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Ideally, protein should make up between twenty and thirty-five percent of an individual's total caloric intake. In general, your daily grams of protein equate to approximately half your weight in pounds. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you need approximately seventy-five grams of protein every day.
The recommended daily serving size of foods rich in protein (fish, poultry, nuts, eggs and legumes) based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) dinner plate guidelines is 5-6.5 ounces (oz), including:
- 2-3 oz of chicken = Size of a deck of cards
- 1/4 cup of almonds = About 23 almonds
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter = Size of 2 ping pong balls
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is a good place to begin to formulate how much protein is a generous and safe protein intake. The RDA for protein is based upon the requirements of an average 154-pound male. These requirements were established to ensure that a particular individual would be able to receive the amount of protein necessary to repair and replace tissue proteins under normal conditions. Additional allowances can be made depending on the individual. The RDA for protein is 0.8 gm/kg/day. This is based on the biological value (BV) of 70. The BV of protein is a measure of the extent to which it satisfies the amino acid requirements for growth or the maintenance of the total body function. Below you will see a chart of protein requirements for a bodybuilder, an active recreational athlete, and an endurance athlete.
- Bodybuilder: 1.0 gm/kg/day (min) 1.6 - 2.0 gm/kg/day (adaptation phase)
- Rec Athlete: 1.0 gm/kg/day (min) 1.2 - 1.8 gm/kg/day (adaptation phase)
- Endurance Athlete: 1.4 gm/kg/day (min) 1.6 - 2.0 gm/kg/day (adaptation phase)
For my geriatric clients, I suggest 30 grams of protein before bedime to help reduce age-related muscle loss or sarcopenia. An easy and healthy method to attain this amount is to consume a cup of reduced fat cottage cheese with some natural fruit you like to flavor it.
Eat 2 to 3 servings (about 4 to 6 ounces) of heart-healthy protein every day -- from a variety of sources.
Sample servings (portions) include:
- 3 ounces fish, white-meat poultry (skin removed), or extra-lean red meat
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter or other nut butter such as almond or soy butter
- ½ cup steamed soybeans (edamame) with pods removed
- ½ cup tofu or tempeh
- 2 egg whites or 1 egg
- ½ cup cooked beans, peas, or lentils
- 1 ounce nuts or seeds
- ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese
A good rule of thumb for daily protein intake, and a safe range based on the literature, is 0.8 - 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. For muscular gain, I suggest at least 1.25 grams per pound of current lean bodyweight, which means you subtract your body fat first. Here are a few examples:
- 100 lbs of lean mass = 125 grams of protein
- 110 lbs = 137.5 g
- 120 lbs = 150 g
- 130 lbs = 162.5 g
- 140 lbs = 175 g
- 150 lbs = 187.5 g
- 160 lbs = 200 g
- 170 lbs = 212.5 g
- 180 lbs = 225 g
- 190 lbs = 237.5 g
- 200 lbs = 250 g
It’s important to remember that food weight does not equal protein weight. For example, if you weigh near-fat-free chicken breasts on a food scale and the total is 140 grams, it does not mean you’re getting even close to 140 grams of protein. In fact, 140 grams contains about 43 grams of protein, less than one- third the total weight. People forget the heaviest piece: water.
Protein needs are generally based on Ideal Body Weight (IBW) in kilograms x 0.8 g -- 1.0 g, unless you are a body builder or have increased protein needs related to conditions such as pregnancy, suffering from burns or experiencing a muscle wasting condition, etc. For example, if I weighed 150 pounds but 5 feet 2 inches, my IBW is 110 lbs or 55 kilograms. I would multiply 55 by 0.8 g protein -- 1.0 g protein = 44 g protein - 55 g protein.
You need to eat 5.5 ounces of protein per day. Protein helps build, maintain and repair body tissue. Examples of protein include meats, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, seeds, etc.
We shouldn't go overboard in the protein department, and we should watch the amounts of saturated fats. A serving size should be no larger than 4 to 6 ounces, and you shouldn't exceed 12 ounces of protein in your day. Naturally, if you're having protein without saturated fat, such as fish or tofu, you can have more.
An average amount of protein to eat per day is about as many grams as your weight is in kilograms. To convert your weight from pounds to kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. One ounce of meat or 1 cup of milk can be estimated to be about 8 grams of protein. Good sources of protein include tofu, nuts, seeds, lentils, beans, beef, chicken, turkey, fish, pork, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt. Try a parfait with plain yogurt, fresh fruit and cereal. Boil eggs to have on hand in the refrigerator, or packets of tuna or salmon, cheese slices with whole grain Ezekiel brand bread. Drink cow's milk or soy milk between meals. Make a trail mix with dried fruit, granola and nuts.
Protein is an important macronutrient that helps the body build and repair tissue. It is important to eat enough protein when trying to build muscle and lose body fat. When building muscle, you want to make sure you are consuming enough protein to not only repair the muscle tissue after a workout, but to create additional muscle by forcing the body to adapt to the stress placed upon it. When trying to lose body fat, you need to ensure that adequate protein is taken in to ensure the body is breaking down fat for energy rather than muscle. If protein needs are not met through the diet, then the body will break down muscle to meet them. When trying to lose weight, you want the majority of it to be fat to keep your metabolism elavated. Ideally, 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass should be sufficient.
How much protein a person should take is a very common question in gyms. Protein intake simple breaks down like this. First you want to convert your weight into kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2. Then take your weight in kg and times it by 0.8-1.8. Use a high number is your very active in weight training and use a low number if you workout light or sedentary.
Daily protein needs vary based upon your age, gender, activity level, etc. In general, an adult woman needs ~46 g/day and adult man needs ~56 g/day. According to the CDC, most Americans get enough protein by eating a balanced diet.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.