What is Protein – And How much do I need?

First off, lets find out what proteins really are:
Proteins are large, complex molecules that play many critical roles in the body. They do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s tissues and organs.
Proteins are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called amino acids, which are attached to one another in long chains. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein. The sequence of amino acids determines each protein’s unique 3-dimensional structure and its specific function.

Simply put, the body needs protein in order to function. Protein helps provide fuel for the body and helps to build muscle as well as help and support other bodily functions. The main challenge however, is the source of foods that contain protein. A lot of foods contain plenty of protein, various meats, nuts, plants, seafood, etc… however just because food contains protein does not always mean that it is good for you.

Here is an excerpt from the Harvard website: “Nutrition Source: What should I eat? Protein”
A 6-ounce broiled porterhouse steak is a great source of protein—about 40 grams worth. But it also delivers about 12 grams of saturated fat. For someone who eats a 2,000 calorie per day diet, that’s more than 60 percent of the recommended daily intake for saturated fat.
6-ounces of wild salmon has about 34 grams of protein and is naturally low in sodium, and contains only 1.7 grams of saturated fat.

Another challenge is that not all protein sources have “complete” proteins, meaning some of the amino acids in protein are missing. Animal sources of protein tend to deliver all the amino acids we need. Other protein sources, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, lack one or more essential amino acids. Vegetarians need to be aware of this. People who don’t eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, or dairy products need to eat a variety of protein-containing foods each day in order to get all the amino acids needed to make new protein.

How much protein that a person needs will vary from person to person, depending on factors such as age, gender, weight management/fitness goals, as well as others. A good reference to start from though is females generally need to have 80-100 grams of protein a day, where males generally need to have 100-130/150 grams a day. For those that are trying to gain weight in the form of lean muscle, then more protein would need to be consumed.

Disclaimer:
***PLEASE NOTE: I am not a doctor, certified nutritionist, or physical trainer. This post is meant for informational purposes only and is not to be considered medical advice. Before starting any diet, nutrition plan, or fitness program, please consult with your doctor.***

Sources used for this post:
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/
http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/howgeneswork/protein