Proteins are essential macromolecules, vital to nearly every process in our bodies. On a molecular level, proteins are complex compounds made up of smaller units called amino acids, which are linked together 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 specific function.

Our bodies metabolize about 1 pound of our protein mass daily for use in our natural body processes. We are in fact what we eat! A good quality protein is important for carrying out all these bodily processes.

Function of Protein

Tissue Growth and Repair

Protein is essential for the growth and repair of tissues in the body. This includes muscle, skin, hair, and nails, among other tissues. Without adequate protein, these tissues cannot grow properly or repair themselves effectively.

Structure and Movement

Some proteins provide structure to cells and tissues. Collagen, for instance, gives strength and elasticity to the skin, tendons, and ligaments. 

Enzyme Production

Enzymes are proteins that catalyze (speed up) almost all of the biochemical reactions in the body. They are vital for digestion, metabolism, and many other bodily processes. Without protein, the body cannot make the enzymes it needs to function properly.

Hormone Production

Many hormones are proteins or peptides (small proteins). These include insulin, growth hormone, and many others. Hormones act as chemical messengers in the body, controlling various physiological processes.

Immune Function

Antibodies, which are proteins, are a crucial part of the immune system. They bind to foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, marking them for destruction by the immune system. Without protein, the body cannot produce enough antibodies to effectively fight off infections.

Transport and Storage

Proteins play a crucial role in the transport and storage of various molecules. For example, hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells, transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Sources of Protein

Protein is found in a variety of animal-based and plant-based foods. Animal-based sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Plant-based sources of protein include legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some grains.

Protein quality is determined by its amino acid composition and its bioavailability, which refers to the body’s ability to digest and absorb the protein. Animal-based sources of protein, such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products, are considered high-quality sources of protein as they provide all the essential amino acids in the right proportions and are highly bioavailable.

Plant-based sources of protein, on the other hand, may be incomplete or lower in some essential amino acids and may be less bioavailable. However, combining different plant-based sources of protein, such as beans and rice, can provide a complete amino acid profile.

How Much Protein?

Proteins should consist anywhere from 30%-40% of your diet. Research has shown that the optimal range of protein intake is 0.8g – 1.5g protein per kg of body weight. 0.8g is for the less active person and 1.5g for high level athletes. On average, I like to recommend 1.0g protein per kg of body weight.

It is important to note that excessive protein intake may have adverse health effects, including an increased risk of kidney damage.

Recommended Intake

  • Example based on 200lbs individual*
  • 1 gram of protein = 4 calories
  • Based off 1.0g protein per kg of body weight
  • 200lbs / 2.2 (kg per pound) = 91kg (body weight in kg)
  • Depending on activity level, multiply body weight in kg by .8g – 1.5g protein to determine number of grams of protein to eat daily
  • 91 x 1 = 91grams
  • 91g x 4 calories per gram = 364 calories daily

*See Carbohydrate page for calculations to determine your intake.

What Protein to Eat

Protein plays such a vital role in our bodies, so it’s important to intake the best kinds of proteins. The quality and digestibility of the proteins is how to determine which protein is the best to intake. Low end and processed meats usually contain lower amounts of protein. High quality meats and fish contain high amounts of lean protein that your body can easily extract, digest, and use to build muscle. Again, we will provide a comprehensive list of foods to eat.

  • Animal and fish proteins (serving size about size of palm)
  • Grass feed beef (general rule: 1oz = 6-7g of protein)
    • Hamburger: 6oz = 36g protein
    • Lean Steak: 6oz = 42g protein
  • Chicken: Anti-biotic free/hormone free, free range chicken
    • Depends on density of chicken: 1oz = 6-8g protein
  • Wild Alaskan salmon (not farm raised)
    • Read labels to determine amount of protein
  • Other fish and shellfish including: herring, mackerel, albacore tuna, whitefish, bass, mussels, oysters, bluefish, smelt, swordfish, trout, sardines, scallops.
    • Read labels to determine amount of protein
  • Lean meats like deer and boar
    • Read labels to determine amount of protein
  • Lamb chops
    • Read labels to determine amount of protein

Other Protein Sources

  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Brussels sprouts

The Benefits of Organ Meats

An anti-inflammatory diet generally encourages the consumption of organ meats as part of a healthy and balanced diet, thought most individuals have trouble with this concept. Organ meats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available, and are rich in important nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K2, B vitamins, iron, zinc, and copper. They are also a good source of high-quality protein, and may be particularly beneficial for individuals who are looking to increase their protein intake.

Increasing organ meats in the diet have been shown to have a range of health benefits, including improved immune function, better blood sugar control, and reduced inflammation in the body. Additionally, some research suggests that consuming organ meats may be protective against certain diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.

The most popular organ meats include liver and heart. It is generally recommended to choose organ meats from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals, as these meats are higher in key nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and CLA.

The best methods of preparation for organ meats depend on the type of meat being used. For example, liver can be pan-fried, roasted, or added to ground beef to make burgers. Heart can be braised, grilled, or roasted, while kidneys are often sautéed or grilled. It is important to cook organ meats thoroughly to avoid the risk of foodborne illness.