How Does Protein Benefit Your Body? 16 Ways

Medically Reviewed on 6/1/2022
How Does Protein Benefit Your Body
Learn about how protein benefits your body and how much you need on a daily basis

Protein plays a critical role in keeping your body healthy and functioning properly. Your body needs protein to build muscle, burn fat, repair tissue, and repair tissue. 

Learn about how protein benefits your body and how much you need on a daily basis.

16 ways protein benefits your body

Protein benefits your body in the following ways:

  1. Forms the building blocks of muscles, tissues, bones, cartilage, nails, skin, and hair
  2. Helps your body repair cells and make new ones
  3. Works as a fuel for energy production
  4. Carries oxygen throughout the body
  5. Transports nutrients to cells and tissues
  6. Boosts metabolism 
  7. Helps curb cravings
  8. Produces enzymes that digest food
  9. Maintains bone density and lowers the risk of osteoporosis (bone loss)
  10. Plays a key role in hormone regulation
  11. Helps lower blood pressure
  12. Lowers bad cholesterol levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease
  13. Helps produce antibodies to fight infections and illnesses
  14. Boosts the immune system through the production of T cells and B cells
  15. Helps wounds heal faster by reducing inflammation and creating new tissues
  16. Speeds up recovery after exercise and injury

What is protein made of?

Protein is made up of a chain of different amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that are classified into three groups:

  • Essential. Cannot be produced naturally by the body and must be obtained through food:
    • Histidine
    • Isoleucine
    • Leucine
    • Lysine
    • Methionine
    • Phenylalanine
    • Threonine
    • Tryptophan
    • Valine
  • Nonessential. Naturally made by the body from essential amino acids or through the normal breakdown of proteins:
    • Alanine
    • Arginine
    • Asparagine
    • Aspartate
    • Cysteine
    • Glutamate
    • Glutamine
    • Glycine
    • Proline
    • Serine
    • Taurine
    • Tyrosine
  • Conditional: Required in times of illness and stress.

How much protein do you need?

Protein is a macronutrient needed in relatively large amounts for optimal health. The amount of protein that should be consumed in a day depends on two factors:

  • Body weight: According to the recommended daily allowances (RDA) set by the Food and Nutrition Board, you should eat about 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight a day. 
  • Daily calorie intake: About 15% of your daily calorie intake should come from protein. So for a 2,000-calorie diet, about 300 of those calories should come from protein.

Not consuming enough protein in the diet may lead to various health issues, tissue breakdown, and muscle loss. Adequate intake of protein is particularly important during periods of rapid growth or demand, such as childhood, adolescence, pregnancy, and breastfeeding.

Table: Daily protein requirements by age (Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans)
Age Daily protein requirement
Children younger than 4 years 13 grams
Children 4 to 8 years 19 grams
Children 9 to 13 years 34 grams
Female teens 14 to 18 years 46 grams
Male teens 14 to 18 years 52 grams
Female adults older than 19 years 46 grams
Male adults older than 19 years 56 grams


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

What are the best sources of protein?

High-quality sources of protein include:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Lean beef or pork 
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt

Plant-based sources of protein include:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Soybeans
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes such as beans, peas, or lentils
  • Grains such as wheat, rice, corn, and quinoa

What are the risks of high-protein diets?

Some weight-loss diets, such as the Atkins diet and the ketogenic diet, focus on eating large amounts of proteins while limiting carbs. However, research has shown that these diets mainly work only in the short term.

Focusing only on proteins and fats can cause nutrient deficiencies that can lead to side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, headaches, bad breath, and constipation. Too much protein can even lead to conditions such as:

What are the risks of protein deficiency?

Low intake of proteins can lead to life-threatening conditions such as malnutrition, kwashiorkor, marasmus, and sarcopenia (characterized by progressive loss of muscle mass and physical function).

Symptoms of protein deficiency include:

  • Delayed growth in children
  • Loss of muscle mass in adults
  • Thinning hair
  • Weak muscle tone
  • Skin lesions
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Edema (swelling that results from fluid retention)

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Medically Reviewed on 6/1/2022
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Cooper J. Benefits of Protein. WebMD.

WebMD. What Protein Does for Your Body?

Piedmont Healthcare. Why is protein important in your diet?