You probably already know how important protein is to your body, mostly in terms of helping to keep your muscles strong and healthy. You might also have heard that protein based foods help to keep you satisfied, fighting hunger better than fats or carbohydrates. But that is not all that protein does for you. In fact, protein is needed by each and every cell in your body.
The proteins you eat are used to make literally thousands of protein in your body, each with its own specialized function. Protein of course helps to build up muscles and help repair muscle tissue when it’s been damaged from exercise or through every day wear and tear.
But protein is also an important component of your skin, your hair, your fingernails, bones, blood and cartilage; protein literally holds us together.
Your body also uses protein to manufacture enzymes and hormones. Enzymes are special proteins that your body needs because they help to speed up important chemical processes. You have for instances, special digestive enzymes that works to help break down your food and release energy into your system.
Hormones are proteins that coordinate all kinds of activities in the body. Insulin for example, is a hormone that is made of protein that helps to regulate blood sugar in the body.
Your immune system needs protein too; to make antibodies that are specialized proteins that help your body defends against foreign invaders.
Then there are transport proteins that work to move things around the body, like hemoglobin that carries oxygen to all of the cells in your body or other proteins that carry vitamins and minerals to the cells that needs them.
Your body can burn protein for energy if it has to, but it prefers instead to use carbohydrates and fats to fuel the engine. This is one reason why cutting back too much on carbs could impose a problem. If you don’t eat enough healthy carbohydrates to keep your system going, your body will tap into your protein reserves for energy. With so many important jobs that protein has to do, that would be a waste of precious fuel.