What Is Protein & How Much Do I Need?

Do you know how much protein you eat every day? Do you know if you are eating the right amount to optimize your health and meet your goals? Most people know they need protein. But, many have no idea what amount they actually need. Some people think think the more, the better. Others think as long as they get in some amount of protein each day, they are doing OK.

Do you want to achieve or maintain a healthy weight? Improve athletic performance? Protect your bones from fracture? Maintain strength as you age? Have a healthy body? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to know how much protein you are eating. And, we’re here to give you all the info you need!

But, before determining how much protein we need each day, we need to answer the question, “What is protein?” Protein is important to every aspect of our health. Here’s why.

Building Blocks of Life

Protein is a macronutrient, essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. It’s made of base compounds called amino acids, which are chemically bound together. And, they fold in various ways to create a 3-dimensional structure that corresponds to its unique function
So, what does protein do for us? Most people realize they need protein for muscle growth and repair. After all, we’ve all got muscles. So, bodybuilders aren’t the only ones who need to track their intake. And, here’s why. All bodies contain three types of muscle tissue that require protein: skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, and smooth muscle. And, each type of muscle serves a unique purpose in the body.
Skeletal muscle mass is needed for many reasons. For example, it’s needed to achieve and maintain good metabolic health. To protect bones and joints from fracture or damage. And, to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Plus, increase and retain strength! Cardiac muscle only exists in your heart. And, it is specialized to never tire out because it keeps your heart continuously pumping. Finally, smooth muscles line hollow organs like the stomach, intestines, and kidneys. They contract involuntarily. And, they perform many functions that we aren’t consciously aware of. Things like, moving food through the digestive tract and contracting your bladder to allow you to urinate.
Proteins also act as transporters that carry various substances throughout the body. They form enzymes that catalyze many reactions in the body. They help produce important signaling molecules like hormones and neurotransmitters. And, they help form antibodies that protect us from pathogens. It’s clear why your high school biology teacher called amino acids “the building blocks of life.”

Protein Intake

So, we’ve established the importance of protein. But, that brings us back to the original question: how much protein does the average person actually need in a day? Let’s break this down by activity level. We’ll start with the average sedentary to lightly active individual. Their protein need is about 0.8 to 1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This amount is usually enough to maintain lean body mass and to meet all the other protein needs of the body. An example. A 150 pound (68 kg) person who is mostly sedentary or lightly active needs 55-68 grams of protein per day to prevent deficiency.

But, for individuals who are moderate to highly active or who have aspirations of changing their body composition, this amount can vary greatly. Those doing high intensity training may need closer to 1.4 to 2 grams per kilogram of protein daily. So, the lower end of that would be 95 grams of protein per day for a 150 pound person.

And for those looking to gain muscle, 1.7 to 2.6 grams per kilogram is needed. So, for our 150 pound person example, the lower end would be about 115 grams per day. For fat loss, the amount of protein should be based on lean body mass rather than total weight. These individuals may need 2.2 to 2.8 grams of protein per kilogram of fat free mass to maintain muscle while they are losing fat. For a 200 pound person with 120 lbs of lean mass, the lower end would be 120 grams per day.

There’s even an entire diet based on the ideal amount of protein you need in order to lose weight.

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Excess Protein

So, what happens if you eat too much protein? You may have heard about excess protein damaging kidney function. But, in those with healthy kidneys, protein intake up to 2.8 grams per kilogram has not been shown to cause any negative effects on kidney function. Those with impaired kidney function should be careful not to go over the amount recommended by the individual’s doctor or dietitian. For those individuals, further damage can occur with excess intake. For those with normal kidney function, excess protein converts to sugar and is used for energy. And, in the case of caloric surplus, this can cause more fat storage. Additionally, getting too many protein foods can displace other important food groups. This can lead to micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies. 

Ensure you are getting enough protein if you want a healthy….

Weight. Immune system. Heart. Metabolism. Gut. And, an overall healthy body.


Want to Learn More?

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