What Are the Functions of Proteins in the Body?

Laura M. Sands

Among the many functions of proteins in the body are to build and grow muscle, and to repair damaged cells as well as create new ones, when necessary. Protein is also what helps children grow from the time of being a fetus in the womb throughout adolescence. Made of amino acids, proteins are present in animal and human cells.

Proteins are an important part of cell function in the body.
Proteins are an important part of cell function in the body.

Other functions of proteins in the body are to support healthy organs, including the skin, as well as glands that produce hormones. Without proteins, the body is unable to repair damaged cell molecules, muscle tissue and organs. It is also unable to build antibodies needed to support the functioning of a healthy immune system.

Impoverished people are at risk of protein deficiencies.
Impoverished people are at risk of protein deficiencies.

The functions of proteins in the body are numerous and complex. Initially, the ingredients used to make proteins are garnered from 20 different amino acids which, when combined, create several different types of protein. Certain types of amino acids are essential to the human body, but can only be gained from food sources like fish, red meat, chicken and dairy products. Certain vegetables, beans and rice also contain amino acids, but many of these are less essential than those coming from animal food sources.

Certain proteins, known as enzymes, exist solely to help the digestive system break food down for the storage and transport of energy. This movement of energy is what helps nutrients flow to all parts of the body. Other enzymes are also necessary for clotting blood. Without these enzymatic catalysts, serious health threats may occur.

It is easy for many of the functions of proteins in the body to go unnoticed. Most people have enough protein to naturally support healthy cell functions, antibody development and muscle development without needing to make a special effort to supplement protein. In protein-deficient individuals, however, symptoms such as fatigue, edema, a loss of muscle mass and slow wound healing are likely to persist. Protein deficiencies are not common, but they do occur and can most often be found among people living in impoverished areas where a lack of access to protein-rich foods contributes to symptoms.

To be sure that the functions of proteins in the body are supported by adequate dietary intake, experts recommend consuming two or three protein sources per day. Serving sizes for each food choice may vary. Food options may also vary from protein-rich meats to numerous dairy products, beans, legumes or a variety of protein-rich vegetable sources.

Dairy is one kind of food that contains essential amino acids.
Dairy is one kind of food that contains essential amino acids.

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Discussion Comments


Once when I attended a nutrition seminar, I realized I really didn't consume as much protein as I needed to.

Once I realized how protein functions in the human body, and how important it is to get on a daily basis, I gave myself a 30 day challenge.

For the next 30 days, I increased the amount of protein I ate everyday and added a daily multivitamin.

A lot of this protein was in the form of a powder supplement that I added to juice or water. After about 3 weeks I really noticed that I had a lot more energy and was not as tired.

When I really noticed the change was when I was able to work all through the afternoon without feeling like I needed a nap.

Usually I would be so tired after lunch and all I wanted to do was sleep. After making sure I had more protein, I wasn't sleepy and think it made a big difference in my energy level.


@Mykol - As far as the way the protein functions in the body, I don't think it matters if it is soy or whey based.

That comes down to personal preference. I have used both, but switched to a whey protein because I was concerned with the possible increased estrogen in a soy based product.

Both of them have helped me keep my weight and blood sugar stable. If I have a breakfast that is high in protein, I am not hungry until lunchtime and less likely to snack during the day.

When I do snack, I like to have a handful of almonds or some cottage cheese that will give me some extra protein and keep me going until my next meal.


Getting the right amount of protein in our body, is just as important for adults as it is for children.

I don't eat a lot of meat, and until I found some good protein substitutes, found myself really tired and dragging all the time.

Once I began to give myself the adequate amounts of protein, I was able to keep my blood sugar level and increase my energy.

Another thing about protein is that it keeps you full and satisfied longer. If I have protein with every meal, and a snack that contains some form of protein, I am not hungry and don't overeat.

I use a soy based protein supplement, but have thought about switching to one that is made with whey. Has anybody noticed a difference with using these types of protein?

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