What is protein?

Protein is a part of our cells and tissues in the body which is made up of amino acid blocks. Protein is the most essential component for energy, bone density, enzyme production, hormone production, tissue formation, and muscle growth. Our body skeletal muscles contain approximately 75% water, 20% protein, 1–10% fat, and 1% glycogen. There are two types of amino acids which are essential amino acids and non-essential amino acids.  Essential amino acids are the protein blocks our body cannot produce and can be sourced out from food while non-essential amino acids can be produced by our body.

Our body needs a complete protein which contains all the 9 types of essential amino acids to repair and grow. Food with complete protein is animal-based such as beef, fish, poultry, eggs, dairies, pea, and soy. Certain plant-based proteins such as lentils, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains may not have the complete essential amino acids that our body needs. Therefore it is important to have a balanced diet especially when you are a vegetarian. Protein supplements such as branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) and pea protein powder can be helpful in gaining muscle mass while on an exercise regime.

How much protein is enough? 

The protein requirement of an adult is based on the body mass. The minimum requirement for a healthy adult to prevent lean body mass loss is about 0.8g protein per kg body mass. However, recommended protein intake for physically active adults is between 1.2-2.0g protein per kg body mass.

Muscle gain happens when the protein synthesis is higher than the protein breakdown while muscle loss happens when the protein synthesis is lesser than protein breakdown. Hence it is important to take sufficient protein in every meals and do exercise to build skeletal muscles.

Below is the list of common food and the protein content:

  •  One large egg has 6 grams of protein
  • 100 grams of beef has about 26 grams of protein
  • 100 grams chicken breast has about 31 grams of protein
  •  One cup of dried beans has about 16 grams of protein
  •  One container (170g) of Greek yogurt has about 17 grams of protein
  • One cup of broccoli has about 3 grams of protein
  • 1 cashew has about 5 grams of protein
  • 100 grams salmon has about 22 grams of protein
  •  One cup of lentils has about 18 grams of protein
  • 30 grams of pea protein powder has about 25 grams of protein

By Nutritionist Moga


Carbone J.W and Pasiakos S.M, 2019. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. 2019 May; 11(5): 1136.

Cataldo D, and Blair M. 2015. Protein intake for optimal muscle maintenance. American College of Sports Medicine.