By Julia MacPhee C.H.N.C., Pn1, Certified Nutritional Consultant and Nutritional Coach, Fitnutrition Consulting

Protein is an essential nutrient with many crucial jobs. It in one of the major macronutrient groups, along with carbohydrates and fats.

Protein is an essential part of nutrition. It makes up 20% of our body weight and is a primary component of muscles, nails, hair, skin, eyes and internal organs and brain.

Our immune system requires protein to make antibodies that help fight infection. Protein is needed for proper hormone synthesis, such as insulin and thyroid hormone; it is needed for growth and maintenance of body tissues, it is especially vital during childhood or pregnancy and lactation.

Here are some of the jobs of protein in the body:

  • Protein helps make many hormones – This includes hormones that manage appetite, balance blood sugar, and support feeling happy and relaxed.
  • Protein supports the immune system – Without enough protein, we easily become sick and frail, and recover slower.
  • Protein improves body composition – It helps shed fat, gain or maintain muscle mass, and stay lean for life.
  • Protein is physically satisfying – You’ll feel fuller, longer. This is important if you’re trying to eat less in order to lose weight. Eating more protein means feeling more satisfied with meals, and less hungry between meals.
  • Protein helps build and repair almost every tissue in the body – Muscles, connective tissues (such as tendons and ligaments), and bones.
  • Protein is essential when trying to lose weight / fat for a few reasons
    • Protein helps you keep that all-important lean body mass (which includes
      connective tissues, organs, and bone as well as muscle).
    • Protein significantly increases satiety, which means you feel fuller despite
      eating less. (And eating more protein often causes people to eat less overall.)
    • Just by eating more protein you burn more calories, because of the increased
      thermic effect of eating.


What if I don’t eat animal products?

Most foods have some protein.

While plants don’t have as much protein per volume as animal foods such as beef, chicken, or fish, they contain enough protein to meet your body’s needs. If you’re a mostly plant-based eater (e.g., vegetarian or vegan), with some careful menu planning, and proper meal combining you can meet high protein needs with plants.

Higher-protein grains and seeds


Beans and legumes

Plant-based protein powders


  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • millet
  • oats
  • quinoa
  • sorghum
  • spelt
  • teff
  • wild rice
  • hemp
  • chia


  • black, red, white, or pinto beans
  • chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Organic edamame (soybeans)
  • lentils
  • bean-based noodles and pastas (which are also great for many people who can’t tolerate wheat)


  • pea
  • rice
  • hemp or pumpkin seed
  • soy (organic)
  • other vegan and plant-based blends



Bottom Line
More protein means better recovery, more muscle, less fat, and a stronger, healthier body. No matter what your goals are, having a solid protein intake is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health, fitness, and performance.

Speak with a qualified Nutritional professional to learn how to incorporate protein into your daily routine.