The importance of proteins in the diet, what functions they fulfill in our body, what dietary sources we can use, how much we need and how to obtain it in vegan and vegetarian diets.

I also tell you about its importance in sport and I leave you some bibliographical references of interest, if you are interested, keep reading.

Knowing the best dietary sources of protein and knowing what the general requirements are will help us design the most appropriate diet for our own needs.


Protein functions in our body:

Proteins fulfill very important functions in our body since they are essential for maintaining good health at any age.

One of the main ones is structural function, proteins contribute to the formation of tissues, contribute to their resistance and elasticity, to the formation of muscle and its maintenance.

In addition, proteins are necessary to transport (transport function), What do they transport ?, sodium and glucose / galactose into the cells, if these transporters do not work (SGLT and GLUT), our metabolism can be seriously affected.

Hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood and myoglobin carries oxygen in the muscles, lipids are carried by lipoproteins.

In addition to these two important functions, proteins have:

  • Enzymatic function (pepsin)
  • Hormonal (insulin and glucagon)
  • Homeostatics (maintenance of the pH of the internal medium)
  • Backup (from amino acids for embryo development)
  • Defensive
  • Contractible (movement of muscles, including the heart)

Do you realize how important it is to consume quality proteins? Do not underestimate them or leave them aside.


Pay attention to the amount of proteins you consume in the diet, they fulfill many fundamental functions in our body.


protein functions



Protein requirements:

On average, it is recommended that adults consume 70 g of protein per day, which cannot be taken as an exact amount, it would be more correct to guide healthy individuals with light physical activity, 1.2 g of protein per kg of weight per day.

In this way, the recommended daily amount would vary depending on the size and weight of the individual as well as their level of daily physical activity.

It is very simple, if you are a woman, with an active life, but not an athlete, and you weigh 58 kg, you should consume 69,6 g of protein / day, as you can see, it is close to that amount.

Obviously there are many exceptions, this would be a general rule in healthy individuals, but it varies during pregnancy, in menopause or if a lot of exercise is done, in the case of athletes and professional athletes, it obviously increases.


Both plant-based and animal-based foods are good sources of protein.


Now that you know a little more about protein, maybe it's time to talk about the foods that provide the most protein.

It is important that the sources of protein in our diet come from quality foods.


Protein-rich foods:



Combining all these foods with each other and especially with vegetables and fruits will make our diet varied and rich enough.

There is a trick that never fails in any diet, it includes many colors, quality proteins with quality vegetables, equal to a quality diet.

The consumption of proteins in the diet is important in childhood, in adulthood and especially important after 50, when remarkable hormonal changes occur in both men and women.

Have you heard of sarcopenia? It is the loss of muscle mass as a result of age, or rather, aging.

The best way to combat it is strength exercise combined with a correct intake of protein in the diet.

In the same way, when cachexia occurs, a medical condition associated with diseases of the immune system and cancer, an appropriate protein intake will be essential, and a good way to combat it.


A correct protein intake can be a challenge when we talk about vegetarian and vegan diets.



The protein challenge in vegetarian and vegan diets:

Many people follow vegetarian or vegan nutritional plans, many times the amount of protein consumed is compromised.

The contribution of complete proteins in vegan diets is especially complicated, in vegetarian diets, the contribution of dairy and eggs helps, but in vegans you have to resort to proteins exclusively of vegetable origin.

To obtain the necessary proteins in the vegan diet, it is necessary to pay special attention to protein supplementation and the supplementation of some vitamins that are only obtained with the consumption of foods of animal origin is inevitable.

The plant-based foods that provide the most protein are firm tofu, tempeh, seitan, textured soybeans, legumes, nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts) and vegetables.

Pseudo-cereals such as quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth are also good sources of protein, although in some cases, like legumes, they contain limiting amino acids.

All of them are good sources of protein and can also be implemented in a low carbohydrate diet, thus facilitating the planning of diets that are both "low carb" and vegetarian / vegan.


proteins of vegetable origin


Proteins and sport:

Protein intake in athletes is a crucial topic on which a lot has been written, it has always been said that athletes need to consume more protein than sedentary individuals, but the exact amount in each case depends on many factors.


The protein requirements in athletes depend on many factors, it cannot be generalized. 


Auker Jeukendrup in his book Practical guide to sports nutritionSays:

"In general, the recommendation for strength athletes is 1,4-1,7 g of protein per kg of body mass / day", and a lower amount for endurance athletes, between 1,2 and 1,6, XNUMX g of protein per kg of body mass / day.

But it also says that these recommendations should be taken as a mere starting point.

Depending on the type of protein, the timing of its consumption in relation to exercise, and the intake of other foods at the same time, the muscle response may vary.

And of course each individual is different and experiences different responses.


Regarding protein consumption, it is important to highlight the "when", the best is a balanced distribution between the three main meals of the day.


What is the best time for protein intake? It has always been said that just before exercise or during the following 2 hours.

This is not entirely true, if the total protein intake in the diet is adequate, the benefits in training will also be given.

What is important is the distribution of them throughout the day, providing 1/3 of the total in each of the main intakes.

It is not worth having breakfast without protein, eating at noon with very little protein and consuming them all at once at dinner, it does not matter if you are an athlete or sedentary.

And what type of protein is the best?

There is no evidence that protein supplements are the best way to increase your intake, recent research shows that protein from food elicits similar muscle responses.

And finally, it is very interesting to note that to gain muscle mass it is not necessary an excessive consumption of protein, above 1,7-2 g of protein per kg of body mass / day, protein is oxidized and does not contribute to anabolism muscular.

In summary, ingesting between 0,8 g and 2,5 g of protein per kg of weight per day is safe, it should not have side effects and it is good, but exceeding that amount does not provide any extra benefit.


Essential amino acids contribute to the creation of muscle mass.


And if the objective is the creation of muscle mass, the consumption of proteins will be the one that will help us achieve it.

Essential amino acids, such as leucine, are what we need, not so much the consumption of carbohydrates that stimulate insulin, which can interfere against it.


Related entries:




Bibliographic references:

  • Campillo, A. and García-López, JA (2015). Food for athletes. Barcelona, ​​RBA.
  • Jeukendrup, Asker. (2011). Practical guide to sports nutrition. Madrid, Editions Tutor.


* All these recommendations do not constitute medical advice, I am a Senior Technician in Dietetics and a Nutrition Degree student. Right now, my competences are the elaboration of personalized dietary plans, nutritional education and their dissemination.
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