Why is protein important?

Posted 27 Mar 2022

Most people correctly associate protein intake with muscle mass. In truth, protein is necessary for all your body’s physiological functions, like making hormones and supporting components of your immune system.

In this short article, we want to try and help you understand some of the fundamentals as to why protein is important for building muscle and supporting your recovery and how it actually does this.

So how does protein work its magic?

You may have heard of a process called protein synthesis or muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Protein synthesis is the process of building new proteins and happens in all organs. Muscle protein synthesis refers specifically to building new muscle proteins. 

At this point, it’s important to remember that resistance training and protein consumption are two of the major components of MPS and work synergistically to stimulate it. 

When we consume food sources of protein like meat, fish, dairy, beans, and nuts, we break them down into amino acids. We know (because we always bang on about it) that amino acids are the building blocks of muscle. 

Considering the above, think of a muscle as a wall. Each brick is an amino acid. Muscle protein synthesis is the addition of new bricks to the wall. 

Starting to get the idea why protein is important for building muscle yet? 😉

Muscle protein synthesis and breakdown

There is also an opposing process happening on the other side of the wall called muscle protein breakdown. 

It’s important to note that both muscle protein synthesis and breakdown are always ongoing. They are not “on” or “off”, but their speed can increase or decrease.

If muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown, the wall will increase (your muscles are growing) if muscle protein breakdown exceeds muscle protein synthesis, the wall shrinks (you’re losing muscle mass).

This is just one of the reasons why what we eat must reflect what we are demanding from our body physically. If we are training hard but not providing enough of the raw materials to keep up with this demand, we could see muscle protein breakdown exceed MPS, and over time this will become problematic to our performance and health. 

So how much protein do I need to eat again!?

For individuals with a healthy weight, consuming around 2-2.5g / kg of BW per day is considered a good range to strive for. It would look like ~0.4g – 0.6g / kg BW to get this into a figure per meal.

For individuals that are obese or overweight, consuming between 1.5-2g / kg BW of protein per day may be a more realistic target as we need to consider greater total body weight.

To start with, use the hand portion system and include two palm-size portions with main meals and snacks. You won’t go far wrong with this 😉


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