The function of protein in the body
Our bodies are made up of thousands of different types of proteins which are critical to its healthy functioning. The function of protein can be categorised into: growth and maintenance of tissue; aiding reactions in the cells (eg: digestion, muscle contraction, energy production) through enzyme proteins; acting as messengers between cells; providing structure to cells, tissues and organs; maintaining pH and fluid levels; protecting health through antibody proteins; transporting substances such as nutrients and oxygen to cells; and providing energy to the body.
Proteins are made up of amino acids
Each protein is a large molecule made up of a certain combination of the 20 different types of amino acids that needs to be continuously replenished throughout our life. This creation of new proteins is known as protein synthesis and it requires a constant supply of amino acids. Whilst some of these aminos can be produced by the body (non-essential amino acids), others cannot (essential amino acids) and must therefore come from our diet.
Dietary proteins are broken down into the individual amino acids during digestion and are then able to circulate in the blood, trading with the existing amino acids and proteins in our cells to rebuild as necessary.
How much protein do I need?
Without adequate intake of protein, our bodies are unable to function properly and, since protein is essential for cell growth; it is of particular importance during periods of rapid growth in the body, such as: childhood, pregnancy and when partaking in any activity that stresses the muscles more than normal, such as sports or exercise.
There is no definitive answer to how much protein the body needs, but research suggests aiming for between 1.4 – 2.2g protein for every kilogram of bodyweight, per day. So a woman that weighs 60kg should be aiming for between 84g – 132g protein a day. Ideally you should aim to have a portion of protein with every meal to help you meet your protein goal and to keep fuller for longer.
Why not try one of our high-protein recipes, like this Grilled Chicked Salad, to help you reach your protein target!