We often hear how protein is essential for building muscle and losing weight, but how much protein do we need daily?
In This Article
What is Protein?
How Much Protein Do I Need in a Day?
How Much Protein is Too Much Protein?
Best Sources of Protein
You’ve probably figured out by now that in the world of health, fitness, and weight loss, protein reigns supreme. We’ve all heard more than a few times which protein supplement is best and why you should eat this and not that for the best protein benefits. Naturally, it can all be very confusing.
But in many ways, protein is supreme. Protein is essential in more than just fitness and weight loss; it plays a vital role in overall health and well being. It is necessary for our bodies to function correctly and is the literal building block of the human body.
The confusion around protein arises when trying to figure out how much of it you need! What determines how much protein you need? Then there is the question of can you get too much of it? Is it common to get too much protein? If so, what happens?
It’s time to step out of the fog surrounding protein intake and get answers. Let’s take a look at the powerful macro that is protein and determine the optimal amounts needed for your lifestyle.
Perhaps the best place to start is at the very beginning of the equation. Before learning how much protein we need, we should first understand what protein is and why it is essential.
Protein is a macronutrient, and it’s the primary building block of the human body. It is essential for the creation of tendons, organs, muscles, ligaments, and skin. In short, protein is critical for life to exist.
Protein is constructed from twenty amino acids that form a bead-like chain that folds into one another to create complex shapes. The body can naturally produce some of the amino acids found in protein. However, other amino acids must come from the food we eat.
Key sources of protein include red meat, seafood, pork, poultry, eggs, and dairy. In fact, animal proteins provide the ideal ratio of the essential amino acids needed for your body to utilize the protein fully for proper muscle synthesis, aka muscle repair and building.
However, not everyone eats animal-based foods. While not eating animal protein can potentially make it more challenging to reach your protein goals, there are high protein plant-based food options. A few excellent non-animal sources of protein are beans/legumes, tofu, quinoa, and oatmeal.
Supplementation is another popular method for getting your daily recommended intake of protein. Typically protein supplements are associated with bodybuilders, athletes, or those who work out regularly. But a protein supplement can help meet daily intake requirements, especially for those who are busy and often forget to eat. Some protein supplements contain a complete nutrition profile and are great as total meal replacements.
The short answer is that how much protein you need daily is dependent on your lifestyle. Someone who is more sedentary requires less than someone who leads a more active lifestyle.
While there are very detailed methods for figuring out your daily macro intake, The National Library of Medicine gives a general guideline. For more sedentary women, the guideline is roughly 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Put another way, a sedentary woman would need to consume approximately 7 grams of protein per 20 lbs of her body weight.
So what does that look like for us? Well, let’s calculate the daily protein requirements for a sedentary woman who weighs 150 pounds.
150 (weight) ➗ 20 (pounds per body weight) = 7.5 x 7 (grams of protein) = 52.5 grams of protein per day.
So based on the guidelines laid out by the National Library of Medicine, a 150-pound woman who has a more sedentary lifestyle would need to consume around 52.5 grams of protein a day.
However, if you exercise regularly, especially weightlifting, the rule of thumb is up to 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For an active 150-pound woman, this could mean eating anywhere from 80 grams to 136 grams of protein a day. Of course, the higher end of that is for athletes and women participating in fitness competitions or marathons.
Now, here are the formulas that you can use to calculate your daily protein intake based on your weight and activity level:
First, figure out your weight in kilograms, let’s use the 150lbs as an example.
150 (in pounds) ➗ 2.2 = 68.18 kilograms (your weight in kilograms).
So to find your weight in kilograms, simply plug in your weight and divide it by 2.2.
Your weight (in kilograms) x 0.8 = Daily protein intake for a sedentary woman
Your weight (in kilograms) x 1.2 to 2.0 = Daily Protein Intake for the active woman
Can you get too much protein? Well, as with anything in life, you can have too much of a good thing. But like drinking too much water, taking protein levels that would be considered unhealthy, and where you will experience health side effects, is rare.
Since the experts themselves disagree, it is hard to pinpoint a specific protein amount that one would consider “too much.” However, for the average, non-athletic person, it is best to keep your protein intake below 125 grams. A good general rule for those who are more athletic is to keep your daily protein intake below 200 grams.
The truth is that protein deficiency is more common than an overdose of protein, especially in women. For many years, it was a common belief that protein only helped build muscle and nothing else, which we know now is far from the truth.
Protein deficiency can lead to several health conditions, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Slower metabolism
- Fatty liver
- Hair, skin, and nail issues
- Muscle mass loss
- Lower immunity defenses
- Weight gain
- Higher risk of bone fractures
As with anything regarding your health, it is always best to speak with your doctor regarding the protein levels best for you. Communicating with your doctor is especially important if you have pre-existing health conditions of any kind.
As I mentioned before, protein can come from both plant and animal sources. But whether it be plant-based or an animal source of protein, it must be prepared in a way that does not add additional sugar or excessive amounts of salt or fat to your diet. Protein powders are also another option for helping meet your intake goal and achieving weight loss.
Again, not all protein sources are created equal, so let’s take a look at which ones are your best option when trying to reach your goal.
Meat & Seafood
Animal protein, which includes red meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs, is considered a complete protein. A complete protein provides all the essential amino acids that your body needs to function correctly.
Nevertheless, that does not mean you can just go chow down on any animal protein you choose. You still need to consider excess levels of fat in a cut of animal protein. So, no matter how much protein is in bacon, it isn’t a healthy animal protein source thanks to its high level of saturated fat that also gives it it’s signature flavor.
Poultry, including chicken and turkey, are some of the leanest choices that boast a high protein/low-fat ratio. Red meat is an excellent source; you just need to ensure you select cuts with lower fat.
Seafood is a nutrient-dense, naturally lean meat that comes packed with protein and healthy omega fats. Fish can help reduce the risk of heart attack, boost brain health, and provide you with high levels of essential vitamins such as vitamin D.
To get the most high-protein, nutrient-dense benefits from fish, select from these options:
- Salmon (wild-caught)
- Rainbow Trout
Naturally, it should go without saying that when preparing fish, avoid any breading or frying. Grilling and baking are your best options for helping keep the fat content low and health benefits high.
Over the years, the reputation of eggs has taken something of an unfair-should we say-beating. I would go so far as to say that the facts have gotten a little scrambled.
Once upon a time, or not that long ago, eggs were believed to be unhealthy for your cholesterol. However, now we know that the dietary levels of cholesterol within eggs do not increase harmful cholesterol.
Now, we appreciate eggs as a low-carb, low-calorie, high-protein snack! One egg provides between 6-8 grams of protein and only 70 calories.
And another great thing about eggs is their versatility! You can boil them for a quick grab and go snack; you can add a boiled egg to salads, or of course, eat them for breakfast with fresh fruit and whole-grain toast.
Plant-Based Protein Sources
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan to include plant-based protein sources in your diet. Along with providing the body with protein, plant sources also offer us other essential vitamins and minerals.
Still, as with animal protein, not all plant sources of protein are created equal. Some sources offer more in the way of protein than others. Here are the top high-protein, nutrient-packed plant sources:
- Green Peas
As is the case with animal protein, how you prepare plant-based protein is key. Adding extra fats, salt, and sugar can quickly minimize the health benefits of the plant sources. Try to keep it simple and delicious.
Protein supplementation from protein powders is another option for helping reach your daily intake goals. If you are exercising regularly, well-balanced protein powders can help build muscle and support weight loss.
Ideally, you want to look for a protein supplement that provides more than just protein. It should also supply essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, healthy carbs, and more. The reason is that the presence of other essential amino acids and healthy carbs helps the body process the protein more efficiently and effectively.
Those added benefits within a protein, such as amino acids and healthy carbs, also help with post-exercise recovery. Protein powders are an excellent option for a quick, post-workout protein boost when your muscles are fatigued and looking for protein to help repair and build new muscle.
Though the sources found within protein powders are varied, whey protein, the protein derivative of milk, is considered the gold standard. Whey protein supplements can also be effective in aiding weight loss, helping reduce inflammation after exercise, and helping to lower blood pressure.
Of course, there are also plant-based options for those who prefer to get their protein from plant-based sources or who have dairy allergies or sensitivities. Typically plant-based proteins are derived from pea, rice, hemp, and sometimes soy protein. Any plant-based protein should also offer you more than just protein in the way of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and more, so be sure to check the labels!
Perhaps what I love most about having a good protein powder supplement is the versatility. I love making different kinds of smoothies, protein powder pancakes, muffins, and even healthy dessert alternatives. Having a good protein powder, such as LadyBoss LEAN ®, opens the door to tapping into your healthy, culinary creativity!
How Much Protein You Need Depends On How Much You Do!
So how much protein do you need in a day? Well, as you’ve probably figured out by now, there is no cut and dry answer. But one thing we do know for sure is that your daily protein requirements vary with your daily energy output. If you are more sedentary and do not work out very often, your protein requirements are less than that of a more active person.
Due to its ability to decrease our appetite and leave us feeling fuller for longer, getting more protein than our body needs is not as common as eating less than we need. Protein is an essential part of any daily diet. Being the building block of the human body, ensuring we take in enough protein is vital. Protein deficiencies can lead to unhealthy skin, hair and nails, weight gain, and a higher risk of bone fractures.
Getting adequate amounts of protein if you are working out is vital for building lean muscle mass and aiding in weight loss. Protein is also crucial for proper muscle synthesis and other bodily functions.
Regardless of where you get your protein source, either animal-based or plant-based, it is essential to prepare it as simply as possible. Be aware of adding extra fat, sugar, and unnecessary calories. Proper food preparation is especially crucial if weight loss is your goal.
Protein powders are also another great way to meet your daily protein intake. Plus, their versatility makes them easy to add variety to your meals. Protein powders are also great for a quick post-workout supplementation when your muscles are most hungry for protein.
But don’t let protein turn into some sort of unpleasant chore! With the wide variety of options available on how to consume protein, your culinary adventures are limitless!
All it takes is a little awareness. Simply make sure that you are adding healthy, high-protein foods into your daily diet, and you will quickly be hitting those required intake protein goals in no time.