What is Protein and Why Do We Need it?

What is Protein and Why Do We Need it?

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What is protein and why do we need it? People talk about high protein diets and upping their protein intake. Do we need to do this? Where do we get our protein from? Hopefully we have answered some of these questions for you but if you want to know any more, please get in touch with us at W Fitness

What is protein?

Protein is an extremely important macro-nutrient. Muscles, tendons, skin, organs, and practically every tissue in the body are made up protein, and it is a crucial part of the diet. Protein is made up of amino acids which are basically building blocks for your muscles.

Why is protein important?

  • Protein is important for building muscle and improving strength. Eating enough protein will help you to maintain muscle mass and promote muscle growth when combined with strength/resistance training. 
  • Protein intake promotes good bone health. Studies have shown that people who eat more protein have a reduced risk of osteoporosis and fractures due to falls as they get older.
  • Protein intake boosts your metabolism. Protein has been shown to significantly boost your metabolism as more calories are used to digest protein than either fat or carbs, thereby increasing the number of calories burned. You can burn up to an extra 100 calories a day, simply by including more protein in your diet.
  • Protein intake helps to promote and maintain weight loss. As eating more protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, you will tend to eat less calories throughout the day, thereby finding it easier to maintain your weight after weight loss. Just a small increase in your protein intake can help you keep the lost weight off for longer.
  • Protein intake helps to reduce hunger pangs, cravings and appetite and makes you feel fuller for longer as it improves the function of weight regulating hormones, which help you to eat fewer calories. Try to eat protein at every meal and have a high protein breakfast!
  • Protein intake helps to lower blood pressure. Studies show that eating more protein can lower blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease and strokes.
  • Protein intake helps the body to repair itself and recover faster after sustaining an injury. 
  • Protein intake maintains fitness. Muscles weaken with age and can lead to a reduced quality of life. Getting enough protein can help to reduce the muscle loss associated with aging.

Where do we get our protein from?

Foods rich in protein include lean meat, chicken, legumes, fish, eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, cheese, avocados, grapefruit, bananas and nuts including, almonds, brazil nuts and walnuts, to name a few. Most people will get enough protein from their diet to prevent deficiency. 

How much protein do I need?

The amount of protein that you need will depend on many factors such as your weight and height, your fitness level, your age, muscle mass, whether you are pregnant and what you are trying to achieve, as well as your overall health. The National Academy of Medicine recommend that adults have 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight so, for example if you weigh 10st (63kg), you would need 50g of protein daily. Having enough protein during weight loss can help to prevent muscle loss. If you do strength training workouts regularly, for example, if you’re exercising for at least an hour a day, you would need to up this to 1g – 1.2g of protein for every kg of bodyweight so if you weighed 10st (63kg) you would need 63g – 75.6g of protein. If you were training for a marathon or cycling event or if you were bodybuilding, you could up your protein to between 1.2g – 1.7g maximum per kg of bodyweight per day (78g – 107g).

What about protein powders?

You shouldn’t need to use protein powders. It’s quite easy to get enough protein from your diet. One chicken breast has 54g of protein (a steak averages at 62g) and if you add in a couple of eggs (12g), some chickpeas (14g) and a glass of milk (8g), you will see that there shouldn’t be any need for protein powders as you are having 88g of protein, which is probably more than enough for most people. On the days that you find you aren’t reaching your target, it’s fine to add a scoop of protein powder to a smoothie or pancakes, for example. Just try not to rely on protein powders for your protein too often as, although they have a high concentration of protein, they are often deficient in other nutrients such as carbohydrates, healthy fats, minerals and vitamins which you need for a healthy diet, and which are found in foods such as lean meat, fish, and dairy. Check the sugar content of any protein powder that you use as many tend to have high amounts of sugar in them.  

Can you have too much protein?

Too much protein can have certain side effects such as weight gain, constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath, and dehydration. As protein is so filling, if you have too much it might mean that you aren’t having enough carbohydrates and fats which you need to get a proper balance of nutrients. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water and keep your protein to the correct amount for your weight and exercise levels.

Try these recipes to increase your protein intake:

Try to buy your meat from the butcher if you can as it is usually sourced from local farms meaning that there will be a shorter travel time between the farm and purchasing. 

A great place to try is Swaledale butchers. We were kindly gifted a meat voucher for this Butcher so will let you know our thoughts once we’ve tried them!

Swaledale Butchers say “All our produce is sourced from native breeds farmed across the Yorkshire Dales. We focus on native breeds, as they are naturally able to graze on our rough Yorkshire uplands, unlike faster-growing continental breeds. This upland farming is a slower process than conventional farming, it produces better flavour whilst not making an unsustainable impact on our soil, land, and natural environment”. 

The recipes below are from delish.com.

Oven Baked Pork Chops (Serves 4)

pork chop horizontal

Per Serving: 

  • Cals: 460
  • Protein: 39g
  • Carbohydrate: 1g
  • Fat: 33g
  • Saturated Fat: 17g


  • 4 pork loin chops
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp freshly minced rosemary
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil


  • Preheat oven to 375°. Season pork chops generously with salt and pepper. 
  • In a small bowl mix together butter, rosemary, and garlic. Set aside. 
  • In an oven safe skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil then add the pork chops. Sear until golden, 4 minutes, flip and cook 4 minutes more. Brush pork chops generously with garlic butter. 
  • Place skillet in oven and cook until cooked through (145° for medium), 10-12 minutes. Serve with more garlic butter. 

Creamy Tuscan Chicken (Serves 4)

creamy tuscan chicken

Per Serving:

  • Cals: 380
  • Protein: 29g
  • Carbohydrate: 5g
  • Fat: 28g
  • Saturated Fat: 14g


  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 c. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 c. baby spinach
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  • In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add chicken and season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook until golden and no longer pink, 8 minutes per side. Remove from skillet and set aside. 
  • In the same skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Cook until tomatoes are beginning to burst then add spinach and cook until spinach is beginning to wilt. 
  • Stir in heavy cream and parmesan and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Return chicken to skillet and cook until heated through, 5 to 7 minutes. 
  • Serve with lemon wedges. 

To summarise, make sure that you are getting the correct amount of protein for your age, weight, and activity level to maintain and/or build muscle. Try to get most of this from food without relying on protein powders. Make sure that you are getting the correct balance of all the macronutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Please check with your doctor if you have kidney problems as too much protein can be harmful. This is not a problem for people with healthy kidneys.

For further information, always see a dietician to help.

Much Love

Caroline & Hannah xx