Protein, an essential source of amino acids, serves many purposes inside the body related to cell growth and genetic information storage. The importance of protein for women is much the same as the importance of protein for men. The most common reason for protein supplementation, though certainly not the most important function of protein, is to aid in the recovery of muscle tissue. More specifically, however, protein for women is important to retain skin tone and elasticity, as collagen comprises a large percentage of the body's total protein.
Protein is an umbrella term used to describe specific chains of amino acids. The importance of protein for women and men alike are the essential and non-essential amino acids that comprise the structure of the protein. The human body requires 22 amino acids in order to function properly, eight of which are considered essential. The body can synthesize, or create, 14 amino acids out of other substances, leaving eight acids that must be consumed on a regular basis.
Every type of protein is unique unto itself, meaning that protein from cow meat is not the same as protein from pig meat, or from milk products. Common sources of protein include red and white meat, milk and cheese, eggs, and legumes. Of these natural sources, the highest quantity of protein can be obtained from meat, specifically red meat. An 8 oz. ribeye contains approximately 65 grams (2.3 ounces) of protein, while the average 8 oz. chicken breast contains about 50 grams (1.76 ounces) of protein. Another common source of protein are dietary supplements, usually containing whey, casein, or soy protein.
Suggested amounts of protein for women range widely according to age, size, and activity level. Women who are primarily sedentary require about half as much protein as a similarly-sized female with high activity levels. Any form of exercise, from running to weight lifting, is best supplemented with 1 to 1.5 grams (0.04 to 0.05 ounces) of protein per pound of body weight, while a sedentary lifestyle requires approximately 0.5 gram (0.017 ounces) of protein per pound of body weight. Individuals over age 50 should consume between 0.75 to 1 gram (0.03 to 0.04 ounces) of protein per pound of body weight in order to maintain muscle mass.
Aside from the basic nutritional requirements that it provides, protein also helps women to retain vibrant and youthful-looking skin and hair. Collagen is a structural tissue made of fibrous protein and is responsible for strengthening the skin and bones. The relationship between collagen and aging is well-known and makes the importance of protein for women even more crucial to help combat the natural aging process.