There are tons of reasons people swear by protein—but one reason usually gets all the ink: Protein builds muscle. It’s why the macronutrient has completely monopolized the fitness food scene, popping up in everything from protein powders and muscle-defining blends to protein coffee drinks.
But nutrition pros are the first to tell you that even if the mega-nutrient didn’t do anything for your muscles, filling up on it is not just worth it—it’s integral to making fitness and health gains every single day. After all, the average human body is approximately 18 percent protein—forming muscles, but also skin, tendons, membranes, organs, and bones. Yet most people don’t get all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need for great health through diet alone. You can bridge nutritional gaps and build a strong foundation for better health with protein powder (try GNC’s Pro 100% Whey Natural.) But regardless if it’s a powder or from protein foods like these, pack it in—here’s why.