How Much Protein: How Many Grams of Protein Should I Eat Per Day?
According to Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, and director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, we need protein because “it has its hands in every critical function of our body.” For most of us, this isn’t the first time we have heard a statement proclaiming the importance of protein in our diets. So, if protein is so important, wouldn’t we be justified to eat as much protein as we possibly can in a day? Not so fast Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s not that simple. There are several factors that contribute to determining just how much protein should be consumed each day, and being aware of these factors will give our bodies just the right recipe for success.
How Much Protein Should I Eat a Day?
Both men and women in the U.S. (19 years and older) are encouraged to consume 10%-35% of their calories from protein rich foods each day. On average that is around 46 grams of protein per day for women and around 56 grams of protein for men. For those who like to live by the letter of the law, this equation may be useful in figuring out just how much is right for you, based on your current bodyweight:
.8 g/kg/day. (Hint: weight in kilograms = weight in pounds divided by 2.2).
Example: Person weighs 150 lbs. (150/2.2=68 kg).
.8 g X 68 kg= 54.4 grams of protein per day
This amount of protein is not difficult to consume. According to the CDC, by eating 2 or 3 foods rich in protein each day, the needs are likely to be met.
Examples of Foods and their Protein Content:
• 3 oz. piece of meat: around 21 grams
• 8 oz. piece of meat: around 50 grams
• 8 oz. container of yogurt: around 11 grams
• 1 Cup of milk: 8 grams
• 1 Cup of dry beans: 16 grams
Special Circumstances for Increased Protein Intake
There are exceptions to the rules when it comes to protein consumption. Circumstances arise when this recommended amount is not enough to meet the daily demands of an individual.
• How Many Grams of Protein per Day for Women Who are Pregnant/Nursing? Women who are pregnant need approximately 10 grams more protein per day than before they became pregnant. Women who are nursing require 20 grams more protein per day than before to facilitate milk production. It is recommended that pregnant women get 20-30 grams from low-fat dairy products because the vitamin D and calcium content is critical for bone health of both the mother and her baby. Women should be aware that this is not a lot of food-basically an 8 oz. container of yogurt and half cup of cottage cheese.
• How Much Protein Do I Need a Day as a Strength Training Athlete or Body Builder? Body Builders and Strength Athletes can require 2 X as much protein as a sedentary person. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends athletes consume 1.5-2.0 g protein/kg bodyweight/day to ensure adequate protein intake required for protein synthesis, gaining muscle mass, improving strength, aiding recovery, improving immunity, and decreasing the chance for injuries, with those involved in moderate amounts of intense training consuming the lower end of this and those involved in high volume and high intensity training consuming the upper.
Experts also suggest that every attempt should be made to obtain protein through whole foods. However, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends that when supplementing is necessary, casein and whey protein should be ingested “due to their ability to increase muscle protein accretion.” It is a good idea to follow the instruction of a medical professional to help determine how much whey protein you should take.
• How Much Protein per Day is Adequate for a Long Distance Runner/Endurance Athlete? According to experts, endurance athletes need around 1.2-1.4 g protein/kg bodyweight/ per day. This moderate increase above the average range largely helps to facilitate muscle repair and recovery, decrease chance for injury, and boost immunity. Carbohydrates serve as the main source for energy repletion and become an equally significant ingredient for post workout recovery.
Yes, protein is a very important component of our diets. The truth is, most Americans, including athletes, get an ample amount of protein in their regular diets, and do not require any supplementation. Eating more protein than we need is not going to help us gain more muscle mass, make us stronger, faster, or anything else. Those things come from many hours of hard work. If fact, without careful caloric monitoring, too much protein, can ultimately result in too many calories and increased fat consumption, both of which can lead to other harmful health conditions such as obesity and heart problems.Those who have special circumstances requiring greater protein consumption would be wise to consult a medical professional to help determine their recommended amount so that they have just the right recipe for success.
Campbell, Bill, PhD, CSCS, FISSN. Protein Needs for Athletes. NSCA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved on February 17, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Protein%20Needs.pdf
Nierenberg, Cari. How Much Protein Do You Need? Retrieved on February 17, 2012 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/how-much-protein
Wein, Debra, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, NSCA-CPT, *D. and Riley, Caitlin, O. (February 15, 2011). Protein Requirements for Athletes. NSCA’s Performance Training Journal. Vol. 10, Issue, 15-16. Retrieved on February 17, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/Perform/articles/100105.pdf