Protein - A Body Building Nutrient

Protein | Functions of Protein | Sources | Advantages of Protein in you body | Disadvantages of high intake | How Protein deficiency affects your body | Conclusion


Protein is an essential nutrient that every cell in the human body requires for growth and repair. Most of the work done in the cells is by proteins. Proteins are complex and diverse structures made up of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. Amino acids arrange themselves in different forms to form more than 50,000 different proteins in the human body. The sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s unique 3-dimensional structure and its specific function. The human body requires proteins made up of 20 amino acids. Out of these, 11 are made in the body and 9 are obtained from our diet and these 9 amino acids are called the essential amino acids.

Functions of Protein:

Proteins perform many functions in the human body. They are as listed below:

  • Antibodies: Antibodies protect us from diseases and are made up of proteins.

  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol travels through the blood stream by attaching itself to lipo proteins which are fat carrying proteins.

  • Bone matrix: Connective tissue which form the matrix of bones are made up of proteins.

  • Enzymes: Thousands of chemical processes in human body are carried out by enzymes which are also made up of proteins.

  • Hemoglobin: A combination of proteins and pigments called chromoproteins form the hemoglobin.

  • Hair and Nails: Keratin is a protein which is used by the body to make hair and nails.

  • Messenger: Messages to brain are delivered by neurotransmitters which are made ip of dietary proteins.

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The functions of protein usually mislead us to think that we need to consume foods which have high amount of protein, but that is not the case. A human body would require only 10 to 12 percent of consumption of protein in a balanced diet. FDA recommends 50 grams of protein a day in a 2,000 calorie diet. The intake amount may vary according to the person’s calorie needs, age, gender, activity, status of the human body like being pregnant, etc. The USDA recommends consuming between 5 and 7 ounces of protein foods a day for most people over the age of 9 years. One gram of protein contains 4 calories and hence depending upon the calculation of calories a person can calculate individually the amount of proteins needed. Experts believe that eating 2 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day can be tolerated by most healthy adults. The human body can’t store protein and will excrete any excess, so the most effective way of meeting daily protein requirement is to eat small amounts at every meal.


All foods contain some amount of protein, but its quality depends according to the amino acids it provides. Animal foods like milk, meat, eggs, etc. provide all the 9 essential amino acids required by the body and hence is called complete or high quality protein. Plant foods like soy and quinoa provide complete protein unlike other plant foods which lack some amino acids. When two foods having different amino acids are combined such a way that they complement each other, they provide complete protein. For example: any grain combined with a legume provides complete protein. In every diet this combination can be used to obtain complete protein. However, if the diet still lacks any amino acid, the body breaks down lean tissue to get it. The actual need in the diet is of amino acids which recombine or arrange to build proteins in the human body.

Healthy sources of protein include: wild fish, eggs, milk, lean meat, legumes, nuts and whole grains. However, avoid high – fat meats and dairy products which are fried and processed. The two main food groups that contribute to protein are:lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans’ group; milk, yogurt, cheese (mostly reduced fat)’ group.

Advantages of Protein intake:

  • ·Eating more protein may boost muscle strength and encourage a lean, fat-burning physique. However, this depends on the person’s total food intake and activity levels.

  • ·Protein builds and repairs muscles in athletes and bodybuilders, they should ensure they have enough protein and this may mean an extra intake of protein.

  • Protein lowers the blood pressure.Several studies note that higher protein intake can lower blood pressure.

  • Eating more proteins may reduce cravings, basically having a high protein breakfast can be effective.

  • Protein keeps skin,hair and nail healthy ,research also suggest that eating enough protein will benefit anti-ageing.

  • Protein is good for your bones,people who eat more protein have better bone health and are at lower risk of osteoporosis.

Disadvantages of high intake of protein:

According to a research, high intake of protein over an extended period of time may lead to health complications. Excess protein adds to the workload of kidneys and liver. The different health related issues due to high intake of protein are:

  • 1. Bad breath: While consuming protein, if the carbohydrate intake is reduced, the body goes into a metabolic state called the ketosis which releases chemicals resulting in an unpleasant smell. We cannot get rid of this smell by brushing or flossing.

  • 2. Loss of Calcium: Osteoporosis and poor bone health are caused due to calcium loss which may be due to excess protein in the diet.

  • 3. Cancer: Certain high protein diets like red or processed meat are associated with prostate, breast and colorectal cancer.

  • 4. Constipation: Restricted diets with low carbohydrates and high proteins lack fiber which results in constipation.

  • 5. Diarrhea: Dairy and processed foods with high protein and low fiber results in diarrhea.

  • 6. Heart disease: High intake of red meat and high fat dairy products results in increase of saturated fats and cholesterol which in turn affect the functioning of the heart.

  • 7. Weight gain: Initially, there is a weight loss on the high intake of protein, whereas, in a period of time excess proteins are stored in the body as fat and excess amino acids are excreted, this results in weight gain. A count of calories has to kept in mind during the consumption of protein based foods or supplements.

  • 8. Kidney: High protein and low fluid intake often leads to calcium and uric acid kidney stones. While protein can cause harm to people with kidney problems, it doesn’t affect those with healthy kidneys.

Protein Deficiency:

Protein is an important nutrient of human body which performs a number of functions to keep our body healthy and fit. Low intake of protein in the diet gives rise to several health related problems like:

  • 1. Hair and nails: Proteins are used to make hair and nails by the body. Brittle nails, thin hair and faded hair color symbolize low protein intake.

  • 2. Muscles: Body builders and athletes eat protein rich diet to build muscles and low intake of protein may lead to loss of muscles or even weight loss.

  • 3. Bones: Proteins help to maintain the strength and density of bones. Low protein intake leads to increased risk of bone fractures.

  • 4. Edema: deficiency of protein leads to building up of fluids in feet and ankles.

  • 5. Anemia: Hemoglobin is made up of proteins and pigmentation. Protein deficiency leads to inability of blood to deliver sufficient level of oxygen.

  • 6. Infections: Since the antibodies are made up of proteins , low intake of proteins leads to low immunity which increases the risk of infections:

  • 7. Slow growth: Protein intake in children builds up their muscles and bones. Low intake of protein in children may lead to slow growth.


In order to remain healthy and fit, a proper, balanced diet is required for a human body. Protein rich diet helps in keeping ourselves healthy by building up the immune system, helping kidney and liver to function properly, building up hemoglobin, building up body muscles and bones, keeping our hair, nails and skin healthy. In the contrary, if the intake is high or low we face multiple health issues. When we eat protein rich foods, we also eat carbohydrates, fiber and fat.

Few things we need to remember when we talk about proteins:

· Eat a variety of protein rich foods, choosing low fat meat and dairy products.

· Use cooking methods that do not add too many fats, for example, do not eat fried and processed foods.

  • Combine grains and legumes in the diet to provide complete protein.

  • Check the ingredients in protein rich food to avoid high calorie and sugar.

  • Drink plenty of water along with protein rich food to avoid loss of fiber resulting in constipation.

  • Along with protein rich foods, protein supplements and powders are also available in the market which can be added to the diet.

Our motto in life has to be, “Eat healthy and stay healthy.”

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