We all know we need to eat protein but do you actually know the ‘why’? Below IsoWhey nutritionist, Belinda Reynolds shares why protein is a nutrient needed by the human body for growth and maintenance. Text books not required! 

  1. Tissue Repair

From muscles, to intestines, to skin, hair and nails, the amino acids from protein play a critical role in supporting the health and repair of these tissues.

There are many factors that can contribute to thinning, brittle hair, skin that won’t heal, nails that won’t grow, and/or sore muscles. However if you notice a combination of these symptoms it is worth analysing your diet and adding in regular protein sources (e.g. eggs, tofu, lean meat, fish, nuts. whey/brown rice protein supplements) where they’re currently missing.

In saying that, because stress, other nutrient deficiencies and hormonal imbalances can also contribute to the aforementioned symptoms, it is worth consulting with a qualified health practitioner if they persist.

  1. Detoxification and Antioxidant Protection

Amino acids play an essential role in forming the complexes that work to remove toxins from our body. Furthermore, they make up the body’s most important antioxidant, glutathione, which is essential for not only detoxification and antioxidant functions, but also to maintain a healthy immune system.

Our body’s are not only constantly exposed to toxins in our environment, and in what we eat and drink, but certain biochemical processes which are occurring on a daily basis within us also produce substances (e.g. hormones) which require detoxification and removal. This avoids them accumulating and contributing to health problems (e.g. hormone imbalances).

By providing the amino acids which support these detoxification and removal processes, you allow the body to be more efficient and to function better. Other tips for supporting your body’s natural cleansing pathways include drinking enough water and eating lots of fibre, plus consuming sufficient amounts of green cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli sprouts) and spices such as turmeric which provide further assistance to the cells’ ability to protect themselves from toxins.

  1. Hormones and enzymes

Many of the body’s hormones and enzymes require amino acids for their appropriate production. Therefore, sufficient protein consumption is essential.

Every reaction involved in the production and/or metabolism of compounds required for healthy functioning of the body relies on enzymes. Amino acids from protein, together with other nutrients (e.g. B vitamins, zinc and selenium) are essential for the synthesis of these enzymes, helping us to understand just how fundamental a good diet rich in protein and micronutrient-dense foods is for life.

  1. Metabolism Support

Through its benefits for muscle maintenance, recovery and growth, proteins support metabolism. A greater proportion of lean muscle mass on your body means that you burn more energy during day-to-day activities than you would if you had less muscle.

It also makes you feel stronger and is better for healthy ageing. So if you are active, or trying to achieve a healthy weight, consuming protein as a part of your meals and snacks is incredibly beneficial. Just make sure that you are consuming the right protein sources, that aren’t also delivering less healthy components (e.g. avoid char-grilled meat products, yoghurt with a lot of sugar, protein bars with artificial sweeteners or sugar).

  1. Weight loss and maintenance

Protein is good for satiety, as not only is it digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates, but whey protein, for example, has been shown to exert beneficial effects on the release of specific appetite and metabolic hormones and chemical messengers.

Therefore, if you feel that your appetite isn’t well controlled, pay special attention to the protein content of your meals, and also the glycaemic load (i.e. is the meal too high in sugar?). Include sources of fibre and good fats (e.g. olive oil, nuts, avocado, fish) within the meal too, as these components will also contribute to more sustained satiety.