Protein Intake: Getting It Right

protein food

Ever wonder how many grams of protein you actually need? There’s a lot of information out there about protein intake and it’s importance. It’s certainly critical to optimal health and body composition. But understanding how much you need can be tricky.

Protein is crucial to life. It’s arguably the most important macronutrient we consume, and its need far exceeds just building muscle. The entire body utilizes protein in some capacity. Even those who don’t work out must consume an adequate amount of protein. This article will provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about your level of protein consumption.

Benefits of Protein

Proteins are needed throughout the body. Go take a look in the mirror.; everything you see is made up of proteins. Proteins are critical nutrients for the body to function properly and are needed for (among other things):

  • Muscle Repair
  • Reduction in Cardiovascular Risk
  • Improved Weight Loss and Maintenance
  • Boosted Metabolism

Must Consider Variables

Old school thinking will tell you to be careful with your protein intake, as too much will yield kidney problems. That’s simply not the case. Berryman et al concluded “diets higher in plant and animal protein, independent of other dietary factors, are associated with intake of cardiometabolic benefits, improved central adiposity, with no apparent impairment of kidney function.”

While consuming extra protein is far from harmful, it would be a good idea to pinpoint the necessary amount. From a financial standpoint, it may be wise to dose your protein consumption appropriately.

As with most things nutrition, it’s highly specific to individual needs. Many variables go into determining adequate protein intake for your needs and goals. The following must be taken into consideration when trying to determine, not only adequate protein intake, but optimal protein intake:

  • Activity Level
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Desired Performance Level

Protein Dosing Throughout The Day

The most popular answers to this question will tell you that 20-40 grams of protein per meal is optimal. They claim that protein synthesis is maximally stimulated at 20-30g.

That’s all well and good but, as we’ve previously discussed, protein is important for far more than simply building muscle. So, when you consume 50g of protein, perhaps 20-30g will go to help rebuild muscle while the remaining could be used elsewhere.

Keep in mind that the body is pretty inefficient when digesting protein. Only about 80% of protein consumed will be available for use. The other 20% will be burned during digestion (here’s the metabolism boost mentioned earlier).

This is a user-dependent variable. Different people will be able to tolerate different amounts and frequencies of protein doses. If you notice that you become lethargic and sluggish after ingesting protein, it may have been a bit much.

You should always feel good after a meal. You shouldn’t have to walk away from the table with a miserably full feeling.

Recommendations:

Women:
Very Active (exercise 5-7 days/week) 1.3g/ lb of body weight
Moderately Active (exercise 2-4 days/week) 1.0g/lb of body weight
Lightly Active (exercise 0-2 days/week) 0.8g/lb of body weight

Men:
Very Active (exercise 5-7 days/week) 1.5g/ lb of body weight
Moderately Active (exercise 2-4 days/week) 1.2g/ lb of body weight
Lightly Active (exercises 0-2 days/week) 1.0g/ lb of body weight

Recap

Because optimal protein intake varies so much between individual, it’s impossible provide you the exact protein number that you will need. But, the information you’ve read here will allow you to get a sufficient amount. Remember, protein is a vital nutrient and mustn’t be neglected. Dosing your protein properly will greatly improve your overall health.

Sources Cited:
Berryman et al. “Diets higher in animal and protein are associated with lower adiposity and do not impair kidney function in US adults.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.133819