The Importance of Protein for Performance and General Health

Protein is perhaps the best-known nutrient in the world. We’ve all heard about it, and most people have at least a basic understanding of what it is and how it works.

But, prevailing wisdom suggests that protein is only important for professional athletes, strength competitors, and bodybuilders.

As you’ll see in a bit, protein’s effects within the body go far beyond that, and we should all make sure to get enough of this precious nutrient.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

What is Protein?

Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids. Once consumed, the body breaks down each molecule and absorbs the amino acids within. 

When the amino acids enter the bloodstream, they contribute to what is known as the plasma pool of amino acids – storage that travels throughout the body and lends building blocks where needed.

Amino acids come in three categories: essential, nonessential, and conditionally essential. 

  • Essential – the nine amino acids which the body cannot produce, and we must get them through food
  • Nonessential – the eleven amino acids which the body can produce, and we don’t need to get them through food.
  • Conditionally-essential – of the nonessential amino acids, six can become conditionally-essential under specific circumstances.

What Does Protein Do Within The Body?

The most apparent effect of protein has to do with muscle repair and growth. As we cause stress through exercise, amino acids readily travel to our muscles and repair them. If the stimulus is great enough, the body also sends signals for muscle growth, which is made possible when we have an excess of amino acids available.

In that regard, protein is also vital for effective fat loss as it has a protective benefit for our muscle mass when we diet. By eating enough protein, we get to protect more of our muscle and instead lose mostly fat. This allows us to achieve a leaner and more athletic look once we’re done with our weight loss efforts.

Aside from this, amino acids are vital for the production of various cells within the body – neurotransmitters, enzymes, hormones, antibodies, and more. If we don’t consume enough protein, the body cannot perform its processes correctly.

Protein is also vital for the creation of new cells and the transportation of old and worn-out ones. 

How to Get More Protein In Your Diet

One of the best ways to ensure that you’re getting enough protein in your diet is to have a protein source with every meal and snack. Fantastic examples include meats, poultry, fish, cottage cheese, eggs, and protein powder supplements.

And some decent sources of protein you can add to meals or have as snacks include nuts, seeds, broccoli, beans, and tofu.