Protein plays a role in several basic but important bodily functions, which primarily include building muscle and bone. Protein is a dietary nutrient needed by all people, regardless of age, gender and activity level. All individuals need some amount of dietary protein to prevent muscle loss, stimulate muscle growth and increase the rate of calcium absorption.
In addition to helping human bodies build and maintain muscles and bone mass, protein acts as an appetite suppressant to regulate appetite and control hunger cravings. Protein is digested slowly by the body, which means that it stays in the digestive tract for a longer period of time and in turn helps people feel full longer after eating a meal or snack.
The amount of protein that individuals need varies widely and is determined by several factors, including lean body mass, age, gender and physical activity level. Some people, particularly athletes and growing children, require more protein to meet the demands of growing muscles. While eating enough protein is necessary for optimal health, consuming equal amounts of protein throughout the day can also provide important health benefits. Regulating protein consumption throughout the day can help build and maintain muscle mass, as opposed to ingesting a day's worth of protein at one meal, according to the National Chicken Council.