Protein101: What is Protein, and Why Do We Need It?

We’ve all heard about proteins and their benefits to shed weight and, build and repair lean muscles. But what are proteins? How do they support a healthy and active lifestyle? How much protein should you have? 

Proteins are essential for growth, brain development, healthy bones and the production of “happy” hormones called endorphins. A healthy diet contains protein, which your body breaks down into its constituent parts, or amino acids. Amino Acids are the building block of proteins and there are a total of 22 – 9 of which (ten for children) are called essential because we can’t make them in our bodies and must therefore get them from our food.

The amino acids play various roles in the regular operation of your body, including assisting in breaking down food and the creation and repair of body tissue. A typical balanced diet contains the types of protein you need to obtain all the amino acids your body requires.


 I. Types of Proteins

Proteins are divided into two groups: animal and plant

  1. Animal proteins include chicken, seafood, fish, beef, lamb, eggs, milk, butter, yoghurt and cheese. They are sometimes referred to as primary proteins, as they contain all nine essential amino acids and are considered the most important ones for growth
  1. Plant proteins include pulses, legumes, lentils, tofu and other soya products and seaweed. These are considered incomplete proteins because they don’t contain all nine essential amino acids so you’ll need to eat a combination of nuts, seeds and grains in order to receive all you need

Exceptions: Quinoa, buckwheat, chia seeds, hemp seeds, Ezekiel bread are plant-based proteins that do contain all nine essential amino acids.


II. Food Combinations Containing Complete Proteins

Below is a useful list of complete plant proteins and combinations that contain all 9 amino acids from the


III. How Protein Helps with Weight Loss

High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize, and use, which creates a thermic effect in your body. This means you burn more calories just processing these foods. Moreover, longer digestion time means you stay fuller longer and unlike fatty foods and refined carbs, lean protein (emphasis on lean) balances blood sugar levels to curb your appetite and prevents insulin spikes that cause weight gain.

Beyond giving your metabolism a boost and keeping you satisfied for longer, combining exercise with a high protein diet (as recommended by the RDA – see below) may be the key to losing fat without dropping muscle mass. This is key since muscle burns more calories in the body than fat!


IV. How much Protein Should You Consume?

As a general guideline, an average sedentary man or woman requires just 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, which amounts to 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men.

However, levels should increase depending on your weight, age and situation (pregnant or not) and lifestyle (activity level).

Below is a chart for women from for your information.

As for men, Peter Lemon, a professor of exercise nutrition at the University of Western Ontario, recommends getting between 0.5 and 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight (about 1 and 1.5 g/kg) for endurance athletes, and between 0.7 and 0.8 grams per pound of body weight (about 1.5 and 1.7g/kg) for strength athletes.

Unless you have specific training goals, there’s no need to count your protein intake by the gram, just be careful not to overdo it. Your body won’t be able to process the extra calories, and they’ll ultimately end up as fat!


100 45.5 36.4 g 59.2 g 81.9 g
105 47.7 38.2 g 62 g 85.9 g
110 50 40 g 65 g 90 g
115 52.3 41.8 g 68 g 94.1 g
120 54.5 43.6 g 70.9 g 98.1 g
125 56.8 45.4 g 73.8 g 102.2 g
130 59.1 47.3 g 76.8 g 106.4 g
135 61.4 49.1 g 79.8 g 110.5 g
140 63.6 50.9 g 82.7 g 114.5 g
145 65.9 52.7 g 85.7 g 118.6 g
150 68.2 54.7 g 88.7 g 122.8 g
155 70.5 56.4 g 91.7 g 126.9 g
160 72.7 58.2 g 94.5 g 130.8 g
165 75 60 g 97.5 g 135 g

Don’t forget your proteins!

Sarah x

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