Protein: What It Is and Why You Need It

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  July 9, 2022

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Protein is one of the macronutrients we need to survive, but it’s also used to build and repair tissues and organs. It’s used to make enzymes, hormones, and antibodies, and it’s found in every cell of our body.

Protein is an important part of a healthy diet because it helps us grow and maintain muscle, and it’s used to make everything in our body, from hair to blood to skin.

In this article, I’ll explore what protein is, how much we need, and the best food sources.

What is protein

What is Protein?

What is it?

Protein is a must-have nutrient that your bod needs to stay in tip-top shape. It’s found in a bunch of different foods, so you can get your daily dose without too much hassle. Depending on your age, weight, gender, and health, you’ll need different amounts of protein. But don’t worry, you can easily get enough protein from a variety of foods, like:

  • Meat and fish
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and nuts
  • Legumes like beans and lentils

Protein is one of three macronutrients, along with fat and carbohydrates. Macronutrients are the main compounds that give us energy. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and they’re the most common molecules in cells.

What do our Bodies Need?

Our bodies can make most of the amino acids we need, but there are nine that we can’t make. These nine are called essential amino acids and we have to get them from our diet. The 20 amino acids that our bodies use to make protein are: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine, and valine.

What Does Protein Do?

Protein is everywhere in our bodies and it’s important to make sure we get enough of it. It helps with:

  • Blood clotting
  • Fluid balance
  • Immune system responses
  • Vision
  • Hormones
  • Enzymes

Plus, it’s essential for growth and development, especially during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.

Types of Protein

Proteins can be either complete or incomplete. Complete proteins have all the essential amino acids and are found in animal products, soy, and quinoa. Incomplete proteins don’t have all the essential amino acids and are found in plant foods like beans, nuts, and grains. But don’t worry, you can combine incomplete protein sources to get all the essential amino acids. For example, you could have rice and beans, or peanut butter on whole wheat bread. Yum!

Amino Acids: The Building Blocks of Proteins

What Are Amino Acids?

  • Amino acids are like tiny Lego blocks that link together to form proteins.
  • There are around 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined in different ways.
  • Your bod uses them to make muscles, bones, enzymes, hormones, and even energy!
  • Some amino acids can be made by your bod, but there are 9 that you need to get from your diet.

What Can I Do With Amino Acids?

  • You can use amino acids to build muscles and bones.
  • You can also use them to make enzymes and hormones.
  • And if you’re feeling a bit peckish, you can use them as an energy source.
  • Plus, you can use them to make your own tiny Lego creations!

Essential Amino Acids in Protein

What is a Complete Protein?

When it comes to proteins, it’s all about the essential amino acids. Animal products like chicken, beef, fish, and dairy are all complete proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids you need. Soy, quinoa, and amaranth are also complete proteins.

Incomplete Proteins

Plant proteins like beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains usually don’t have all the essential amino acids, so they’re considered incomplete proteins. If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, you’ll need to mix and match different plant proteins to get all the essential amino acids. Don’t worry, as long as you eat a variety of foods, you’ll get the protein you need. For example, baked beans on toast is a great combo that’ll give you all the essential amino acids.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to protein, it’s all about the essential amino acids. Animal products are complete proteins, while plant proteins are usually incomplete. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, just make sure to mix and match different plant proteins to get all the essential amino acids you need.

Food Sources of Protein


  • Beef, lamb, veal, pork, and kangaroo – the tastiest of meats!
  • Poultry – chicken, turkey, duck, emu, goose, and bush birds – the best of birds!
  • Fish and seafood – fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, and scallops – the yummiest of sea creatures!

Dairy Products

  • Milk, yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), and cheese (especially cottage cheese) – the creamiest of treats!

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds – the crunchiest of snacks!

Legumes and Beans

  • All beans, lentils, chickpeas, split peas, and tofu – the healthiest of eats!

Grains and Cereals

  • Grain and cereal-based products – not as high in protein as the other stuff, but still pretty tasty!

Benefits of Eating High-Protein Foods

Fitness Benefits

  • Get back in the gym faster after a workout or injury with speedy recovery times
  • Keep those muscles toned and tight with reduced muscle loss
  • Build some bulk with lean muscle
  • Keep your waistline trim and healthy with weight maintenance
  • Satisfy your cravings with curbed hunger

Filling Up Faster

  • Protein plus fiber = fullness for longer
  • No more pesky snack cravings
  • Keeps the weight off while giving your cells the nutrients they need

Nutrition Tips

  • Check out Piedmont’s nutrition tips for a healthier lifestyle
  • Make an appointment with a Piedmont physician online for convenience

How Much Protein Do You Need to Get Swole?

Why You Need Protein

  • Not getting enough protein can lead to serious health issues, like muscle loss and tissue breakdown.
  • Protein helps build muscle, but too much of it can lead to fat storage.

How Much Protein You Need

  • Kids under 4 need 13 grams of protein daily.
  • Kids 4-8 need 19 grams of protein daily.
  • Kids 9-13 need 34 grams of protein daily.
  • Women and girls 14 and up need 46 grams of protein daily.
  • Boys 14-18 need 52 grams of protein daily.
  • Men 19 and up need 56 grams of protein daily.

How to Get Swole

  • If you want to get swole, you need to get your protein!
  • Make sure you’re getting the right amount of protein for your age group.
  • Eating the right amount of protein can help you build muscle and get the body you want.

The Benefits of Protein


Protein is like the Legos of the body – it helps build bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. It’s also the main ingredient in your hair and nails.


When you’ve been through a tough workout, protein helps repair the damage. It’s like the body’s handyman – it gets the job done.


Protein helps your red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body. It’s like a delivery service, bringing nutrients to every corner of your body.


Half the protein you eat each day helps your body make enzymes, which help you digest food and create new cells and body chemicals. It’s like your body’s assistant, helping you out with all the little things.


Protein plays a major role in hormone regulation, especially during puberty. It’s like your body’s personal assistant, making sure everything is running smoothly.

Protein Intake

Recommended Intake

The FDA recommends that adults get their daily dose of protein – about 50 grams – as part of a 2,000-calorie diet. But everyone’s needs are different, depending on age, sex, activity levels, and other factors. Most of us in the US are getting enough protein. If you want to up your intake, just add some yummy, high-protein foods to your meals.

Protein Shakes and Whey Protein

Can you use protein shakes and whey protein to help you lose weight? Sure, as long as you don’t go over your daily recommended allowance of protein and you replace other sources of calories with proteins, not just add more calories. But be careful – too much protein can be bad for you, leading to things like kidney damage and dehydration.


Protein Vs Carbohydrates

Protein vs Carbohydrates: It’s a battle of the macronutrients! Protein is like the superhero of the nutrition world, helping to build tissue and repair your body after damage or stress. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are like the sidekick, providing your body with fuel or energy. Both are essential for your body to function, but it’s important to know the difference between them. Protein is found in foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and legumes, while carbs are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and starchy vegetables. Eating a balanced diet with a mix of both is key to staying healthy. So, don’t forget to get your protein and carbs!

Protein Vs Amino Acids

Protein and amino acids are like two peas in a pod. Protein is a chain of amino acids connected together, like a beaded necklace. Amino acids, on the other hand, are the individual beads that make up the chain. While amino acids are absorbed quickly and all at once, proteins are absorbed more slowly, giving your body more time to use them. So, if you’re looking for a more sustained energy boost, go for the protein! But if you need a quick hit of energy, amino acids are the way to go. Bottom line: both are great, but you gotta pick the right one for the job.


Protein is an essential macronutrient for a healthy, functional body. It’s made up of amino acids, nine of which we must consume through our diet. Eating a variety of foods from both plant and animal sources is the best way to ensure you’re getting enough protein. So don’t be afraid to get creative with your meals and try out some new recipes! And remember, protein isn’t just for bodybuilders – it’s for everyone! So don’t be afraid to “flex” your muscles and get your daily dose of protein!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.