Beginner’s Guide to Protein

New to protein? No worries. Here we give you the lowdown on what you need to know. What is protein? How much do I need? These are just some of the common questions we’ll be answering. You’ll be a fountain of knowledge by the end, helping you to make the right choices about your nutrition. Let’s get started with this beginner’s guide to protein.

What is protein?

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in building and repairing tissues, supporting immune function and maintaining a healthy metabolism. It is one of the three macronutrients, along with fats and carbohydrates.

A protein is composed of chains of amino acids and is required for the growth, repair and maintenance of tissues, organs and muscles. Proteins are also involved in important bodily functions such as hormone regulation, enzyme production and immune response. Without proteins, our body’s structure, functions, cells, tissues and organs cannot survive. 

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are 20 of them in total:

Alanine, arginine, asparagine, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, proline, serine, threonine, tryptophan, tyrosine and valine.

Where is protein found?

Protein is found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. It’s also found in plant-based sources like lentils, beans, quinoa and soya protein. 

The quality of protein in animal sources is generally considered to be higher than in plant sources. This is because animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids, while plant proteins may only contain some. However, a balanced diet that includes both animal and plant sources ensures a full and healthy intake of all essential amino acids

If you follow a vegan, plant-based or dairy-free diet, supplementation might be beneficial. And this isn’t just for protein. See our blog on the most important vitamins for vegans if this applies to your dietary preferences.

beginner's guide to protein

What does protein do?

Protein plays a vital role in almost every biological process of the human body. However, it’s especially important during the process of building, strengthening and repairing muscle mass. This is because protein kickstarts muscle protein synthesis (MPS) – a process in which the body repairs and builds new muscle tissue.

Here’s a brief overview of how it works:

  • Muscles suffer small micro-tears from resistance training.
  • Protein is delivered via increased blood flow.
  • MPS occurs (protein repairs the muscle).
  • The muscle is bigger and stronger (gains). 


Is it better to get protein from food or supplements?

Wholefoods should be your primary source of nutrition. The inclusion of high-quality supplements in your diet is a convenient and flexible way to increase your protein intake if this is what your nutrition goals require. Protein powder, for example. 

However, protein supplements are exactly what the name suggests – they are intended to supplement your diet, not replace it. Your main priority should be filling your diet with whole, nutrient-rich foods.

When should I take protein?

There is no real optimum time to consume protein. Your overall protein intake is more important than when you have it. However, post-workout is generally considered to be a good time for a boost, as this is when your muscles require protein the most to support recovery. (This is through muscle protein synthesis, which we mentioned earlier.)

Past studies have investigated the so-called ‘anabolic window’, which refers to the period of time just after completing an intense workout. Although there is no proven evidence around the anabolic window, many see post-workout as an optimum time to prioritise protein consumption (1).

Short answer:

  • Overall protein intake is more important than timing. However, consuming protein post-exercise may help with the recovery process. 

How much protein do I need?

Our age, gender and level of physical activity all play a part in our individual protein needs, as well as protein absorption. However, the British Nutrition Association states that the average intake of protein in the UK for adults is 0.75g protein per kilogram of body weight per day. To give two examples, this equates to 64g protein per day for a person weighing 85kg or 49g protein per day for a person weighing 65kg.

For those of you who are regular gym-goers or partake in vigorous physical activity, you may find yourself needing additional protein on top of the recommended amount. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends protein intake ranges between 1.2-1.7g protein per kilogram of body weight to increase muscle mass (2). 

The inclusion of high-quality supplements in your diet is a great and convenient way to hit a higher protein goal. Just remember that supplements are an addition to a healthy and balanced diet, rather than a replacement. It’s important to reiterate how vital wholefoods are, along with the essential nutrients they contain.

Protein powder is a convenient way to get extra protein in, especially Clear Whey Isolate, which you can sip throughout the day.

Short answer:

  • The average recommended daily intake of protein for adults is 0.75g per kilogram of body weight.
  • For those looking to increase muscle mass, 1.2-1.7g protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended.


So that’s protein in a nutshell (literally). We’ve covered what protein is, where it’s found, when to take it and how much you need. We hope that you were able to learn something useful from this article. If so, take a look at our blog for more product guides, training tips and nutrition advice.

We believe in encouraging everyone to find their passion for exercise. Check out @bulk for recipes, ambassador stories and gym tips from our community of fitness lovers and foodies. 

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