Protein Requirements By Age: Are You Getting Enough In Your Diet
Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for building and maintaining our muscles. Because protein makes up enzymes that help control the chemical processes that keep us alive, its imperative that we get the appropriate amount of protein every day.
But exactly how much protein should we be eating per day?
The National Academy of Medicine released a general recommendationthat adults should get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day, or just over 7 grams for every 20 pounds of body weight however, protein requirements can change as a person ages. As people grow older, their daily protein intake may need to be adjusted especially when trying to prevent muscle loss.
So just how much protein should you consume based on your age? Are you getting enough protein in your diet? Read below to find out more about the protein requirements by age and see how your protein consumption measures up to the recommended guidelines .
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.
How You Can Get More Protein
Nutritious lower-fat include poultry, fish, low-fat dairy, and eggs. Here are a few high-protein foods to consider:
- 3 1/2 ounce chicken breast contains about 30 grams of protein
- 1/2 cup of cottage cheese, about 15 grams of protein
- 1/2 cup Greek yogurta great addition to toast and jam in the morningoffers about 15 grams of protein
- 1 large egg delivers about 6 grams of protein
Plant-based sources of protein include seeds like hemp hearts and nuts, which have been linked to greater longevity but not necessarily weight gain despite being high in calories.
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Percent Of Daily Calories
Current U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines suggest that adults should consume between 10% and 35% of their total calories from protein. To get your number and track your intake, you’ll need to know how many calories you consume each day.
Once you know how many calories you consume, multiply that number by 10% and 35% to get your range. As an example, a person who consumes 2,000 calories per day would need to consume 200 to 700 calories each day from protein.
Protein: Is More Better
For a relatively active adult, a daily protein intake to meet the RDA would supply as little as 10% of his or her total daily calories. In comparison, the average American consumes around 16% of his or her daily calories in the form of protein, from both plant and animal sources.
The Protein Summit reports in AJCN argue that 16% is anything but excessive. In fact, the reports suggest that Americans may eat too little protein, not too much. The potential benefits of higher daily protein intake, these researchers argue, include preserving muscle strength despite aging and maintaining a lean, fat-burning physique. Some studies described in the summit reports suggest that protein is more effective if you space it out over the days meals and snacks, rather than loading up at dinner like many Americans do.
Based on the totality of the research presented at the summit, Rodriguez estimates that taking in up to twice the RDA of protein “is a safe and good range to aim for.” This equates roughly to 15% to 25% of total daily calories, although it could be above or below this range depending on your age, sex, and activity level.
However, over the last several years, the public health message has shifted away from desired percentages of protein, fats and carbohydrates. For example, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the importance of eating healthier protein rich foods rather than concentrating on specific amounts of daily protein.
Claim: High Protein Causes Liver Damage
The liver, like the kidneys, is a major processing organ. Thus, its the same deal as with kidneys: People with liver damage are told to eat less protein.
Yes, if you have liver damage or disease you should eat less protein. But if your liver is healthy, then a high-protein diet will not cause liver damage.
Verdict: Theres no evidence that high-protein diets cause liver damage in healthy adults.
Protein For Building Muscle
The more protein in your muscles, the bigger and stronger your muscles can get.
Bodybuilders have long known that there is an anabolic window after a workout during which muscles are especially greedy for amino acids.
So, if youd like to build muscle, make sure you eat a protein-rich meal within a few hours after training. Some advanced folks also like to add branched-chain amino acids or essential amino acids as a during-workout or after-workout supplement.
Here, it seems that a fast-digesting animal protein supplement is better at getting your body to make more muscle compared to plant-based protein . Of course, you can also just eat real food after working out.
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So How Much Protein Should Older Adults Get
Generally, the protein recommendation for adults is to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight more active women should be getting 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram. That translates into 54 to 68 grams of protein per day for a 150-pound woman.
Again though, people who are older likely need a bit more than that to help maintain their muscle mass. There aren’t specific dietary requirements yet, but research suggests that eating as much as 0.4 grams per kilogram of bodyweight at intervals spread out by a few hours may enhance the body’s appropriate use of protein to maintain skeletal muscle mass as best as possible. âThis would be just over 25 grams of protein per mealâand at one snackâfor a 150-pound women,â says Jones.
That’s…a lot of protein. It’s also a big change from the above-mentioned existing recommendations, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before trying it yourself.
If you get the all-clear, Dewsnap recommends breaking down the increase to make it feel more digestible. âIt can be helpful to think of this as a per meal protein recommendation so itâs not overwhelming and to ensure you get enough in over the course of the day,â she says. Spreading protein throughout the day may also help the body digest and utilize it better, as opposed to all at once or in very large doses.
How Much Protein Should I Eat In A Day
As we cover in our guide How Much Protein Do I Need to Eat, youre going to find all sorts of different recommendations for how much protein you should be consuming.
For example, the current international Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.4g per pound of bodyweight .
In our opinion, and as described in this review article the RDA for protein is too low and should be higher regardless of your body composition.
Our calculator actually starts you off at 0.540.82g per pound of bodyweight , which tops out at over twice the level of the RDA.
Also, the amount of protein you eat will depend on your individual goals. Thats why we have so many variables in our protein calculator.
The RDAs blanket recommendation for protein intake is oversimplified.
Well dive into this further in the subsequent sections.
One final point: we gave you a wide recommended range of protein, because people vary quite a bit in their protein needs.
So dont take our protein recommendation as gospel!
Consider your results here as a starting point. Try one range, see how you feel, and take it up or down from there.
If you respond well to a protein intake thats not within our recommended range, dont sweat it!
The protein recommendations here come from studies, and studies are based on averages. You may be an outlier.
Use our calculator as a starting point, and assess your results over time. We give this same advice to our coaching clients when they ask us about protein.
How Much Protein You Need
People do have different protein requirements depending on their age, their size, their levels of activity and health. However, those requirements are not as high and don’t vary as much, as some of the popular hype around protein might lead one to believe.
Current dietary guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend that adult women consume 46 grams of protein per day or 10%30% of your total calories. For adult men, 56 grams of protein is recommended or 10%30% of your total calories.
The USDA offers the following guidelines as to what serving sizes equal an ounce of protein: In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the Protein Foods Group.
How Much Protein Should I Eat To Lose Weight
If youre looking to lose weight, eating plenty of protein will be an important part of the equation.
Why is protein important for weight loss?
Think of it this way: protein is the only macronutrient you dont store.
- Carbs are stored as muscle glycogen.
- Fat is stored as body fat.
Your body can use either as a fuel source while its in a calorie deficit.
Not so for protein.
Meaning most of the protein in your body is currently doing a job: building muscle tissue, making enzymes, strengthening bones, etc.
If you dont eat enough protein, your body will turn towards your muscles for its needs.
So if youre not careful when youre losing weight, you could lose muscle AND fat.
Obviously, from a health and physique standpoint, this is not good.
Thats why you need to eat plenty of protein and strength train when youre in a calorie deficit so you lose fat while retaining your hard-earned muscle mass.
The other important point about protein and fat loss: protein will help you stay full.
If youre trying to lose weight, keeping your hunger at bay will be critical. Luckily, studies have found that those on a high-protein diet tend to eat fewer calories overall.
If you cant seem to lose weight, start eating plenty of protein!
Are you currently on a weight-loss mission?
We can help!
Here are some resources to get you going:
You can also download a Free 10 Level Diet Guide too when you join the Rebellion and sign up in the box below:
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Guidelines For Getting Enough Protein
So, how much do you need?
Shapiro says that research has shown women should increase their protein intake to about 35 percent of their daily calories as they age.
Another way to look at it is in grams. The overall recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight daily , but for women over 65, she recommends at least 1 to 1.2 grams, and for those who are very active , she bumps up that number to 1.5 grams. In fact, in a recent study, adults ages 52 to 75 who increased their protein intake to that 1.5 gram level increased the rate at which they built muscle significantly, compared to participants who consumed 0.8 grams.
Anderson also notes that timing can be important. Many people have toast with jam and coffee at breakfast and salad for lunch and then get all of their protein at dinner, which is not the ideal way to do it, she says, since spreading intake over the entire day will keep you energized and satiated. If you have protein at breakfast, it typically sets you up for a day of successful eating. If you have just carbs for breakfast, youre hungry at 10 oclock and you reach for more carbs.
How Much Protein Does Your Teen Need
Teens 14 to 18 years need about 0.85 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight. In practical terms, this means that a 14 to 18 year old who weighs 61 kilograms needs about 52 grams of protein each day.
Most teens can meet their protein needs by eating a variety of high protein foods throughout the day. In most cases it is unnecessary to count how many grams of protein your teen eats, but if youre curious about their intake you can check out HealthLink BCs resource Quick Nutrition Check for Protein.
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Supporting Bones Hair And Nails
Protein is structural. It provides the basic material for connective tissue, bones, hair, and nails. For women, bone health and density is important, especially as we age. Getting enough protein can keep bones strong and minimize the density loss that comes with aging. It also keeps hair and nails looking healthy and strong.
What Should You Do
Research on how much protein is the optimal amount to eat for good health is ongoing, and is far from settled. The value of high-protein diets for weight loss or cardiovascular health, for example, remains controversial.
Before you start ramping up your daily protein intake, there are a few important things to consider. For one, dont read “get more protein” as “eat more meat.” Beef, poultry, and pork can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables. The table below provides some healthier sources of protein.
Its also important to consider the protein “package” the fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that invariably come along with protein. Aim for protein sources low in saturated fat and processed carbohydrates and rich in many nutrients.
One more thing: If you increase protein, dietary arithmetic demands that you eat less of other things to keep your daily calorie intake steady. The switches you make can affect your nutrition, for better or for worse. For example, eating more protein instead of low-quality refined carbohydrates, like white bread and sweets, is a healthy choice though how healthy the choice is also depends on the total protein package.
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How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day
Protein is essential to good health. The very origin of the word from the Greek protos, meaning “first” reflects proteins top-shelf status in human nutrition. You need it to put meat on your bones and to make hair, blood, connective tissue, antibodies, enzymes, and more. Its common for athletes and bodybuilders to wolf down extra protein to bulk up. But the message the rest of us often get is that our daily protein intake is too high.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, its the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day.
To determine your daily protein intake, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36, or use this online protein calculator. For a 50-year-old woman who weighs 140 pounds woman and who is sedentary , that translates into 53 grams of protein a day.
But use of the RDA to determine how much protein you need daily has actually caused a lot of confusion. “Theres a misunderstanding not only among the public, but also somewhat in our profession about the RDA,” says Nancy Rodriguez, a registered dietitian and professor of nutritional science at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. “People in general think we all eat too much protein.”
Choose The Healthiest Sources Of Protein
Just about every type of food has protein. Some have more than others. Whether you eat meat or not, you can get enough protein from your diet.
Apart from protein, you might also want to think about what else you’re getting from protein-rich foods.
For instance, to limit saturated fat, you’d want to choose lean cuts of meat over fattier cuts. And to cut back on sodium, skip the processed meats like hot dogs and sausage.
If you’re trying to get more omega-3s, you might choose salmon, tuna, or eggs fortified with omega-3s.
If you need to get more fiber, look to beans, vegetables, nuts, and legumes.
To help lower the chance of getting heart disease, it’s a good idea to limit the amount of red meat, especially processed red meat, and eat more fish, poultry, and beans, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. Most nutritionists agree the best approach is to choose from a variety of protein sources.
If you’re watching your weight, try including protein with every meal. It will help you feel full longer. Spreading protein evenly across your meals is also good for your muscles, which is especially important as you get older and start to lose muscle mass.
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