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Macronutrients Explained: Protein

Updated: Jun 27, 2021

Protein is an essential macronutrient made from amino acids that contains nitrogen.

1g protein = 4kcals.

Proteins are used to produce new tissue for growth, tissue repair and regulate and maintain bodily functions. Proteins can also be used as a source of energy (Gropper, 2017).


The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) in the UK is set at 0.75g of protein per kilogram bodyweight per day in adults (Wiseman, 1992). This suggestion is based on an average minimum requirement needed for maintaining bodily function and avoiding deficiency that is generalised to a population level.

Current evidence suggests that 1.2-1.6g/ kg/ bodyweight/ day of high quality protein is likely more ideal for health outcomes (Phillips, 2016).

Individuals who are more active generally have higher protein needs than those who are sedentary.

Our protein needs change with age, a notable example being the need for higher intakes as we progress into later life and the phenomenon of anabolic resistance becomes more pronounced (Breen & Phillips, 2011).

For resistance training individuals protein intakes between 1.5-2.2g/kg bodyweight/ day seem favourable for tissue repair and recovery (Morton, 2017. Jager, 2017).

Higher protein intakes of up to 3g/kg/LBM (lean body mass) may be more favourable for resistance training individuals who are leaner (Helms, 2014), of advancing age, or who consume predominantly plant based diets (Van Vliet, 2015, Berrazaga, 2019).

A high protein diet can help with:

  • Weight loss, via a thermic effect

  • Satiety

  • Muscle gain

  • Immune function

  • Healthy hair and skin

  • Overcoming anabolic resistance

Below are some handy lists of protein sources to help you when choosing ones that meet your needs.

Examples of high protein dairy options

High quality animal proteins

Vegetarian protein sources

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