How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
The Recommended Daily Allowance, or RDA, for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. That’s .36 gram per pound or 56 grams per day for the average man and 46 grams per day for the average woman (assuming all they do is sit all day).
Just drink a glass of milk and eat a piece of meat, a cup of dry beans, and some yogurt and you should meet your RDA for protein.
Pretty simple isn’t it?
Not so fast!
Those miniscule amounts of protein are enough to prevent protein deficiency. But those amounts are NOT enough for optimal health.
Let’s Talk About Protein
Protein is part of an important food group that you need in order for your body to function properly. As a macronutrient, protein facilitates your body’s proper growth and development, as well as helps to strengthen its immunity against various illnesses and diseases.[i]
Protein is also responsible for acting as the main building block that repairs your tissues, organs, tendons, muscles, and even your bones, skin, and eyes.[ii]
It is an essential component in the synthesis of enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones, which are all important in maintaining bodily functions. Without sufficient levels of protein in your diet, your body is more prone to experiencing muscle atrophy and organ malfunction.[iii]
We could go on all day about the benefits of protein, but you get the idea.
Can Protein Help You Lose Weight?
Studies show that high levels of protein consumption can help regulate the total amount of calories you consume overall.
You feel more satiated when you eat more protein.[iv] This means you’ll crave less junk food.
Protein has the ability to extend and prolong the release of carbohydrates through your body, providing you with a more constant and sustained supply of energy.
Protein (plus exercise) can also boost your metabolic rate, increasing the amount of calories that you burn.[v]
So yes, protein helps with weight loss.
How Much Protein Is Enough?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is ideal for the typical adult in order to prevent developing a protein deficiency.
This translates to about 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men daily. “Grams of protein” here is a measurement of the amount of actual protein macronutrient that is ingested, and not of the actual protein source.
However, the “right” levels of protein intake are not consistent for all individuals.
The optimum amount of protein for any one person depends on a multitude of factors including age, muscle mass, amount of physical activity, state of health, and fitness goals, to name only a few. What follows is a short list of recommended daily protein intakes for individuals with special needs.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
According to Nutrition Energy in New York City, women need about ten additional grams of protein daily during pregnancy, while women who are nursing babies need approximately twenty grams more in order to support milk production..[vi]
This isn’t a tall order, as ten grams of protein can be found in a single serving of Greek yogurt or half a cup of cottage cheese. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are highly encouraged to get twenty to thirty grams of their daily protein from dairy, as the calcium and vitamin D that can be found in these products are essential to the health of the mother and the proper development of her baby, as well.
Because engaging in sports can cause more wear and tear on muscles, they break down more frequently and thus need to be repaired more often.
The protein intake of people who have an active lifestyle is heavily influenced by the frequency, length, and intensity of their workout routines. For instance, endurance athletes require around 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram (0.5 to 0.65 grams per pound) of body weight, which amounts to as much as fifty percent more protein than a non-athlete or typical adult.[vii]
Meanwhile, body builders need double the regular amount of protein in their daily diet. However, it is very easy to get protein through a regular diet, so athletes need not worry about taking protein supplements just to meet their daily requirements.
However, consuming a good quality protein supplement post-work out is a great way to replenish necessary amino acids needed for muscle rebuilding. Rockwell Nutrition offers many excellent quality Protein Powders if you feel that you need a little extra help.
The key to losing weight the right way is to lose body fat while still maintaining lean muscle mass. This is easier done with the help of sufficient protein intake, as protein is more filling and prevents the onset of hunger pangs or cravings.[viii]
As long as the overall amount of calories and portion sizes are reasonable, there should not be a problem for dieters when it comes to maintaining adequate protein intake while shedding off their excess pounds.
Rockwell Nutrition offers an excellent quality line of protein products called UltraLean by BioGenesis. UltraLean functional foods provide nutrients for science-based weight loss and blood sugar stability. They are high-protein, low-carbohydrate, low-fat, multivitamin/mineral, specialty nutrient beverages that can be used long term with a balanced, calorie-controlled diet and exercise program to achieve your desired body composition goals.
Vegetarians and Vegans
Although they do not eat meat, vegetarians do not need to be extremely disadvantaged when it comes to their daily protein intake. As long as they still include a wide variety of healthy food items in their diets, including fish, eggs, and dairy, they should still be able to easily reach their recommended daily intake of protein.[ix]
Although vegans do not consume any animal products, they can get much of their protein requirements from beans, whole grains, and dried peas, but they will need more careful planning and preparation in order to reach their required daily intake of protein and may very well benefit from using a pea protein powder supplement for times when food preparation time is at a shortage.
Vegetables, seeds, and nuts can also offer minimal amounts of the macronutrient, although they do not contain sufficient levels to be considered main sources of protein.
Elderly people have a significantly higher protein requirement than younger adults. They can need as much as fifty percent more protein than the daily recommended intake in order to prevent and combat the development of common problems brought on by old age, such as osteoporosis and sarcopenia, which is a condition that causes a decrease in muscle mass. They may need .9 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.[x]
Controlling portion sizes and eating a balanced diet is an important part of getting the right amount of protein in your diet. One common mistake is eating too much protein while severely limiting carbohydrate intake from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in an effort to lose weight and build muscle. This plan can actually backfire, as insufficient carbohydrate levels may cause your body to burn muscle instead of building it because it needs to produce more energy.
Aside from eating the right amount of protein, eating at the right time can also make a huge difference when it comes to health benefits. Most notably, it is best to consume protein sources such as trail mix, yogurt, or chocolate milk right after completing an exercise routine, as this will help repair stressed and damaged muscle tissue quickly. Eating protein within twenty minutes to an hour after a workout then eating another meal an hour or two later is ideal.
The list below is of the top eight high-protein food items by nutrient density.[xi]
- Spirulina contains 58 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Parmesan cheese contains 42 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Dry-roasted soy beans contain 40 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Lean veal and beef contain 37 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Lamb contains 36 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Chicken and turkey contain 33 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Nuts and seeds contains 33 grams of protein per 100 grams.
- Non-fat mozzarella contains 30 grams of protein per 100 grams.
[iv] The effects of high protein diet on thermogenesis, satiety, and weight loss: a critical review, Halton TL and Hu FB, The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Published October 2004, Retrieved August 31, 2015.
[x] Older Adults: Double Your Protein Intake for Better Health, K. Aleisha Fetters, US News, Published February 13, 2015, Retrieved August 31, 2015.