Protein: An Essential Building Block

An Essential Building Block

Protein is essential in building the human body. One significant difference between protein, carbohydrates and fats is that the body stores fats and carbohydrates but does not store protein.  

A key building block in our bodies, protein is the second greatest portion of our body weight besides water. Protein is an essential element in every cell of the human body.  It is a vital building block in bones, muscles, skin, and blood.  Not only are hair and nails protein, but even enzymes, hormones, and antibodies are made from protein.  

Why is protein important to weight loss and maintenance? 

A large block of scientific research indicates that increased protein levels are ideal for weight loss. One Danish study of 65 participants demonstrated that high protein meal plans are more effective than low protein meal plans in losing weight.

This idea of eating a higher amount of protein is in contrast to FDA recommendations. One nutritionist, Byron J. Richards, has written, “attempting to follow the FDA guidelines is a fast track to obesity…” He writes that the single most important factor that influences our metabolic rate is quality protein, which aids weight loss.

Protein helps us to maintain our muscle mass during weight loss as well as promote our immune system and overall fitness. Protein is critical to decreasing hunger and increases our sense of satisfaction, which reduces overeating and increases weight loss. It helps to stabilize our blood sugar levels and supports adrenal and thyroid function. Consuming a carbohydrate controlled, low fat, but high protein diet will assist in weight loss.  

How much protein Needs to be in our diet? 

One of the things we have learned is that our bodies are not banks but chemistry sets. What do we mean? Each human being is not a carbon copy: we are unique.  Many weight-loss programs use a model of a bank with a calories-in and calories-out plan to weight loss. But rather than being a bank, human beings are more like a chemistry set which means that what we need to operate efficiently is determined by metabolic rates, our height, weight, lean muscle mass, and age, among other factors.  

We are not “cookie cutter” human beings [as is stated in the Fit.Church Eating Plan.]  Each person's protein intake will need to be determined as they make their health journey.  We advocate a high protein, low carbohydrate meal plan.  

The FDA states that adults need roughly 200 calories of protein a day, which would be about 50 grams. If based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, 10% of your calorie intake would be protein. The Fit.Church plan calls for 35% protein intake. For someone on an 1800 calorie weight loss plan, 35% would be about 160 grams of protein a day. For someone on a 1400 calorie weight loss plan, 35% would be about 125 grams.   

The one warning mentioned most often on this topic is that overeating protein can damage the kidneys.  Most studies that validate this concern have been completed on people who have chronic kidney issues. For people with cancer, kidney disease, and other chronic illnesses, protein intake can be a concern. For healthy people who desire to lose weight an increased protein, lower carbohydrate, and healthy fat meal plan is the best recipe for long-term weight loss and maintenance success.        

The nutrition facts about protein

Protein is present in every cell of the human body. Essentially, proteins are made up of long links of amino acids. There are 22 different types of amino acid and the body needs all of them to function properly. These 22 types of amino acids are divided in two groups: essential and non-essential amino acids.

Of the 22 amino acids, 13 are non-essential. They are called non-essential because they can be manufactured by the body and do not have to be derived from food. In contrast, the 9 essential amino acids cannot be produced by the body and are only obtained from the food we consume. One important clarification is that both essential and non-essential amino acids are vitally important to the human body. One without the other would mean that new proteins needed by the body would not be formed.

There are some foods that contain all of the 9 essential amino acids. These foods are called complete proteins and tend to come from animal sources such as meat, dairy products, eggs, seafood, poultry, and the grain, quinoa. For some time, there was the belief that vegetarians had to figure out how to mix and match their diet to make sure they get what is needed, that has been proven to be a myth. A healthy vegetarian diet with a mixture of good vegetables, legumes, and grains like quinoa can provide everything someone needs to be healthy.

We must remember that while our body can store carbohydrates and fat, our body does not store protein. A daily intake of protein is both helpful and healthy to make sure we can support a healthy physiology.  About half our daily intake of protein we consume daily is used to produce enzymes which are specialized worker proteins for specific tasks in our body like digestion, molecule production, creation of chemical substances.  It is interesting to realize that our ability to hear, think and move requires nerve cells to communicate back and forth to each other and to other specialized cells. Sending these messages requires chemicals called neurotransmitters. Making these transmitters requires protein.            


The Research Department of Human Nutrition, “Randomized trial on protein vs. carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity.” The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University; Copenhagen, Denmark; 1999. Abstract online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10375057. 

Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist; “How Protein Helps Weight Loss”. Article under the ‘News & Views’ on www.WellnessResources.com, Copyright Wellness Resources, Inc., originally published 12/15/08.