If I had a nickel for every time I saw a video of some muscle head telling the masses that the key to getting in shape is to “up your protein intake, bro,” I’d have a lot of nickels. But what is protein exactly? Why is it so important?
Proteins are found all throughout our body, they are an essential component to life. Protein is made up of over twenty “building blocks” known as amino acids. Humans do not naturally store amino acids in our bodies and therefore we need to seek out ways to make them. The nine vital amino acids - histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine - all come from food. What makes protein so important is that it assists in the restoration of cells, as well as making new ones. Having protein in your diet is very important for the growth and development of our bodies.
While protein from animal sources provide the highest quality, there are many other food groups that can add protein to your diet. Foods such as beans, nuts, whole grains, and even some vegetables are all valid sources of protein. The recommended amount of protein intake is about 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight.
Protein deficiency can lead to numerous outcomes, ranging in severity. Issues such as loss of muscle mass, growth failure, an decrease in immunity, and weakening of heart and respiratory systems depending on the severity of the deficiency. Luckily, most Americans do not have to worry about these issues because we have so much access to food and protein that we actually eat more than enough; however, it should be noted that millions of people do face these issues due to food insecurity and lack of resources.
The bottom line is: protein is a fundamental part of any diet and it is important to incorporate it in moderation for the benefit of your body’s growth and development.
Author: Sophia G.
Editor: Kaitlyn Longstaff
Public Health Scientist: LaCher E-W, MPH