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The Essential Guide to Protein: More Than Muscle - Your Path to a Healthier Lifestyle

Protein is more than just a means to build muscle, it actually plays a vital role in numerous processes in the body including wound healing, hormone creation, enzymatic reactions, and molecule transportation. There is a lot of misinformation and confusion regarding protein and how much you should eat each day or even at each meal. Whether you're focusing on weight management, are a fitness enthusiast, or simply looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, protein can be a valuable addition to your dietary routine. 

What is protein?

First, what is protein? Protein is one of the three macronutrients. Throughout the body, protein is found in your muscles, bones, skin, hair, and tissues. There are 20 different amino acids that are the building blocks of protein. Nine of them are essential amino acids, meaning that your body cannot create them and you need to get them from your food. It sounds simple, but over the years, there have been many false claims and misconceptions tied to protein. 

Benefits of protein

  • Muscle growth: Protein provides the essential building blocks for muscle tissue repair and synthesis, and for individuals engaged in strength training or regular exercise, adequate protein intake is crucial. During exercise, muscle fibers undergo micro-tears, and protein helps repair and strengthen them, leading to muscle growth and increased strength. Adequate protein intake supports the body's ability to build more muscle compared to muscle breakdown. This anabolic state is vital for muscle growth. Protein also aids in the release of growth hormones, promoting further muscle development. Without sufficient protein, the body struggles to repair and build new muscle tissue efficiently. 
  • Muscle preservation: If you are someone who has a weight loss goal and is decreasing your overall calorie intake, then there is always a risk for losing not only fat but also your muscle mass. Protein plays a critical role in muscle preservation as it helps prevent muscle breakdown. During periods of calorie restriction or insufficient nutrient intake, the body may use muscle tissue as an energy source. Adequate protein consumption, especially during such situations, helps maintain a positive protein balance, where muscle protein synthesis exceeds breakdown. This preserves existing muscle mass and prevents muscle wasting. Additionally, protein provides essential amino acids necessary for repairing and rebuilding muscle fibers, ensuring they remain strong and functional. By prioritizing protein intake, individuals can safeguard their muscle mass, support overall physical performance, and maintain a healthy body.
  • Weight management: Protein plays a crucial role in weight management due to its impact on appetite, metabolism, and body composition. A high-protein diet promotes satiety and reduces hunger, leading to decreased overall calorie intake. Additionally, protein requires more energy to digest, slightly increasing the body's metabolism. By preserving and building lean muscle mass, protein helps increase the body's basal metabolic rate, further aiding in weight loss and maintenance. Moreover, a protein-rich diet helps prevent muscle loss during weight loss, ensuring that the weight lost primarily comes from fat stores. Incorporating adequate protein into your diet, can help effectively manage your weight, promote fat loss, and maintain a healthy body.
  • General Health: It is often thought that only bodybuilders or those who are looking to build muscle mass require protein. Remember, protein is responsible for much more than muscle synthesis and is also necessary for wound healing, hormone creation, enzymatic reactions, and molecule transportation. Of course, your protein needs will still vary depending on your age, lifestyle, health goals, activity level, and genetics. So yes, if you are someone looking to build muscle, then you will require more protein. However, that still doesn’t mean that protein is less important for others! 

Genetic Variations

Something that often gets overlooked, is our genetic variations. There is pretty much nothing about us that does not have a genetic component and how we process protein is no exception. Depending on our genetics at particular sites, protein intake can have an effect on aspects that are not obvious such as fat distribution and insulin resistance. Depending on your unique genetics you may need either more or less protein than someone else. Understanding our genetics and acting on it can help optimize our nutrition to reduce some health risks.

Realistic protein goals:

When it comes to setting protein goals, your size, health goals, and health conditions will determine how much to aim for each day. The National Academy of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8g/kg/d of protein. This number represents the minimum amount of protein required for health but does not take into account any other health goals or personalized needs. We recommend working with your registered dietitian or medical professional to determine what an appropriate protein goal would be for you!

Protein is an essential nutrient to your health no matter what your health goal is, however, the amount that you may need each day will be dependent on many factors. Getting a variety of protein sources in your diet such as meat, legumes, soy, dairy, and eggs can help ensure that you are getting all the nutrients that you need to live a healthy life! 

Ways to get protein

  • Food Sources: While red meat is often thought of as the best source of protein, there are actually many other options you can choose! For example, meat sources (such as chicken, beef, and fish), animal products (such as eggs and dairy), and plant-based sources (such as tofu, legumes, and nuts).
  • Supplements/Protein Powder: When you are short on time, need a quick and easy protein source, or are making a smoothie, a protein powder can be a helpful option! There are many types of protein powders on the market ranging from animal protein to plant-based protein.

What’s Next?

If you are interested in getting a more personalized protein recommendation based on your DNA, find out with GenoPalate




  2. ​​Bauer J, Biolo G, Cederholm T, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013;14(8):542-559.


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