How Much Protein Do I Need?

Sarah has a husband and son who are sure they need huge servings of meat every day.  She knows they don't really need the pound of steak they want each night.  Her question: how much protein is really needed every day for good health?

Many men and athletes have the mistaken notion that they need very large portions of portions to maintain bigger muscle mass and larger body size.  Some people even think that they can build muscles by eating more protein.  Sorry, but that doesn't work.  The only thing that builds muscle mass is working that muscle! The fact is, the average American diet includes plenty of protein for most active people---both male and female---and for most athletes.  That being said, when athletes work out longer than an hour a day, protein needs may increase slightly.

Adults should consume between 10 - 35% of their calories from protein, or at least 0.8 - 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram body weight each day.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein:
  • Children, ages   1- 3           13 grams/day
  •                   ages    2- 4         19
  •                   age     9- 13        34
  • Girls, ages        14-18          46
  • Boys, ages      14 - 18          52
  • Women, ages 19 - 70+        46
  • Men, ages      19 - 70+         56
Some examples of protein content in food include:
  • Milk, 1 cup                              8 g. protein
  • Meat, 3 oz.                             21 g.
  • Beans, dried, 1 cup cooked   16 g.
  • Yogurt, 1 cup                        11 g.
A total of 6 - 7 ounce equivalents of lean protein would have most people well covered each day. Sources include chicken, turkey, fish, beef, eggs, milk, cheese, soy, beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds and grains.  If an adult woman had 6 ounces of meat and 2 cups of milk, she would have consumed 58 grams of protein--well above the recommended level needed for good health.  This does not even include the smaller amounts of protein found in grains and veggies that she may have eaten.

In healthy individuals, consuming up to 20 - 25% of your total caloric intake from protein won't harm your kidneys, but consuming way too much for long periods of time may be harmful.  The American Diabetic Association encourages diabetics to limit protein to 0.8 grams/kg body weight, or about 10% of total caloric intake to help keep kidneys healthy and functioning well.

The fat found in animal protein is the heart unhealthy saturated type, so be sure to focus on lean choices.  Try out the wonders of vegetable protein, too.  These are great nutritional finds, which are packed full of fiber.

Message of today:  Need Protein? Yes!
                               Need more? Probably not...