a plate full of protein such as tofu and legumes
11 Minutes

Your Ultimate Guide to Protein!

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Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan

Written and fact checked by Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan on August 18, 2023.

Welcome to your ultimate guide to protein! Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a key role in maintaining a healthy and well-functioning body. Whether you're an athlete looking to build muscle, a fitness enthusiast aiming to stay in shape, or just someone interested in overall wellness, understanding protein and its significance is vital for your health and wellness. 

In this blog, we'll explore the basics of protein, its functions in the body, the different types of protein, recommended daily intake, and the consequences of protein deficiency. Let's dive in and discover the power of protein for your well-being!

What is Protein?

Protein is one of three primary macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fats. It is made up of amino acids, which are considered the "building blocks" of the body. These amino acids are linked together in various sequences and form complex structures that serve essential functions throughout your body. Protein is not just important for building muscle - it's also involved in various vital processes that keep you healthy.

What Does Protein Do in the Body? 

Protein plays an irreplaceable role in various essential biological processes, including everything from supporting muscle development and repair to bolstering the immune system. Here are some of its key functions in the body:

Muscle Development: Protein is well-known for its role in muscle development and repair. When you engage in physical activity such as strength training, protein provides the necessary amino acids you need to repair and strengthen your muscles.

Enzyme Production: Enzymes are protein molecules that catalyze chemical reactions in your body. These reactions are responsible for various processes in your body, such as digestion, metabolism, and cellular functions.

Hormone Regulation: Some hormones like insulin and glucagon are made up of proteins. These hormones play a significant role in regulating your blood sugar levels and metabolism.  

Transportation: Proteins act as carriers, transporting essential molecules, such as oxygen, in your blood (hemoglobin).

Immune System Support: One of the types of proteins include antibodies, which are essential components of your immune system. They help identify and protect you from harmful pathogens, keeping you healthy.

What are the Types of Protein?

Proteins can be categorized into various types based on their sources and amino acid profiles. Some common types include:

Complete Proteins: These proteins include nine essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on its own. Complete proteins are usually found in animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products (8)(9).

Incomplete Proteins: Incomplete proteins lack one or more essential amino acids. They are commonly found in plant-based sources of protein like legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. However, combining different plant-based proteins like peanut butter and pumpkin seeds can provide a better amino acid profile.

How Much Protein Should We Take in Through Our Daily Diet?

The daily protein intake varies based on factors such as age, sex, weight, physical activity level, and overall health goals. Proteins should make up 10-20% of your daily energy intake. However, the absolute protein requirement varies according to your level of physical activity. A general guideline is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 70 kg, your daily protein requirement is 56-70 g. 

However, individuals with higher physical activity levels or those aiming to build muscle need more protein. Their protein requirement increases to 1.2-2 g per kilogram per day depending on activity level. It's essential to strike a balance and not over consume protein, as excessive intake may lead to its conversion into fats or put a strain on your kidneys.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition remarks that focusing on protein quality and amino-acid content is the most important point to watch when you consume protein.

What is Protein Deficiency

Protein deficiency occurs when your body does not receive an adequate amount of protein to fulfill its various functions. Proteins are essential for maintaining and repairing tissues, supporting the immune system, synthesizing enzymes and hormones, and facilitating the transportation of essential molecules throughout the body.

The symptoms of protein deficiency can include fatigue, weakness, muscle wasting, a weakened immune system, edema, thinning hair, and delayed wound healing. 

To prevent and address protein deficiency, it's essential to consume a balanced diet that includes a high-quality and diverse source of protein such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

What are the Symptoms of Protein Deficiency?

Protein deficiency occurs when your body does not get enough protein to fulfill its various functions. Some of the common signs of protein deficiency include:

Muscle Loss: Without enough protein, your body may break down muscle tissue to obtain amino acids, leading to muscle loss and weakness.

Weakened Immune System: Protein is vital for a robust immune system. Having protein deficiency can make you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.

Hair, Skin, and Nail Problems: Proteins are essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Protein deficiency may lead to brittle hair, dry skin, and weak nails.

Delayed Wound Healing: Proteins play a critical role in the healing of tissues and wounds. Protein deficiency can slow down the healing process.

Frequent Infections: Protein is important for maintaining a strong immune system. Protein deficiency can make you more susceptible to infections.

What are the Causes of Protein Deficiency? 

Protein deficiency can be caused by various factors, including:

Inadequate Diet: Not consuming enough protein foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, legumes, and nuts, can lead to protein deficiency.

Limited Food Choices: Certain diets, like strict vegan or vegetarian diets, may not provide for sufficient protein if not properly balanced.

Digestive Disorders: Conditions affecting the digestive system, such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease, can reduce protein absorption.

Increased Protein Needs: During periods of rapid growth, illness, or pregnancy, the body may require more protein than usual.

How to Reverse Protein Deficiency? 

If you suspect that you have a protein deficiency or experience related symptoms, it's important to set a plan to quickly remedy the situation. Here are some general guidelines to address protein deficiency:

Balanced Diet: Include a variety of protein-rich foods in your diet, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, and plant-based protein like tofu, tempeh, and legumes.

Supplements: In some cases, protein supplements may be recommended, especially for individuals with specific dietary restrictions or higher protein needs.

Nutrition Counseling: Seek advice from a registered dietitian or nutritionist to ensure that you are getting the right amount and types of protein in your diet.

What Happens if You Consume Too Much Protein?

Consuming too much protein can have both short-term and long-term detrimental effects on the body. While protein is essential for the proper functioning of the body, excessive consumption can lead to certain health issues. Here are some potential consequences of having too much protein:

Kidney Strain: High protein intake may put additional stress on your kidneys, especially if you have pre-existing kidney conditions.

Weight Gain: Consuming too many calories from protein can lead to weight gain, as excess protein is stored as fat.

Digestive Issues: Some people may experience digestive discomfort, bloating, or constipation with excessive protein intake.

Nutritional Imbalance: Relying heavily on protein sources may lead to a deficiency in other essential nutrients your body needs from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

What are Protein Supplements? 

Protein supplements are concentrated sources of protein that come in various forms, including powders, bars, and shakes. They're designed to supplement the diet when it's challenging to meet protein needs solely through the food you eat. Common types of protein supplements include whey, casein, soy, and pea protein.

Who Should Get Protein Supplements? 

Protein supplements can be beneficial if you struggle to meet your protein needs through your diet alone. Some scenarios where protein supplements may be suitable include:

Athletes and Bodybuilders: People engaging in intense physical activity, such as athletes and bodybuilders, often need more protein to support muscle repair and growth.

Vegans and Vegetarians: Plant-based diets may lack complete protein sources, so protein supplements can help ensure that you obtain all essential amino acids.

Elderly People: Older adults may have a reduced appetite or difficulty chewing, leading to insufficient protein intake. Supplements can provide a convenient solution.

Medical Conditions: Some medical conditions, like certain gastrointestinal disorders, may hinder protein absorption, making supplements helpful.

Are Protein Supplements Harmful? 

When used correctly, protein supplements are generally safe for most people. However, it's essential to exercise caution and consult a healthcare professional before incorporating them into your daily routine. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Proper Dosage: Stick to the recommended dosage as excessive protein intake may strain your kidneys and lead to potential health issues.

Ingredient Quality: Choose reputable brands to ensure the supplements are free of harmful contaminants.

Allergies and Sensitivities: If you have allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients, read the product labels carefully.

Balanced Diet: Supplements should complement a balanced and healthy diet, and not replace real, nutrient-rich foods.

How Can I Increase Protein Intake in My Daily Diet Without Protein Supplements?

Boosting your protein intake doesn't necessarily require protein supplements. You can eat a variety of protein to increase your protein consumption. Here are some food ideas:

Lean Meats: Include lean sources of animal protein like chicken, turkey, and fish in your meals.

Plant-Based Proteins: Beans, lentils, quinoa, and tofu are excellent sources of protein.

Eggs: Eggs are versatile and packed with high-quality protein. You can have them with breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Dairy Products: Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are rich in protein and make for satisfying snacks.

Nuts and Seeds: Snack on almonds, chia seeds, or pumpkin seeds for an additional protein boost.


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img author
Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan

Written and fact checked by Nutrition Specialist, Esra Kozan on August 18, 2023.

Table of Contents

What is Protein?

What Does Protein Do in the Body? 

What are the Types of Protein?

How Much Protein Should We Take in Through Our Daily Diet? 

What is Protein Deficiency?

What are the Symptoms of Protein Deficiency?

What are the Causes of Protein Deficiency? 

How to Reverse Protein Deficiency? 

What Happens if You Consume Too Much Protein?

What are Protein Supplements?

Who Should Get Protein Supplements?

Are Protein Supplements Harmful?

How Can I Increase Protein Intake in My Daily Diet Without Protein Supplements?


What is Protein Powder?

Protein powder is a dietary supplement commonly used by fitness enthusiasts and athletes to meet their protein requirements in a convenient way. It is a concentrated source of protein derived from various sources such as whey, soy, casein, pea, hemp, and more. The powder is typically mixed with water, milk, or other beverages to create a protein shake or added to smoothies and recipes. Protein powder comes in different flavors and forms, making it a versatile addition to your diet.

Health Benefits of Protein Powder 

Muscle Building: Protein is an essential macronutrient that is crucial for muscle growth and repair. Protein powder provides a convenient way to increase your protein intake, supporting your fitness goals and aiding in muscle recovery after workouts.

Weight Management: Including protein powder in your diet can help you feel fuller for longer, reducing your overall calorie intake and helping you manage your weight.

Convenience: Protein powder is easy to prepare and can be consumed on-the-go, making it a convenient option for busy individuals with hectic schedules.

Vital Nutrients: Protein powder is not just about protein -  it often contains essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that are beneficial for your overall health.

Is Protein Powder Harmful?

Protein powder is generally safe for most people when used as directed. However, it's essential to be aware of some concerns and considerations:

Digestive Issues: Some individuals may experience digestive discomfort like bloating or gas when consuming certain types of protein powder. If you notice any adverse reactions, consider trying a different protein powder.

Allergies and Intolerances: People with allergies or intolerances to specific proteins (e.g., dairy or soy) should opt for alternative protein sources that suit their dietary needs.

Heavy Metal Contamination: In rare cases, low-quality protein powders might contain traces of heavy metals and can cause unwanted chemical reactions. To avoid this, choose reputable brands that undergo rigorous testing for quality and safety.

Excess Protein Intake: While protein is essential for health, excessive protein consumption can strain the kidneys over time. Always follow the recommended dosage and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Article Review History

  • References
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  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6140426/
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  • https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/nutrikidfail_stage1-4#:~:text=Your%20body%20needs%20protein%20to,remove%20all%20the%20extra%20waste.

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