How much protein is enough?

Protein is not just for great skin, hair, and nails; it's critical for health. Without it, you wouldn't be able to repair damage, digest food, fight infections, build muscle and bone, create hormones, and even think and have good moods. Higher protein diets can help fight high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Not to mention protein's great benefits for metabolism boosting, satiety (feeling full after a meal), and weight management.

Protein is important, and this is a given.

How much protein is enough?

There isn’t a real rule that applies equally to everyone. There are a few factors to consider when figuring out how much protein you need. Majority of the population doesn't eat enough protein. Do you?

Ask yourself....Are you constantly hungry? Are you trying to lose weight, eat pretty healthy but just can't? Do you workout 3-5 days a week which includes strength training? Do you have any idea how much you are actually consuming a day? 

When I talk with my clients about nutrition I always start with a food log. I want to see their balance (or unbalance) of protein, carbs and healthy fats. Majority of my clients are only consuming between 15-20% protein of their daily caloric intake. Yeah I said that right. That's not enough! We don't want to go way extreme either so we start small with hitting the minimum recommendation. Then we start dialing it in based on body type response to carbs, goals, etc.

Start with the minimum recommendation of 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lb) per day.

So, for a 68 kg (150 lb) healthy non-athlete adult, this is about 55 g protein/day.

Mind you, this is a minimum to prevent protein deficiency. It's not optimal for good repair, digestion, immune function, muscle/bone building, hormones, thinking and great moods. It's not enough for athletes, seniors or those recovering from an injury, either. If you fall into one of these camps, you may need to increase the minimum protein intake. Aim closer to 1.3 g/kg (0.6 g/lb) per day.

Do you workout and strength train 2-3 days per week? If so then you need more protein for their energy and muscle mass. Seniors need more to help ward off muscle and bone loss that's common in old age. And injured people need more for recovery and healing. I typically like to see my clients at 30-40% protein in their daily intake.  This can be tough to achieve and I prefer it to be through whole food vs supplements but sometimes thats just not possible with our busy lifestyles.  Let's take a look a few food options to give you an idea of protein amounts in food.

 

How much protein is in food?

●      A 3.5 oz chicken breast has 31 g protein.

●      A 3.5 oz can of salmon has 20 g protein.

●      ½ cup cooked beans contain 6-9 g protein.

●      A large egg contains 6 g protein.

●      ¼ cup nuts contains 4-7 g protein.

●      1 medium baked potato contains 3 g protein.

 

Conclusion

Protein is an essential nutrient we should all get enough of. “Enough” is about 0.8 - 1.3 g/kg (0.36 - 0.6 g/lb) per day. If you're a healthy non-athlete adult, you can aim for the lower level. If you're an athlete, senior, or injured person, aim for the higher level.

 

Recipe (high-protein): Baked Chicken Breasts

 

Serves 4


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
 

InstructionsPreheat oven to 450°F. Place a layer of parchment paper on a baking dish.

 

 

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared dish. Brush on both sides with olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix spices until combined. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over the chicken on both sides.

 

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through to at least 165°F at the thickest part.
 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Tip: Serve with lots of veggies.

 

References:

 

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-protein

 

http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/do-you-eat-enough-protein

 

https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-protein-per-day/

Megan Cooper