Protein: Why Your Body Needs It?

  • Nature's Source

What is the importance of protein? How much protein do we need? What is the differencebetween complete versus incomplete protein? What are good food sources of protein  (vegetarian included)? When do you need more protein? What are the consequences of protein deficiencies? What is the role of different amino acids? How do I know which protein supplement to choose?

These are the questions that will be addressed in this article.

Let's get started with answering the question; What is protein? 

Protein is a large molecule composed of amino acids linked together. 

What is an amino acid?  Amino acids are molecules composed of an amino and an acid group. Amino acids can either come from the food we eat or are made by the body.  There are 22 different amino acids, and 9 of them are considered essential meaning they cannot be made by the body and have to be consumed via our food.  Amino acids are made into over 50,000 unique body proteins and 20,000 different enzymes.  Later on, I will go in-depth looking at the different amino acids, what their unique function is, and food sources high in each of the amino acids. 

Protein is one of the three macronutrients; carbs, fats, protein.  Unlike carbs and fats, protein is not primarily used for energy, however, it does play a role in keeping your full and satiated after a meal. Compared to carbs, protein takes longer to break down, resulting in feelings of fullness.   Every cell in your body is made up of protein, from your muscles, hair, skin, nails, and much more.  Furthermore, all of our hormones and neurotransmitters need protein to be manufactured in the body.  Therefore, protein is considered the building block of life because essentially we are made out of different proteins.  Additionally, protein is involved in many bodily functions, from digestion to blood clotting, immunity, and hormone production.

The body constantly breaks down, recycles, and builds new proteins.  There are two main types of protein; fibrous proteins and globular proteins. 

  • Fibrous proteins are insoluble in water and for structural purposes. Two main fibrous proteins are collagen and keratin.
    • collagen; think connective tissue, cartilage, hair, skin, and nails
    • keratin; again hair, skin, and nails
  • Globular proteins are soluble in water and for non-structural purposes. Here is a short list of proteins found in the body and their importance:
    • Enzymes for digestion, like lipase, amylase, proteases
    • Myosin which is part of muscles
    • Lipid-carrying proteins
    • Hemoglobin; a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen
    • Hormones like insulin, which transports glucose into your cells to be used for energy
    • Antibodies; part of your immune system that recognizes foreign invaders
    • Fibrinogen for blood clotting
    • Immune support and protection
    • Casein found in dairy and ovalbumin found in eggs are used for storage
    • Neurotransmitters for brain function; think serotonin, GABA, acetylcholine, norepinephrine
    • Albumin is used to maintain fluid balance
    • Buffering proteins are used for blood acid-alkaline balance
    • Hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, serotonin, to name a few

As you can see protein is not just muscle building!

There are three main functions for protein; building blocks for our immune system, components of neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes and thirdly maintain and build lean muscle mass as well as promoting tissue recovery and repair.  

We are just scratching the surface here.  I wanted us to have a good foundation and understanding of the importance of protein before we go further and start answering questions that might have come up, such as:

  • How much protein do we need?
  • What are good sources of protein?
  • How much do we need to consume to get enough protein?
  • How can I get enough protein from a vegetarian diet?
  • What is the difference between complete versus incomplete proteins?

Let’s first start with, How much protein do we need?

The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight or 0.8 grams per kg of bodyweight.  Typically this would look like 56 grams of protein per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams of protein per day for the average sedentary woman. 

Please note, this may be enough to prevent protein deficiency but the amount you need depends on many factors which we will touch upon in another email.  For example, if you are over 50 your protein requirements will increase. If you are wanting to build muscle, your protein requirements will increase. If you want to lose weight, your protein requirements will increase.  If you have certain illnesses or conditions, your protein requirements will increase.  If you are wondering what your specific protein needs are, I suggest reaching out to someone to guide you.  Please note that Google will not help you determine how much you require. 

Furthermore, depending on why you need more protein, there will be certain amino acids that will be more important than others. I will be going over different amino acids and their functions, as well as foods high in each of them.

In general, I would suggest a good starting place is to consume 25-30% of your calories from protein.  Furthermore, I would break that down to consume 20-30 grams of protein per meal and 15-20 grams of protein per snack. 


What are good sources of protein and how much do we need to consume?


Animal sources


Vegetable sources


3 ounces tuna, salmon, haddock, trout

20 grams

1 cup tofu

30 grams

3 ounces turkey, chicken

25 grams

1 cup mixed beans

20 grams

3 ounces beef

30 grams

1 cup edamame

30 grams

1 cup greek yogurt

20 grams

1 cup quinoa

10 grams

1 cup milk

10 grams

1/4 cup hemp seeds/ pumpkin seeds

10 grams

1 cup cottage cheese

30 grams

1 cup lentils

20 grams

2 eggs

12 grams

1 cup peas

10 grams



1 cup mixed nuts

25 grams


What is the difference between complete versus incomplete proteins?

Out of the 22 different amino acids, 9 are considered essential, meaning the body can not make them and we need to consume them through our diets.  Foods that contain all 9 essential amino acids are considered to be complete proteins. Most of these foods are animal-based however some plant-based foods are considered complete proteins such as soy, quinoa, algae and buckwheat.

Often times you will hear that in order to make incomplete proteins complete, you should pair proteins together, for example, the most common pairing of beans and rice.  However, you do not need to pair those incomplete proteins together at one meal.  As long as you are getting in a variety of protein sources throughout the day and throughout your week, you are good. 

Keep in mind that some foods will be very low in one amino acid, yet still labelled as complete.  The best way to be sure that you are getting in all essential amino acids is to consume a balanced diet that includes multiple different protein sources.


Protein Deficiency

We know how important protein is.  Outside of inadequate intake of protein, there are multiple other causes to explain why one would be low in protein.  The main causes of protein deficiencies are:

  • Poor absorption, usually due to low HCl levels and/or zinc deficiencies since HCl is needed in order for the body to break down and absorb protein
  • An underactive liver, especially low bile production
  • Imbalance of amino acids from foods
  • Microwaving protein foods, since this denatures the proteins in our food

There are multiple symptoms that one would experience if they are in a state of protein deficiency, which includes, but are not limited to:

  • Excess fluid retention, edema
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Anemic conditions, low hemoglobin, lack of oxygen
  • Catch colds and flu easily
  • Muscle catabolism and atrophy
  • Premature aging
  • Low hormone levels, infertility
  • Hair is dull, loose and falling out
  • Depression of vitamin A levels, lack of transport protein
  • A decline in liver enzyme activity
  • Muscular incoordination
  • Retarded spermatogenesis
  • Extreme weakness and fatigue
  • Cataracts
  • Acid alkaline balance deviations
  • Hormone deficiencies, thyroxine, insulin etc
  • Poor wound healing
  • Slow metabolism
  • Sugar cravings
  • Low B12
  • Chronic bloating
  • Reduced organ function, especially thyroid
  • Mental and physical growth affected in children
  • Lowered resistance to infections


Protein Excess

We can’t talk about the causes and symptoms of protein deficiencies without addressing the risk of protein excess. Since the body can only absorb a maximum amount of protein at once, there is a risk for consuming too much protein.  The consequences of consuming too much protein are:

  • Increased risk for kidney problem
  • Increased risk for liver problems
  • Elevated blood cholesterol
  • Bone calcium loss leading to osteoporosis and periodontal disease
  • Increased bacterial growth in the intestines

Even though it is important to consume enough protein, you also want to be mindful that you are not over doing it either.  Please reach out to either myself or a trusted health professional to talk more about your specific protein needs.

So, you are probably wondering, how much protein should I consume? 

I mentioned that a general rule of thumb is to consume 20-30 grams of protein per meal and 15-20 grams of protein per snack.  In other words, consume about 25-30% of your calories from protein per day. 


Increase in Protein Needs

I want to chat more about when protein needs increase and what that looks like. There are many circumstances where protein needs will increase, however I am going to cover the main ones.



Strength athletes should aim to consume 1.8-2.2 grams per kg of body weight each day versus endurance athletes can consume 1.2-1.6 grams per kg BW.  The key thing here is spacing your protein intake out through out the day.  Muscle protein synthesis (MPS), is maximally stimulated when isolated high quality protein is consumed at a dose of 0.25-0.4 grams of protein per kg per meal or 0.4-0.5g per kg per meal for real food.  Furthermore, leucine rich rapid digested proteins elicit greater stimulation of MPS. I recommend you distribute protein intake 4-5 equally spaced servings throughout the day for maximal effects. 


Muscle Building

Regarding which amino acids are most important when it comes to muscle building, I would prioritize your three BCAA; leucine, valine and isoleucine in a 3: 2: 1 ratio. In order to have anabolic effects of MPS you want the rate of MPS to be higher than the rate of degradation. The amino acid, Leucine is the driver for MPS and will help maintain and build muscle tissue.  **please note that in order to build muscle it’s not just eating more protein, rather consuming protein in addition to an exercise stimulus. Without the stimulus you will not gain more muscle just by eating more protein. Anyone who is active needs to have a positive nitrogen balance  - meaning they consume more than is used by the body.


Protein and Age

Protein intake increases with aging, especially the need for the amino acid leucine, which is the driver for MPS. After 45 years, your protein synthesis decreases therefore your needs will increase.

Young children who perform intense activities will need to consume more protein. 


Weight Loss

Lastly, protein intake of 30% of calories is optimal for weight loss and had been shown to boost your metabolism and reduce your appetite, since it takes more energy to break down protein therefore increasing the thermic effect of food.  Additionally, protein will help keep you feeling satiated. If you want to calculate how much 30% of your calories would be,  you first need to know how many calories you need to be consuming and then multiply your caloric intake by 0.075 to get how many grams of protein would total 30% of your calories.  Keep in mind that 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 calories. 

Below, I am going to outline all of the amino acids and what their main roles are in the body.  By no means, do you need to know what each amino acid is responsible for, rather what I do want you to know is that each amino acid plays an important role in our body and even if one is lacking from our diets, we can have adverse consequences.  It is important to make sure we are eating a diverse diet so that we do not risk missing an amino acid. 

For all of the below symptoms someone may be experiencing there is a direct link to a specific amino acid (or two) that is deficient. 

  • Are you getting reoccurring cold sores?
  • Do you have allergies?
  • Do you have sugar cravings?
  • Is your mood low?
  • Are you having sleep issues?
  • Do you have a slow metabolism?
  • Do you have trouble building muscle?
  • Do you have thinning hair?
  • Are you chronically bloated?
  • Do you have a tough time concentrating?

Please keep in mind that the best way to address any deficiency is with food, however sometimes there is a need for supplementation, even for the short term.  If you are thinking you may be deficient in one or a few of the following amino acids or want to talk more about any symptoms you are experiencing, please feel free to reach out to me or a trusted health professional.

Below is a quick table of all amino acids and their main roles in the body for you to review and have for your reference.



Amino Acid

Role in the body

Isoleucine (essential) BCAA

Found in muscle, taken post workout

Leucine (essential) BCAA

Essential for growth, stimulates muscle protein synthesis

Valine (essential) BCAA

Helpful in muscle building, treating addictions, sickle cell anemia

Histidine (essential)

Blood cell productions, production of histamine, decrease blood pressure

Lysine (essential)

Helps absorb calcium in the GI, promotes bone growth, collagen synthesis, helps with herpes cold sores and immunity

Methionine (essential)

Antioxidant, detoxifying, collagen formation, decrease histamine, lipotrophic

Phenylalanine (essential)

Precursor to tyrosine, forms NT in times of immediate stress, forms dopamine for alterness, helps with depression, decreases cravings

Threonine (essential)

Tooth enamel, elastin, collagen, requirements will decrease with age and increase with stress, loptropic, stimulates immune system

Tryptophan (essential)

Precursor to serotonin for sleep and mood, will convert to melatonin without light

Arginine (conditional)

Bodybuilding supplement, enhances fat metabolism, regulates blood pressure, circulation- precursor to nitric oxide

cysteine (conditional)

Sulphur containing, aids in amino acid transport, glutathione production which is a powerful antioxidant in the body, important in cell health, maintains electrical balance, detox, protects liver, brain and RBC, chelates heavy metals

Glycine (conditional)

Glutathione production, helps spare glucose for energy by improving glycogen storage, acts as a NT in the brain which can have a calming effect, needed for Hg and collagen production

Proline (conditional)

bone, skin, collagen formation

Tyrosine (conditional)

Metabolism support, direct precursor for brain NT and thyroid hormones

Carnitine (conditional)

Stored in skeletal muscles and heart, transforms fatty acts into energy, protects from CVD, reduces TG and CHOL levels and raises HDL levels

Citrulline (conditional)

Promotes detox, hels with fatigue, stimulates immune system

Ornithine (conditional)

Nitrogen metabolism, stimulate the release of growth hormone

Taurine (conditional)

Sulphur containing, stabilizes cell membrane in brain and heart, inhibitory NT, reduces HTN, nerve conductivity, helps in gallbladder function, protects retina from oxidative damage

Glutamine (conditional)

Tissue building, especially intestinal lining and brain cells

Alanine (non-essential)

Part of human muscle tissue, carries nitrogen back to the liver, regulates blood sugar

Aspartic acid (non-essential)

Excitatory amino acid that stimulates the nervous system

Glutamic acid (non-essential)

Production of glutathione, excitatory amino acid, covered to GABA, converted to glutamine

Homocysteine (non-essential)

Converted to cysteine and methionine, high levels are associated with atherosclerosis

Serine (non-essential)

May act directly as a NT, essential to brain cell membranes


This is not to overwhelm you, rather to show you that our bodies are much more complicated than we think.  Yes we want to try to get all our vitamins, minerals, amino acids, etc from food, however sometimes we need to supplement our diets in order for our bodies to get out of a deficiency and heal. 


Protein supplementation

I am going to preface this section by saying that I will be covering mostly protein supplementation from an exercise/recovery point of view.  I will not be covering all amino acids and supplements, as that would be too much to digest at once.

Yes, I do believe food is our medicine, however, I do not believe food is our only therapeutic medicine.  When it comes to treating an illness or healing deficiencies, I do believe supplements play an integral role. Our goal as practitioners is to get our clients’ maximal results with minimal supplements. 

Protein supplementation can come in different forms.  Below I have outlined a few.


  • 1st filtration
  • Blend of isolate and concentrate powder
  • *may contain casein if is it sourced from whey
  • Yields 70-80% protein content (10 grams of protein actually means 7-8 grams)
  • Generally, slightly higher carbs/ fats when compared to isolates
  • Released slower and great for smoothies



  • 2nd filtration
  • Retains the highest percent of protein per serving, usually 85-95%
  • Quickest into the body
  • Great for post-workout, quick entry into the muscle for repair and recovery
  • Fewer carbs and fats


Meal replacements:

  • Generally a concentrated blend with a high percentage of carbs and fats, with emphasis on proteins
  • Also contains a percentage of multivitamins and minerals and some may contain fibers
  • Usually keeps one full for a few hours and can be used as a meal replacement or snack


Weight gainers:

  • Blend of protein with fats and a higher ratio of carbs
  • Fats are usually MCT and carbs are usually maltodextrin
  • Used to maintain body weight or increase body mass


And lastly, you have your simple amino acids or a combination of amino acids.


Okay! Now let’s get to the main event :)

Below are a few protein supplements I have chosen to review and talk about.  I have included whey protein supplements, plant based supplements, all in one, beef protein as well as a few supplements with either mixed or individual amino acids. 

Please note that there are many more supplements on the market and I have just chosen a few.  I am not getting anything out of talking about the supplements I have chosen.





28 grams of protein per 35-gram scoop (80% yield)

Sourced from New Zealand - no hormones or anti-bodies

Contains the digestive enzyme bromelain for better absorption



Concentrate 23 grams protein per 27-grams scoop Contain alpha-lactalbumin and lactoferrin which are great for your immune system Has 5 grams of BCAA per serving which promotes MPS post-workout



24 grams of protein per 30 -ram scoop - concentrate

Organic mineralized sea vegetable for kidney and liver support and will help alkalize the body

Helps restore a healthy pH, enhances iron absorption, stimulates the production of glutathione (the bodies primary antioxidant), support healthy digestion and balances blood sugar levels

Contains different enzymes to help with digestion and absorption



25 grams of protein per 28-gram scoop - isolate

Contains digestive enzymes blend

Very high protein efficiency ratio

High essential and branch chain amino acid content

Has immunoglobulin and albumin to help boost immune system



** plant-based protein need to be a blend in order to have the full amino acid profile - will usually be a blend of quinoa, hemp, pea, chia, flax, alfalfa etc

** sprouted brown rice will have a complete amino acid profile



Sprouted brown rice

16 grams of protein per 18-gram scoop

protein digestibility score of 1 (same and an egg)

Gluten-free and hypoallergenic

Helps alkalize the body and balance blood sugar levels



Bio fermented, sprouted whole grain brown rice

This is the best with highest absorption and less load on the kidneys

Contains all EAAs

98% assimilation rate



Sprouted wel-absorbed protein blend

Contain a greens blend

Raw probiotic and enzyme blend

4 grams of BCAA



Number one meal replacement shake

Multi sources of protein

All 21 vitamins and minerals

Enzyme blend

probiotics, prebiotics, fibre blend

Superfood blend





Hydrolyzed Beef protein powder

Hormone and antibiotic-free, free from GMO grains, sourced from Sweden




Full amino acid mix

Sourced from whey-based

A mix of free form amino acids, di and tri peptide AA




5 gram of leucine which is ideal for MPS post-workout

Creatine for an energy source

L-glutamine to help support immune system and digestive system

**This is great intra workout or to put inside protein powders to increase the amount of BCAAs



L carnitine supplementation improves physical performance and recovery

It minimizes damage to muscle tissue after exercise and muscle soreness

Increase performance and improve oxygen consumption during exercise and improves mitochondrial respiration

It permits a larger quantity of FFA to enter the mitochondria to be used as energy during endurance and explosive efforts

Can also be used to help with chronic fatigue as a cardiovascular support



61% of skeletal muscle is glutamine

With intense training, glutamine gets depleted in your body, thus supplementation can minimize breakdown of muscle and improve protein metabolism

Glutamine has an anabolic effect and enhances growth hormone production in exercise

Glutamine consists of 19% nitrogen, making it the primary transporter of nitrogen into your muscle cells

Glutamine improves your intestinal lining and therefore will aid in better absorption of all amino acids and promote muscle recovery




Has all essential amino acids

Sourced from fermented beets and has no binders or fillers

50% is BCAA (essential for MPS)

99% utilization and only 1% waste - this has the highest protein nutritional value



Muscle rescue is a patented vegan blend of essential amino acids, clinically proven to preserve and increase muscle tissue growth. 

It has been shown to provide a remarkable 800% increase in strength during surgical recovery.

Clinically proven to reverse muscle loss without exercise

Has twice the muscle building action compared to whey protein

It is free from gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, fish, nuts, artificial preservatives, colours and flavours, GMO-free and vegan !

Alright! I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new.

Please remember, if you have any questions about any of the supplements that were discussed or ones that weren’t included, please feel free to send me a message or speak with a trusted health professional. 

If you are interested in learning more about my services, please feel free to contact me through my website,  I would like to offer 20% off an individualized supplement plan to anyone who is interested in working with me. Please email me at and we can book in a call to chat further.