How important is protein to the human body? Before answering that question, let’s explore what protein is.

What does a car need for it to move? Fuel, right? Without it, you’re not going anywhere. That’s the simplest way to describe what protein is. It’s fuel for the body for it to function. It provides energy. But that’s not all it does, the body needs protein for growth and maintenance. It is the most important component of cells in the body that includes organs, hair, skin, and especially muscles. Then there’s its role in hormones, immune response, blood cell formation, cellular repair—pretty much those that are essential for life.

How does consuming protein work to allow the body to function then? Basically, the body needs a number of essential amino acids, which it cannot produce by itself. This is where protein comes in. To put it simply, when you consume protein the body breaks this down, and once broken down the body uses this to synthesize these essential acids.

The body needs protein everyday, approximately .8 grams per body weight—that’s 45 grams for females and 55 grams for males. A balanced diet is enough to meet this requirement. But if a person is very active or works out a lot, it is important to consume more protein for energy because without protein the body will breakdown muscle tissue for energy.

Protein is found highest in animal sources—meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. However, that’s not an option for vegetarians. Fortunately, protein can be found in non-animal sources, such as lentils, beans, and whole grains.

How about its role in pregnancy? Given that protein plays a major role in cells of the body it is also just as important for a developing baby as well. It’s important for pregnant women to get protein throughout the pregnancy, especially during the second and third trimester, as this is the time when the baby is growing the fastest. Pregnant women are required to at least consume 70 grams of protein per day.

Briefly going over the role protein plays in the body shows humans cannot live without it. All humans need it to survive, and that’s the reason why protein is described as the ‘building blocks of life’.