Written by: Marc Larsen, Personal Trainer, Nordic Nutrition

Protein is an essential component of a balanced diet and is a powerful macronutrient that supports muscle growth. In addition, protein is necessary for the body's fluid balance, hormone control, and overall health.

Proteins are building blocks called amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids that link together in various combinations. Your body uses them to make new proteins, such as muscle and bone, and other compounds, such as enzymes and hormones.

It's debated how much protein one should consume. It depends on how much you weigh, your muscle mass,  and your activity level.

When doing intense strength training, it's best to ingest 1.2 to a maximum of 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, preferably throughout the day.

There's no reason to overdo it because you'd benefit more by increasing your carbohydrate intake, such as having more energy for exercise. 

prite-containing foods

Quote elementWhen doing intense strength training, it's best to ingest 1.2 to a maximum of 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, preferably throughout the day.

Consequences of protein deficit

Food insecurity can make it difficult for people to get enough protein and essential amino acids. People who do not consume animal products may suffer from a lack of protein or various proteins. Malnutrition and a lack of protein can result in:

  • ​Poor growth
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Weakened heart
  • Weakened respiratory system
  • Decreased immunity

Quote elementYour body cannot exist without amino acids.

Benefits of amino acids

Your body cannot exist without amino acids. Your body uses amino acids to build protein in your muscles, skin, hair, organs, tissues, and as a source of energy. In addition, amino acids are essential to:

  • Build muscle
  • Grow
  • Break down food
  • Repair tissues
  • Balance nitrogen in the body
  • Regulate appetite
  • Regulate blood pressure
  • Build brain chemicals
  • Regulate the immune system


Amino acids are divided into two categories:

  • Essential amino acids
  • Nonessential amino acids


- The body cannot make essential amino acids. As a result, they must come from food.

- The nine essential amino acids are:  histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.



- These include: alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

A high-protein diet will provide you with sufficient essential amino acids. Both plant and animal-based diets include these proteins.

Some foods contain complete proteins. These are foods that contain all 20 or more types of amino acids. Conversely, some foods are incomplete proteins, and they may be missing one more of the nine essential amino acids.

Animal and plant foods that contain complete
proteins or all amino acids include:

  • Red meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Quinoa
  • Chia seeds
  • Tofu

Plant foods that contain some amino acids include:

  • Grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans
  • Seitan
  • Lentils
  • Oats
  • Soy milk
  • Vegetables


Fatty foods


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Hevia-Larraín, V., Gualano, B., Longobardi, I. et al. High-Protein Plant-Based Diet Versus a Protein-Matched Omnivorous Diet to Support Resistance Training Adaptations: A Comparison Between Habitual Vegans and Omnivores. Sports Med 51, 1317–1330 (2021). 

Bandegan A, Courtney-Martin G, Rafii M, Pencharz PB, Lemon PWR. Indicator amino acid oxidation protein requirement estimate in endurance-trained men 24 h postexercise exceeds both the EAR and current athlete guidelines. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2019;316(5):E741–8.

Joint Position Statement: nutrition and athletic performance. American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada. Med Sci Sports Exerc., 32 (12): 2130-2145. 10.1097/00005768-200012000-00025.

Lemon PW, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA: Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. J Appl Physiol. 73 (2): 767-775.

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