Nutrition Articles

How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

Determining Your Protein Requirements

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These days, protein is a powerful word. So powerful that more and more food companies are boasting about the protein content of their foods and manufacturing newer protein-rich products to meet our demands for the essential nutrient. Why? Ask the average person, and you'll hear that protein is important for your health and even helps with weight loss. Ask any fitness enthusiast or trainer, and he or she will likely tout protein's benefits for muscle building and recovery.
 
It's true that protein is good for us. But is more really better? How do you know how much you really need in order to reach your goals, whether weight loss, muscle building or otherwise? This article will answer those questions and more.
 
Protein Basics
Protein is a macronutrient that supplies both calories and 20 different amino acids for the human body.  Amino acids are necessary building blocks that are used to:
  • Build, repair and maintain body tissues (including muscle)
  • Make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the cells
  • Form antibodies that fight infection and disease
  • Produce hormones and enzymes that regulate body processes 
Protein can also play a role in weight loss. Research shows that eating adequate amounts of protein may help prevent muscle loss, promote satiety (fullness), and increase thermogenesis, which helps the body digest and absorb nutrients. It's worth noting, however, that excessive levels of protein aren't needed in order to achieve these benefits.
 
Because protein is involved in so many important bodily functions, it makes sense that people often have questions about it:
 
            How do I know if I’m getting enough protein?
Should I use a protein powder supplement?
Will more protein help me lose more weight or build more muscle?
 
As it turns out, most people in modern industrialized nations are eating enough protein to meet or exceed their body's needs—often without even trying.
 
How Much Protein Do You Really Need? 
You'll get different answers depending on who you ask. High-intensity exercisers and body builders may say one thing. A dietitian might say another. Your doctor could tell you something entirely different. It's no wonder 71 percent of grocery shoppers surveyed in 2014 by the consumer research firm The NPD Group reported being uncertain about how much protein they should be eating.

Reputable health and nutrition groups have created recommendations based on years of nutritional research to determine optimal protein levels for adults. Here's how their recommendations stack up against each other.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), established by The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences is based on a bodyweight: 0.8 grams protein per kilogram of body weight for a healthy adult. That is roughly 54 grams daily for a 150-pound female, or 71 grams daily for a 195-pound male. This calculation doesn't factor exercise into the equation, and it might overestimate protein needs for people who are overweight or obese (excess weight in the form of body fat does not increase a person's protein requirements).
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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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