How much protein should I eat? This is always a controversial topic involving how much a person weighs, their activity level, the type of activity one does, their health history and how old a person is, to name a few important pieces to a responsible answer.
The foremost important piece is realizing each person’s needs are different; however there are “guidelines” we can use as a starting point.
This is from Web MD:
You need protein for your muscles, bones, and the rest of your body. Exactly how much you need changes with age:
Babies need about 10 grams a day.
School-age kids need 19-34 grams a day.
Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
Teenage girls need 46 grams a day.
Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding)
You should get at least 10% of your daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine.
This is from about.com
Other schools of thought indicate on the very low end, a person needs .37 % (in grams) of their body weight up to 1% (in grams) of their body weight.
Continuing my research, I asked several colleagues of their opinion towards protein recommendation. The answers always have a base line of getting a person’s health history, needs and goals and if possible their body fat. However even locally with a generalized answer and scenario in mind, I received a variety of answers from:
.5 grams of protein per body weight
.8 -1 gram of protein per body weight
roughly 50 grams of protein for females and 80 for males
I am fascinated by the different opinions and tried and true recommendations of respectable sources. We can see that it all comes down to what you…the individual human… needs for his or her own body based upon your goals and health needs.
Even so, we can see on the low end of .37% and on the high end of 1% in grams per body weight, at least we have a guide line!
It might prove interesting for you to sum up for a few days and see how much you have in your own diet.
What I do want to point out that furthers the dynamics is that not all proteins are digested and absorbed equally. For instance, meat protein ( like steak, pork, poultry) is harder for our digestive tract to break down. Studies show that we typically only truly absorb 50-60% of the actual amount of protein meat has because of the digestion process. Conversely, fish is easier to absorb and our bodies will intake closer to 80% of the protein. Take it a step further and vegetables are even more easily absorbed; our digestive tract really loves the plants and we tend to take in closer to 90% of vegetable based protein. In light of this, a 40 gram piece of steak and 20 grams of vegetable protein are nearly equal in what our system is able to utilize in protein grams. Interesting!
Keep in mind however that certain protein (animal) provides necessary amino acids whereas other protein (usually vegetable) needs to have amino acids supplemented. Nutritional yeast, food combining and amino acid supplements are easily obtained for this need.
Phew, that’s a lot of information!
Too little protein and your cells, muscles, tissue, hair, nails and energy systems will be effected. Too much protein and you could be taxing your kidneys and compromising nutritional intake of essential vitamins and minerals as well as over eating calories.
Essentially, I wrote this because I am asked all the time how much protein a person should have. My answer starts with…”tell me about your goals, your health history, and let me see what you are currently eating to see what your body is used to”…and we take in from there!
I personally am a huge fan of vegetable protein with a strong emphasis on amino acids and protein from the ocean (fish). I love the component of letting our bodies digest food easily. I do work with many however who love protein from steak, chicken and turkey and that’s fine too as long as there is enough vegetables in the diet to balance out nutrients and our delicate intestinal tract.
In short (or long) I hope this blog is helpful if you are at a loss of how much to have! Your journey should begin with “what are my goals, and do I have any health implications to factor in’…..
Enjoy the journey and stay healthy!
Tammy Parkinson CPT CLC CNC
Body Firm Personal Training and Nutritional Consulting