Why Is Protein So Important, Anyway?

Lesson 7 Module 2

Protein, protein, protein. Everywhere you turn, people seem to be talking about protein. Extolling its benefits like it's the cure for all the world's problems. But is it really THAT important? Here are the facts.

First and foremost, protein is essential. Without it, you would eventually die. Harsh, but true. In fact, you need a minimum of 0.8g/kg to avoid disease. This why the Recommended Daily Allowance is set at this level. However, current research (links below) indicates the minimum for optimal health should be higher, c. 1.2-1.6g/kg.

Here are some of the key benefits from consuming a moderate to high protein diet:

  • Essential for the support of healthy immune function.
  • Healthy hair and skin.
  • Improved weight loss through increased feelings of fullness and higher thermic effect of food.
  • Muscle retention.
  • Improvements in age-related sarcopenia (muscle loss in the elderly).

And if you want to delve into the research, here's a few studies to sink your teeth into.

Protein "requirements" beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health (Phillips et al, 2016) (Pubmed Link)​ (Full Text)​​​​​

Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response (Blom et al, 2006) (Pubmed Link) (Download Text)​​​

  • This study looks at the impact on hunger hormones following a high-protein breakfast.

Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes (Mettler et al 2010) (Pubmed Link)

  • This study highlights the importance of protein for preventing muscle loss.

Skeletal muscle protein metabolism in the elderly: Interventions to counteract the ‘anabolic resistance’ of ageing (Breen et al 2011) (Pubmed Link)