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Key points

  • Proteins are a vital part of a healthy diet. Protein-rich foods include fish, meat, eggs and beans.

  • Your body uses proteins to make new cells for growth, and repair damaged tissues.

  • Sports nutritionists use knowledge about proteins to ensure their clients get the protein they need to repair damaged muscles.

How does the body use protein?


A rowing coach explains the importance of protein on the performance of his team

Nutritionists and coaches need to know how much protein people need, and which foods supply this protein. Sports nutritionists work with athletes to ensure they get enough protein to build and repair damaged muscle.

Protein-rich foods

Protein is one of the main food groups, and is needed by the body for cell growth and repair. Protein-rich foods include:

  • fish
  • meat
  • eggs
  • milk
  • cheese
  • beans
  • peas
  • tofu

How much protein do you need?

You need to eat protein-rich foods every day. The World Health Organisation recommends that between 10% and 15% of your daily energy intake should be protein. For teenage girls, this is around 53 g of protein per day, and 72 g for teenage boys.

Amino acids

All cells are made mainly from protein. This means that your body needs protein to make new cells when you grow, and to replace old or damaged cells.

Proteins are compounds made up of amino acid molecules. In digestion, protein molecules break down long chains of amino acids (peptides), to single amino acids. Later, your body joins amino acids together again, in the correct order, to make the new protein molecules it needs.

A video showing a protein chain being broken down into single amino acids

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