How Much Protein Do We Really Need

How Much Protein Do I Need A Day A No

How Much Protein Do We REALLY Need To Build Muscle?

When it comes to the most-talked-about nutrient, protein, the majority of questions concern our consumption and whether were getting enough of it per day. We get it, gym culture has made large swathes of society more active than ever, fuelling peoples thirst for knowledge in all things muscle. And when it comes to muscle, protein is important.

The macronutrient works within every cell of your body and is essential for our muscle growth, strength, and repair. It doesnt matter how much you bench press from the off, if youre not getting enough protein in your diet then youre not going to see improving results.

Not enough protein in your diet reduces lean body mass, muscle strength, and function. It can also cause muscle cramping, weakness, and soreness. Your body will take protein from muscle tissue and use it as energy to support other vital body functions when protein is low.

This is not good. It eventually leads to muscle wasting and atrophy. So even if youre not a regular gym bunny, it pays to make sure youre getting enough protein per day to keep your body working the way it should.

How Easy Is It To Get My Rda Of Protein

According to the British Nutrition Foundation, adults require about 0.75g of protein per healthy kilo of body weight, per day. This means you need to calculate your protein needs by using your ideal/healthy weight. (i.e. if you are under or overweight you should calculate your protein requirements with your ideal/healthy weight, not your current weight.

There is no scientific basis to recommend more than this due to its disease risks.

A woman weighing 56kg would need approximately 42g protein per day. A woman this size would need approximately 2,000 calories per day.

42g protein44.6g protein42g protein42g protein42g protein42g protein42.1g of protein

Although you may not sit down to 6 potatoes or a cup of oats at every meal time, and will most likely be eating more foods like green, leafy vegetables and legumes that have a much higher protein content, these numbers just go show that eating enough protein is not just possible, it is, in fact, very easy.

Rick Hay The Superfoodist

0.8-1.5 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.

Aim to have protein at every meal, advises nutritionist Rick Hay aka The Superfoodist who lectures at the College of Naturopathic Medicine. Your protein intake should be the size of the palm of your hand at each meal.

So why do we really need protein? Protein keeps you fuller for longer and helps to regulate your hunger hormones, says Hay. But it is possible to consume too much. If youre having 75 grams of protein in one protein shake you are having way too much around 30 grams of protein in your shake is enough Hay states. Thats about one scoop. If you have too much protein your body will break it down and it will be stored as fat as your body recognises it as a carbohydrate Hay says. If you are taking excess protein you need to be active. The ideal amount of protein to consume per day is, one to 1.5 grams of protein per body weight in kilos, Hay advises. For example a 60 kilo woman would need between 60-90 grams of protein.

If you are trying to build muscle or are exercising a lot, then your protein needs to increase up to 2 grams. If youre overdosing on protein, you can cause your system to become sluggish and it will also put a lot of pressure on your kidneys says Hay.

Try to aim to get 80-90% of your calories from wholefoods, and only 10% from processed foods

Rick Hays new book, The Anti Ageing Food & Fitness Plan £11.99 is out on January 18th

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How Much Protein Do You Need If Youre Older

As you age, your body becomes less responsive to protein. Basically, as you get older you need to consume more protein to kickstart muscle protein synthesis than you did when you were younger. Combine that with the tendency of older people to avoid strength training, and youve got a recipe for sarcopenia or muscle loss. And thats a big problem. Research has shown that sarcopenia contributes to a host of health and quality of life issues. If you want to have a healthy and vibrant old age, you need to maintain your muscle.

The research has shown that the RDA for dietary protein is severely inadequate for older adults . Stuart Phillips recommends at least .54 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If youre a physically active older adult, you should probably be consuming .72 to 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight, depending on your physical activity level.

Optimal Daily Protein Intake For Healthy Sedentary Adults

Protein  How Much Do We Really Need?

For adults, the US Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 g/kg. However, a more appropriate statistical analysis of the data used to establish the RDA suggests this number should be higher: 1.0 g/kg.

Note that, contrary to popular belief, the RDA doesnt represent an ideal intake. Instead, it represents the minimum intake needed to prevent malnutrition. Unfortunately, the RDA for protein was determined from nitrogen balance studies, which require that people eat experimental diets for weeks before measurements are taken. This provides ample time for the body to adapt to low protein intakes by down-regulating processes that are not necessary for survival but are necessary for optimal health, such as protein turnover and immune function.

An alternative method for determining protein requirements, called the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation technique, overcomes many of the shortcomings of nitrogen balance studies. Notably, it allows for the assessment of protein requirements within 24 hours, thereby not leaving the body enough time to adapt. Studies using the IAAO method have suggested that about 1.2 g/kg is a more appropriate RDA for healthy young men, older men, and older women.

Further evidence that the current RDA for protein is not sufficient comes from a randomized controlled trial that confined healthy, sedentary adults to a metabolic ward for eight weeks. The participants were randomized into three groups:

Three types of hypercaloric diets


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How Much Protein Do We Really Need

    This page may contain affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, Get Healthy U may receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

    Years ago, when the Atkins diet was the craze, people became convinced that high protein diets were the key to weight loss. People began drastically reducing their carb intake and upping their intake of protein. Atkins followers ate lots of red meat and dairy products to load up on protein and many nutritionists became concerned about the amount of ingested saturated fat, lack of necessary nutrients and lack of fiber. Today, people are more aware that red meat and saturated fat are linked to heart disease, but the ramifications of the Atkins school of thinking remain.

    So, how much is too much when it comes to protein? More protein doesnt always mean better. Its true that protein needs differ based on your health, body type and activity level. Made up of amino acids, protein helps build our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair and blood. However, excess volumes of protein wont necessarily help you develop oversized biceps or lose weight quick. Furthermore, its what you are getting with your protein consumption that matters most. Take this example from the Harvard School of Public Health:

    To assess how much protein is in the food you eat, heres a great reference guide with approximate amounts of protein per serving:


    • Lean ground beef, 4 ounces 28 grams protein
    • Steak, 6 ounces 42 grams




    How Much Protein Do You Need If Youre Obese And Trying To Lose Weight

    Determining protein consumption for individuals who are obese is tricky. You need to lower calorie consumption in order to lose weight, but high protein diets are useful when youre dieting because 1) theyre satiating, and 2) they help preserve muscle mass while youre in a caloric deficit.

    So youve got to find a protein target thats high, but not so high that you eat an excess number of calories, and struggle to get into a caloric deficit.

    When my nutrition coach Gillian Ward works with obese individuals, instead of pinning an amount of protein to body weight, she just makes sure that protein comprises 25% to 30% of total calories. This allows the client to focus on calorie reduction and ensure they have a balanced diet. Ive found that a balanced diet will get more long-term compliance than a diet thats mostly protein and hardly any carbs and fat, she told me. And long-term compliance is key in any weight loss plan.

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    You Are Getting Sick More Often

    If youve found that it takes you longer to recover from common illnesses such as a cold, you might have a protein deficiency. The amino acids from proteins help form your immunity against diseases, and a deficiency actually suppresses your immune system. This decreased immunity can cause illness, metabolic stress, and inability to heal quickly.

    What Happens If You Eat Too Much Protein

    How Much Protein Do We REALLY Need?

    If youre wondering what happens if you eat too much protein, heres the scoop. Eating too much protein is inadvisable as it can cause colorectal cancer, heart disease, kidney problems, and osteoporosis. Indulging in too much of it, even when following a low-carb high-protein diet, can easily increase your fat stores and risk nutrient deficiencies.

    A secondary problem exists when we eat too much protein. Doing so excludes other vital nutrients, fiber, heart-healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. As we eat too much of one thing, we end up excluding other things. A well-balanced diet at every meal contributes to improving overall health and lowering your chances of developing diseases.

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    What Are Proteins And How Do They Help Us

    Proteins are made of amino acids, which are known as the building blocks for a healthy and efficiently functioning body.

    These amino acids joint together enhance the overall functioning of your body.

    We cannot function properly without it, it regulates blood flow, and produces neurotransmitters, neurons, hormones, enzymes, and antibodies.

    Adequate amounts to help replace worn out cells in your body and transport essential nutrients from one organ to another.

    In addition, it also promotes bone, muscle and tissue growth and helps repair your body.

    It causes your body to produce more glucagon, which helps control body fat and transforms lazy fat cells into energy.

    What Is A Complete Protein

    Protein is made of strings of amino acid, Sarah explains. There are two kinds: essential and non-essential. Non-essential amino acids are the ones your body makes. Essential amino acids are the ones we need to get from our diet. A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids.

    Animal based proteins are convenient for this reason, as they naturally contain all the essential amino acids we need.

    For omnivores, I recommend lean proteins like chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs, Sarah shares. She recommends avoiding low-quality, inexpensive protein. The meat in fast food, for example, is going to have a different fat ratio, which can potentially lead to inflammation.

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    Optimal Daily Protein Intake For Pregnant Women

    The protein RDA for pregnant women is 1.1 g/kg. This value was estimated by adding three values:

    • The RDA for a healthy adult

    • The amount of additional body protein a pregnant woman accumulates

    • The amount of protein used by the developing fetus

    However, as we saw previously with non-pregnant healthy adults, the RDA may not be sufficient, let alone optimal. Theres some IAAO evidence that the RDA for pregnant women should be about 1.66 g/kg during early gestation and 1.77 g/kg during late gestation . Moreover, a meta-analysis of 16 intervention studies reported that protein supplementation during pregnancy led to reduced risks for the baby:

    • 34% lower risk of low gestational weight

    • 32% lower risk of low birth weight

    • 38% lower risk of stillbirth

    This effect was more pronounced in undernourished women than in adequately nourished women. Importantly, these values were determined from sedentary women carrying one child, meaning that pregnant women who engage in regular physical activity or are supporting the growth of more than one child may need even higher amounts.

    Also, keep in mind that we can only tell you what the studies reported we cant possibly know about your health and your pregnancy specifically. Please be sure to consult with your obstetrician/gynecologist before making any changes.

    Optimal daily protein intake for pregnant women

    Body weight

    What Grams Of Protein Really Means

    How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

    This is a very common area of misunderstanding.

    In nutrition science, grams of protein refers to the number of grams of the macronutrient protein, not the number of grams of a protein-containing food like meat or eggs.

    An 8-ounce serving of beef weighs 226 grams but only contains 61 grams of protein. Similarly, a large egg weighs 46 grams but only packs 6 grams of protein.

    If youre at a healthy weight, dont lift weights, and dont exercise much, aiming for 0.360.6 grams per pound is a reasonable estimate.

    This amounts to:

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    How Much Protein Per Meal

    Muscle protein synthesis is the process of building new skeletal muscle tissue. When MPS chronically exceeds muscle protein breakdown , resulting in a positive net protein balance, we can expect muscle growth over the long term. Each time you eat represents an opportunity to promote muscle growth through the stimulation of MPS.

    Protein-feeding studies using various doses of whey protein suggest that 0.24 g/kg/meal will maximize the MPS of the average young adult, whereas 0.40 g/kg/meal will maximize the MPS of most young adults. For older adults, these two values jump to 0.40 and 0.60 g/kg/meal.

    Desirable minimal protein intake range per meal and age

    Body weight

    They Should Make Up 10

    But there is one more factor to consider when figuring out your ideal recommended daily intake: 46 grams of protein should constitute between 10-35% of our daily diet. This is a very broad range to follow. But it is not difficult if you plan your meals to be balanced between protein, fiber , fats and carbohydrates.

    If you are on a restrictive diet to lose weight or to manage a chronic illness, this is one very important factor to help you remain balanced in your daily recommended amount.

    For example, if you are on a high-protein, carb-restricted diet, then your ideal recommended daily intake should be 46 grams, but it should be 35% of your daily intake. However, if you are on a restrictive diet because you have celiac disease, then you should probably be eating 46 grams of protein, but it should comprise only 10-15% of your diet. But remember that these are issues that you should always discuss with your healthcare professional.

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    Does The Source Of The Protein Consumed Matter Or Should We Just Worry About How Many Grams We Get Per Day From All Sources

    The source of a protein often dictates the quality of the protein source. We consider high quality proteins to contain a full complement of the essential amino acids, to be rapidly digestible and bioavailable, and to be higher in the essential amino acid leucine. For older adults, we believe the threshold for which leucine helps to stimulate muscle protein synthesis is higher, and therefore, proteins of higher quality with higher levels of leucine will be more beneficial to help maximize muscle protein synthesis. Interestingly, a recent meta-analysis showed that consuming protein at 1.6 g/kg/day is likely to contribute to muscle growth when combined with resistance training, irrespective of the protein source. However, for older adults, I think protein quality is just as important as achieving total daily protein goals.

    Youve Been Involved In Some Of The Top Research On Protein Utilization And Consumption How Did You Become Interested In Protein Research

    How much Protein do We Really Need

    I was very lucky to be exposed to research early in my undergraduate career and I was extremely lucky that my research exposure occurred with one of the top protein metabolism researchers in the world, Dr. Stuart Phillips. It was in working with Dr. Phillips and his phenomenal lab group that I first became interested in protein research, mainly in young adults, however through my time in the lab my interests shifted to how protein may protect muscle mass with aging. In particular, I became more familiar with how detrimental periods of disuse are in older adults, and the additive understanding that they often do not mount a full recovery is quite troubling.

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    Muscle Protein Synthesis In Women

    Do note that the majority of recommendations about protein are based on male studies, and generalised to women, a point stressed in the work of physiologist Dr. Stacy Sims.

    The female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, have different effects on muscle protein synthesis. When it comes to hormonal changes, men do not have the same peaks and troughs as women, nor do these hormones work in the same way or produce the same levels .

    Intake requirements may differ depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. Both oestrogen and progesterone are generally low during the first half of your cycle. Levels of the latter hormone generally rise in the second half though. Progesterone has a catabolic effect on protein metabolism meaning it breaks down muscle, and so you may need to up your protein intake during this period.

    Similarly, a decline in oestrogen levels during menopause is linked to decreased muscle mass and bone strength, and so for this reason, post-menopausal women should eat more protein. For women over 50, The Mayo Clinic recommends 1.5 grams of protein per kg of weight.

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