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What are Proteins and What Do They Do?

What is protein?

Proteins are found in a wide range of food and it’s important that you get enough proteins in your diet every day. How much protein you need from your diet varies depending on your weight, gender, age, and health. Meeting your protein needs is easily achieved by eating a variety of foods. Protein from food comes from plant and animal sources such as:

  • Meat and fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Legumes

Need for Proteins

Your body needs proteins to stay healthy and work the way it should. More than 10,000 types are found in everything from your organs to your muscles and tissues to your bones, skin, and hair.

What is protein?

Proteins are also critical parts of the processes that fuel your energy and carry oxygen throughout your body in your blood. It also helps make antibodies that fight off infections and illnesses and helps keep cells healthy and create new ones.

Recommend the following daily amounts of proteins for different age groups.

  • Children under 4: 13 grams
  • Children ages 4 to 8: 19 grams
  • Children ages 9 to 13: 34 grams
  • Women and girls ages 14 and over: 46 grams
  • Boys ages 14 to 18: 52 grams
  • Men ages 19 and over: 56 grams

Simply put, almost everyone should get 10% to 35% of their calories each day in the form of proteins. You need more calories for activities like biking, lifting weights, or running, but the percentage of proteins remains in the same range.

After age 40, you can start to lose muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia,. If you’re overweight, you’ll need to lower your calorie intake. A dietitian can help you figure out how much proteins you should have.

How Do High-Protein Diets Affect You?

Some weight-loss programs, like the Atkins and Ketogenic Diet, call for high amounts of protein and fat while limiting carbs. But research shows that they seem to primarily work well only in the short term. One reason may be that people aren’t able to stick with this type of eating plan over a long period of time.

Be mindful of what diets you try. Focusing just on protein and fat can keep you from getting all the nutrients you need, and that can lead to unhealthy side effects. That can lead to fatigue, dizziness, headaches, bad breath, and constipation.

Can Help you Gain Muscle and Strength

Muscles are largely made of proteins. As with most body tissues, muscles are dynamic and constantly being broken down and rebuilt. To gain muscle, your body must synthesize more muscle protein than it breaks down. In other words, there needs to be a net positive protein balance in your body often called nitrogen balance. is high in nitrogen. As such, people who want to build muscle often eat more protein, as well as exercise.

Regarding muscle mass, studies usually don’t look at the percentage of calories coming from protein but rather the daily grams of protein per kilogram or pounds of body weight. A common recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram per pound (2.2 grams per kg) of body weight. Other scientists have estimated protein needs to be a minimum of 0.7 grams per pound (1.6 grams per kg) of body weight.

Numerous studies have tried to determine the optimal amount of proteins for muscle gain, but many have reached varying conclusions.

Some studies show that consuming more than 0.8 grams per pound (1.8 grams per kg) has no benefit, while others indicate that intakes slightly higher than 1 gram of protein per pound (2.2 grams per kg) are best though it’s hard to give exact figures due to conflicting study results, about 0.7–1 gram per pound (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) of body weight seems to be a reasonable estimate.

If you’re carrying a lot of body fat, using either your lean mass or goal weight instead of your total body weight is a good idea, as it’s mostly your lean mass that determines the amount of protein you need.

Proteins in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the body needs more proteins for tissue development and growth, which benefits both the mother and the baby.

What is protein?


The authors of one study suggest that people consume 0.55–0.69 grams per pound (1.2–1.52 grams per kg) daily during pregnancy.

Elsewhere, experts recommend consuming an extra 0.55 grams per pound (1.1 grams per kg)  per day during pregnancy. The recommended daily allowance during breastfeeding is 0.59 grams per pound (1.3 grams per kg) per day, plus 25 additional grams (18).

Dietary Sources are the Ideal way to Obtain any Nutrient.

Good Sources of Proteins are:

  • Beans, peas, and lentils
  • Eggs
  • Lean meat
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Tofu

Fish and seafood are also good sources. During pregnancy and lactation, choose fish low in mercury and high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies. However, take care to avoid those that may be high in mercury, such as sharks, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel.

In some cases, your healthcare provider may recommend supplements. However, there are no guidelines for supplementing during pregnancy.

Enough proteins in your Diet

The best sources are meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, as they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs. Some plants are fairly high, such as quinoa, legumes, and nuts.

However, most people generally don’t need to track their protein intake. If you’re healthy and trying to stay that way, simply eating sources with most of your meals, along with nutritious plant foods, should bring your intake to an optimal range.


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