For most people, finding protein isn’t an issue. Even special dietary needs like vegetarianism don’t conflict with eating adequate amounts if you know where to look. That’s the key: knowing where to look.

Your body uses protein for so many different things; you may be surprised at just how integral it is to your daily function. Not all sources of protein are created equal, however: read on to discover just how protein helps you, and where to find it.

What Is It?

One of the three macronutrients (along with fats and carbohydrates), protein is composed of chains of amino acids [1] and is a contributor to your total caloric intake.

What Is Its Biological Role?

Protein provides your body with the specific fuel required for a wide variety of functions. Protein can be utilized as a structural part of cells found both internally and in your hair, skin, and nails.

It is the driving force behind many of the tiny chemical reactions your body is constantly processing to keep it working the way it should. Protein is also responsible for helping your muscles function properly. This means processes as unnoticed as pushing food through your body during the digestive process, to as overt as running a marathon.

When you overexert your skeletal muscles, protein is also what help to repair that damage and allow your muscles to strengthen and grow so that you can perform better next time around.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Protein is vital to helping your body recover after any strenuous activity [2]. People who work out to stay slim will want to consume lots of lean protein sources, as this will allow them to stay healthy and strong so they can continue working out without injuring themselves.

Bodybuilders can sometimes be more particular in the types of protein they consume--for instance, whey protein is a type of protein found in dairy products and is particularly suited to helping build muscles.

This means that if a bodybuilder spends a few hours working out and then consumes a protein shake afterwards that includes whey protein, that targeted protein intake can help to quickly repair the miniscule muscle tears that result from strength training.

This will help the muscles grow larger and stronger. In addition to preventing injury and promoting muscle growth, protein can help you perform for longer period of time without experiencing muscle fatigue.

What Foods Contain It?

Protein is most commonly found in animal products such as meats and dairy, but can also be found in nuts, seeds, and legumes. Healthy sources of protein include lean cuts of beef, chicken, pork, salmon, cod, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, soy products, and more.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

How much protein you need to eat every day depends on your size [3]. To this end, the general recommendation for protein consumption is .8g per kilogram of bodyweight, or .36g per pound of bodyweight. For an average sized adult, this comes out to roughly 56g per day for men and 46g per day for women.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Eating too much protein usually means that you’re offsetting the increase in protein by eating less of other foods, like carbohydrates or fiber. If this is the case, consuming too much protein without balancing your diet can result in poor mood, digestive issues, and feeling bloated.

What’s more, excessive protein consumption can stress your kidneys. When you eat protein your kidneys go to work helping you filter the nitrogen by-products of protein consumption out of your system. If you eat more protein than you need, strictly speaking, you can end up overworking your kidney which can lead to kidney damage.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Most Americans get more than enough protein on a daily basis and won’t experience problems with too little protein; or, if they are eating just slightly too little protein will experience very minor symptoms that may go unnoticed such as taking longer to recover from injuries or a weakened immune system.

Extreme protein deficiency can lead to weakening or wasting away of the muscles, joint pain, digestive issues, and in the most severe cases can cause coma.

Final Take

Different types of protein from different sources can benefit you in different ways. The good news is that, as long as you don’t go completely overboard, all protein is good protein.

When you reach for a snack or prepare a meal rich in protein along with other important nutrients, you can be confident that you are putting only good things into your body; confident that you are utilizing the building blocks of success.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that protein from animal sources if often accompanied by fat. You’ll want to ensure that any protein sources you consume do not cause you to overindulge in the wrong types of fat.


[1] Osterweil, Neil. The Benefits of Protein., 2015.

[2] Tipton, KD and Wolf,RR. Exercise, Protein Metabolism, and Muscle Growth. National Library of Medicine, 2001.

[3] Nierenberg, Cari. How Much Protein Do You Need?, 2014.