It is well known in the sporting and bodybuilding communities that our bodies need protein for our muscles to grow, as growth in muscles occurs when more of the muscle protein (myoglobin) is formed.
However, it is not just our muscle cells that require protein – there are many other proteins in our body that are important. Our skin, bones and tendons are formed from the proteins collagen, keratin and elastin while our blood contains the protein haemoglobin that carries oxygen around our body. Enzymes that break down food in our stomach are another type of protein, while the antibodies that fight disease are yet another type of protein in our body.
Protein is also a source of energy, as it can be broken down to its basic molecules and then added to the common metabolic energy pathway.
Proteins are made out of smaller molecules known as amino acids, which are linked together like beads on a string. These strings fold up to form shapes that become the specific building blocks in our body or have specific functions related to their shape. For example, haemoglobin is a protein that has a specific shape that provides a place for holding oxygen as it carries it around our body to our tissues.