The Importance of Protein for Growing Teens

The human body requires water, protein, carbohydrates, fats and a variety of vitamins and minerals to sustain it. Upon ingestion, protein molecules are distributed to body parts such as bone, hair, muscles, eyes and fingernails, which rely on protein to exist. Because the human body is always absorbing and re-building body tissue, continuous daily intake of protein is essential. For teens, adequate protein intake is necessary to meet the needs of their growing bodies.

The Brain

Research shows that the human brain continues to grow and change during the teenage years. The parts of the brain that continue to develop are crucial to impulse control and behavior, mood fluctuation and rational thinking. The University of Washington website explains that the flourishing teen brain requires the body to digest proteins in order to make its own 2. Those proteins that the brain manufactures are responsible for sending messages to cells.

Protein Fuel

Aside from brainpower, teens also need muscle power. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains that protein plays a role in the repair and regeneration of muscle and organ tissue. Protein is also an important source of body fuel. In order for teens to maintain energy levels, adequate amounts of protein are a necessity. This is especially true for teens who participate in athletic activities.


For every pound of weight, the average adult requires 0.4 grams of protein. For instance, a man who weighs 150 pounds requires 60 grams of protein (150 x 0.4 = 60). This is not the case for a growing teenager. Because their bodies are still maturing, teens need more than the recommended recommended daily allowance. In fact, the University of California (see page 1) explains that teens need at least twice the recommended amount of protein per day to meet the demands of their growing bodies 3.

Protein Sources

Between 10 and 35 percent of a growing teen’s daily caloric intake should consist of protein. According to Iowa State University, chicken and other forms of poultry, beef, pork and legumes are excellent protein sources 3. Low-fat dairy, eggs, fish, nuts, grains, and vegetables also provide teen bodies with essential proteins. Some cuts of meat, such as those high in saturated fats, are unhealthy. For this reason, it is important to choose lean cuts of meat, which have a reduced level of unnecessary saturated fats.

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