Why Protein Matters

Why Protein Matters

We are becoming increasingly more aware of the importance of getting enough protein, not only to increase muscle mass, but for so many other functions such as hormone production, fertility, blood sugar stabilisation and much more. Let's dive in to uncover why protein matters so much.

Hormone Production

Proteins are essential for the production of hormones. Many hormones are made from amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. For instance, the thyroid hormones (thyroxine and triiodothyronine), insulin, and growth hormone are all protein-based hormones. Adequate protein intake ensures that the body has sufficient amino acids to produce these hormones effectively.

Enzyme Function

Proteins act as enzymes that catalyse biochemical reactions in the body, including those involved in hormone synthesis and metabolism. For example, enzymes are required to convert cholesterol into steroid hormones like oestrogen, progesterone, and cortisol.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Protein helps stabilise blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of sugar during digestion. Stable blood sugar levels are important for maintaining balanced hormone levels, particularly insulin. Insulin resistance and imbalances can lead to conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which can affect women's hormonal health.

Muscle Mass and Metabolism

Adequate protein intake supports the maintenance of muscle mass, which is crucial for metabolic health. A healthy metabolism supports balanced hormone levels, including those related to energy expenditure and appetite regulation, such as leptin and ghrelin.

Stress and Cortisol Levels

Protein intake can influence cortisol levels, the stress hormone. A diet sufficient in protein can help manage stress more effectively, thereby reducing the excessive production of cortisol, which can disrupt other hormone levels.

Reproductive Health

Protein is vital for reproductive health. Hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, which are critical for menstrual health and fertility, require amino acids for their synthesis. Adequate protein intake supports the normal function of the reproductive system.

Overall Nutritional Balance

Proteins contribute to the overall nutritional balance, which is essential for optimal health. Nutrient deficiencies can lead to hormonal imbalances. For instance, insufficient intake of protein can lead to deficiencies in certain amino acids that are precursors to neurotransmitters and hormones.

How much protein should you strive for?

Ensuring adequate protein intake through diet can support these critical functions and help maintain hormonal balance, so how much protein do we need?

Australian RDI for Protein (you may need more than this)

  1. Adult Women:

    • Ages 19-70: 46 grams per day. (sedentary)

  2. Pregnant Women:

    • Ages 14-50: 60 grams per day.

  3. Lactating Women:

    • Ages 14-50: 67 grams per day.

  4. Older Women:

    • Ages 70 and above: 57 grams per day.

Factors Influencing Protein Needs

Activity Level:

  • Sedentary: Women who are less active may need around the RDA amount of 46 grams per day.
  • Moderately Active: Women who engage in regular moderate exercise may need more, around 1.0 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
  • Highly Active: Women who are very active, including athletes, may require 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Examples of 25-30g Protein


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