Why Eating More Protein-Rich Food Will Make You Feel + Look Your Best

We all know a protein junkie. 

But what if protein-rich food wasn’t just for the muscle-building, workout enthusiasts at the gym? 

Most of us think of protein simply as a meat or plant source that builds muscle. But lately, protein-rich food is finally starting to receive the recognition it deserves as a pillar for health + wellness (and yes, even for your skin!).

Protein-rich food is an essential component for the functioning of your body + overall health. Protein benefits + supports a vast number of jobs within your body. The name even derives from the Greek word “proteos,” which means “primary” or “first place.”

We believe protein is so essential that we wanted to get a well-versed expert’s take on it. We sat down with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, a widely respected functional medicine practitioner specializing in muscle-related health. She’s known for her expertise in brain and thyroid health, lean body mass support, and longevity. 

We couldn’t think of a better person to provide the most research-backed + results-driven information on protein and health. 

So let’s explore why this incredible nutrient should be a primary staple in your diet if you want to have radiant skin, feel your best, + look amazing. 

What Protein Is + What It Does 

Protein has a rep for just being a generic body-building component. But it’s FAR more than just a muscle-building nutrient to make you look toned and tight (but yes, it does do that well!).

Protein (and protein-rich food) is a building block for many bodily processes and functions. Protein is what forms (+ repairs) your structural body, including bones, organs, and tissues (ahem – skin). So, the link between a protein-forward diet and flawless skin isn’t just a coincidence. ;)

Structurally, protein is built from a chain of smaller components called amino acids. As you may know, amino acids are critical for skin health. 

But there are many different proteins – potentially up to 20,000 or more. Together, amino acids can create numerous unique protein structures. Some of these you’d probably recognize the name of, like: 

  • Keratin – contributes to healthy hair, nails, and skin
  • Collagen and Elastin – work together to build healthy (+ youthful) skin, bone, and tissue
  • Enzymes – help your gut properly digest food and absorb nutrients, support breathing, muscle building, nerve function, and toxin removal1
  • Hemoglobin – carries oxygen in your blood
  • Hormones – not all hormones are proteins, but some – like insulin – control your appetite and blood sugar levels1

Without protein, many of your most essential bodily functions would suffer – along with your skin, hair, gut, and general health. The role of protein in your diet can’t be overstated.

Why You Need Protein-Rich Food

Today, many people aren’t getting enough healthy, protein-rich food in their diet. But our bodies use proteins (and the amino acids within proteins) for many processes. There are two main reasons you need protein-rich food. 

  • Our body can't make some essential amino acids, which we can only get from animal protein sources. 

→ When you eat [animal] protein-rich food, your body has more protein to use for critical body functions, including your external skin, internal biomarkers, and organs. Your body can even break down the amino acids of a protein and repurpose them into whatever type of protein it needs.2 How amazing! 

  • Protein builds muscle – a key component of longevity and radiant health. 

→ Dr. Lyon had a fascinating viewpoint on the link between muscle, protein, and health:

“Optimizing your muscle will optimize your life, and optimizing your protein will optimize your muscle. By highlighting muscle as your target for better health, you can create positive momentum focused on what you have to gain rather than what you need to lose.

These are a few all-encompassing reasons protein-rich food is so healing and nourishing for your body. Just wait, it gets even better. 

Okay, we’ve got the basics down on what protein is, why it’s important, and why you want to eat plenty of protein-rich food. But let’s get a little deeper and explore all the more specific ways that protein-rich food contributes to the most seamless functioning of your body. 

What Protein-Rich Food Does in Your Body 

We weren’t kidding when we said protein-rich foods can restore health + boost your well-being. 

Here are some of the ways that protein-rich food supports your body:

  • Drives metabolic reactions3
  • Keeps the immune system strong4
  • Transports and stores nutrients, vitamins, and minerals3
  • Produces energy + can act as an energy source3
  • Rebuilds tissue3
  • Bolsters gut health3
  • Blood clotting3
  • Makes up a lot of your body’s hormones 3
  • Sends messages throughout the body3
  • Measures circadian clock/timing5

With so many vital functions fueled by protein, no wonder it’s so critical for your health! 

In addition to the support it provides for your general health, protein-rich food also boasts a variety of impressive benefits. 

*Let’s address the rumor that protein is harder for your body to digest. 

Actually, the opposite is true! We asked Dr. Lyon about her take on protein and digestion. Here’s what she said to clear up the misinformation: 

“Protein can play a really positive role in digestion. High-quality animal-sourced proteins aid in the repair and maintenance of the gut lining, fostering a healthier digestive environment. 

Generally speaking, essential amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. These are crucial for repairing and maintaining the gut lining and supporting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. 

There you have it, straight from an expert – myth busted. ;)

Benefits of a Protein-Heavy Diet

Not only does protein-rich food help carry out processes within your body, but it also supports some of your biggest biomarkers of health. As Dr. Lyon pointed out, a protein-heavy diet can help support balanced blood sugar, increased energy, mental clarity, and improved body composition. Together, these things can make a HUGE difference in your quality of life.

And now, a moment for our favorite benefit – improved skin health.

Healthier + More Resilient Skin 

You know we love a skin benefit. 

At a foundational level, protein-rich food supports a balanced and healthy body. And when your body isn’t working as hard, it can direct more energy to your skin – resulting in an effortless glow.

And here’s the thing: protein-rich food (specifically, meat) typically contains nutrients like collagen, silica, peptides, amino acids, and more. These directly affect your skin, hair, and nails. So, providing your body with enough protein helps avoid concerns like premature aging, weak nails, and brittle hair. (No, thanks!)

The amino acids in protein-rich food directly benefit your skin through:6

  • PH balance and water retention
  • Wound healing promotion and repair of damaged skin
  • Protection from sun damage
  • Maintaining a healthy skin microbiome 
  • Improving collagen levels, which is critical for graceful aging

Aside from these potent skin benefits to *look* better, protein has a crazy amount of power in making you *feel* better too. A duo that can’t be beat. 

Feel Better Physically + Mentally

Those who prioritize a protein-forward diet can also experience benefits like: 

  • Lower blood pressure7
  • Staying full longer8
  • Reduced cholesterol7
  • Better body composition9 
  • Quicker recovery (makes sense with muscle and tissue building)10
  • Increased gut diversity11
  • Prevention against cognitive decline12

→ But probably the most notable health benefit of consuming lots of protein? 

It can reduce disease and general unhealth when paired with resistance training. 

Dr. Lyon explained why it’s an absolute game-changer: 

“Pairing optimal protein intake with resistance training maintains muscle health and works to help address dysfunctional eating behaviors, fatty liver disease, obesity, hypertension, hyperglycemia, and high cholesterol, along with preventing many other diseases.” 

Beyond the benefits for overall health and skin, protein-rich food can also improve your hormone health. What can’t protein do?!

Improved Hormone Health 

Like it or not, your hormone health is innately linked to full-body health. When hormones are out of balance, so is everything else. 

Proteins aside, it’s important to clarify that hormones are more than just the “sex hormones” like testosterone and estrogen. Hormones perform a variety of tasks throughout your body. They act as chemical messengers to maintain homeostasis and kickstart bodily reactions. 

Hormones are directly involved in systems like: 

→ So why protein for hormone health? 

Protein food sources play many specific + vital roles in your hormone health. Adding more protein can be extremely healing for hormonal issues and, by extension, your skin. It’s all full circle.

Protein-rich food helps: 

  • Supply amino acids that create essential hormones like insulin13
  • Provide zinc, which supports hormone regulation14
  • Support healthy thyroid function + estrogen levels15
  • Maintain healthy blood sugar levels (unhealthy levels can contribute to hormonal imbalances)

The bottom line: hormones are messengers that keep your body running smoothly. Protein-rich food works to keep your hormones in check + support balance throughout your body.

We’ve covered how protein-rich food can boost your health by optimizing bodily functions + processes. But you might be wondering how much protein you need and when. And what type of protein-rich foods should you be eating?

Glad you asked. ;)

The Best Ways to Consume Protein

Like most things in life, empowering yourself with knowledge is key. And with lots of conflicting information out there about protein-rich food, we thought it’d be helpful to provide some suggestions and guidelines based on our conversation with Dr. Lyon. Use these as your go-to guidelines for consuming protein in your diet.

Consume 30g+ Per Meal (+ Spread It Out)

There are many contrasting opinions on how much and when to eat protein, which can be confusing. Thankfully, Dr. Lyon helped clear this up for us. Here are her guidelines for protein consumption: 

“I recommend that every adult should consume at least 1 gram per pound of their ideal body weight each day, spread over 3 to 4 meals. In particular, your first and last meals of the day should each contain 30 to 50 grams of high-quality protein. 

Aiming for a minimum of 30g at each meal will ensure you meet the dietary threshold to stimulate muscle and muscle growth all day.”

American culture tends to eat heavier protein only at dinner. But spreading your proteins throughout the day is the healthiest way to ensure your body receives the support + nutrients it needs. Always pair carbs and/or fat with protein to support balanced blood sugar and hormone levels.

*Tip: If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, studies suggest you need even more protein intake because your body is working twice as hard.16

Prioritize Animal-Based Proteins

Proteins from animal sources should be the large majority of your protein intake. There are a lot of reasons why, but here’s the biggest: 

Animal protein is more bioavailable. Similar to the case for animal-based skincare, animal protein is easier for your body to absorb + digest. Animal protein-rich foods are considered “complete proteins” because they’re the highest quality AND contain all nine essential amino acids. The vast majority of plant protein sources don’t.17

Dr. Lyon is definitely on board with this concept. Here’s how she explained the benefits of animal-based protein over plant protein and how it can bolster your gut health + immune system:

“Unique amino acids like glycine, proline, and glutamine (found in the collagen and gelatin of connective tissues and bones of animals) as well as essential nutrients like zinc and vitamin B12 support gut lining integrity and support the immune system within the digestive tract.”  

→ But unfortunately, many protein-rich animal products have some glaring issues like: 

  • Hormone injections into the meat which can cause hormonal imbalances
  • Improper diets that are not biologically appropriate. Whether genetically engineered, synthetic, or simply different from what animals eat in natural settings, many animals aren’t receiving the proper nutrition needed to create nutrient-dense protein.
  • High mercury levels – that can negatively affect your endocrine system

Clean, high-quality meat is essential in a protein-heavy diet. The products are more nutrient-dense and much more friendly to the planet (and the animals!). Healthy animals = healthier meat. 

Mindful consumption is key. 

Look for intentionally farmed animal products from regenerative farms. And prioritize organic, pasture-raised, and hormone-free whenever you can. (Check out our founder Bethany’s family’s regenerative farm Primal Pastures!)

→ Here are some of our favorite clean, protein-rich foods from animal sources:

And while animal protein should be your primary source of protein, there are other protein food sources you can mix in – in moderation. Variety is key. 

→ You can add in secondary proteins like:

  • Beans
  • Peas 
  • Lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Quinoa

*A quick note about quinoa as a “complete” protein many believe quinoa is a complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids. But it’s not that simple. Dr. Lyon gave us a perfect visual to demonstrate why:

I will illustrate why quinoa is still suboptimal with a simple comparison: 

3oz of steak is about 136 kcal and contains 24.5g of protein. 

To achieve the equivalent protein, you would need to eat 3 cups of quinoa, which comes out at a whopping 665 kcal - that’s almost 5 times the calories!” 

She went on to explain that generally speaking, your body doesn’t process + use quinoa protein as efficiently as animal protein. So, while technically it is “complete,” quinoa protein simply doesn’t provide the same benefits for your health as animal protein.

With bioavailable antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that surpass the quantities found in plant proteins, it’s pretty simple: animal protein is superior. Like many things related to your health, it’s essential to mindfully consume and choose high-quality foods that deeply nourish your body and support all its systems. 

Combine With Resistance Training/Muscle Building

One final way to consume your protein is to pair it with muscle building through resistance training. This is the foundation of Dr. Lyon’s approach – and for good reason. 

Yes, protein builds muscle, but muscle itself is an integral part of a healthy body and builds resiliency. Here’s how Dr. Lyon explains the role of muscle.

“Building muscle isn't just about strength; it's about equipping your body to handle energy (calories) better. 

It’s helpful to think about your skeletal muscle as a suitcase — when you continue to eat the wrong foods in the wrong quantities, you overstuff your suitcase until the excess contents spill out. 

This excess overflows back into the bloodstream, and the body must dispose of all that excess somehow. This overflow into the bloodstream is how the disease process starts. 

So the bigger your suitcase (i.e., the more and better quality muscle you have), the more contents (i.e., calories) you can fit in at any given time before it starts to overflow.” 

Pretty revolutionary way to view your food intake + exercise regimen, right? Up your protein and along with all the other benefits, you’ll support your muscle health, too. Resistance training paired with protein is a synergistic partnership that creates an unstoppable force for better health. 

Prioritize Protein-Rich Food for a Healthier YouWow. 

We’re simply floored by the powerful role of protein-rich food to bolster health. This is one food source you don’t want to skimp on, from hormones to weight loss and glowing skin. 

Choosing high-quality food is yet another way we can simplify + practice mindful consumption throughout the busyness of life. It’s time we start treating protein like the key player it is. 

Start prioritizing protein-rich food and unlock the benefits for yourself. It’s a simple change, but it could make all the difference.



  1. Libretexts Libraries | 3.7: Proteins - Types and Functions of Proteins
  2. The Conversation | What Is a Protein? A Biologist Explains
  3. Healthline | 9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body
  4. National Library of Medicine | Amino Acids and Immune Function
  5. RCSB Protein Data Bank | Molecule of the Month: Circadian Clock Proteins 
  6. National Library of Medicine | Metabolism and Functions of Amino Acids in the Skin
  7. JAMA Network | Effects of Protein, Monounsaturated Fat, and Carbohydrate Intake on Blood Pressure and Serum Lipids
  8. National Library of Medicine | The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review 
  9. National Library of Medicine | A Reduced Ratio of Dietary Carbohydrate to Protein Improves Body Composition and Blood Lipid Profiles During Weight Loss in Adult Women 
  10. National Library of Medicine | Energy Expenditure and Protein Requirements After Traumatic Injury 
  11. National Library of Medicine | Influence of Diet on the Gut Microbiome and Implications for Human Health 
  12. ​​National Library of Medicine | Long-Term Dietary Protein Intake and Subjective Cognitive Decline in US Men and Women
  13. Mind Body Green Health | The 10 Best Types of Protein for Hormone Balance
  14. Organic Olivia Blog | Hormones in Your 30’s: Common Concerns + How to Support With Lifestyle Changes 
  15. National Library of Medicine | Effects of Dietary Protein on Thyroid Axis Activity 
  16. National Library of Medicine | Protein and Amino Acid Requirements During Pregnancy1,2,3
  17. National Library of Medicine | The Role of the Anabolic Properties of Plant- Versus Animal-Based Protein Sources in Supporting Muscle Mass Maintenance: A Critical Review


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Boost full-body health and longevity by adding more protein-rich food to your diet. Then, you’ll see how your life (and your skin) changes for the better. | Primally Pure Skincare

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