Eating a balanced diet means getting an adequate amount of protein. But how much do you need?
While many of us worry that we’re not getting enough protein and often supplement our intake with protein powder shake, the reality is far different. In fact, most Americans consume anywhere from three to five times more protein than they need for optimal health.
High protein diets are popular because they can promote rapid weight loss.
But, they have a downside. If you cut out all carbohydrates and eat full fat dairy products you put yourself at increased risk of heart disease. Also, the weight that comes off so quickly is mostly water weight and will come back on as soon as you resume a normal diet.
How Much Protein Do You Need for a Balanced Diet?
Wondering exactly how much protein you should be consuming each day? The Food and Nutrition Board has set a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein intake. The RDA is the minimum amount you need to be healthy.
How to Calculate Your Protein Needs for a Balanced Diet
Figuring out the amount is need involves applying a mathematical formula.
• Multiply your body weight by 0.36 grams per pound.
• For the average male this means 56 grams per day.
• For the average woman this amounts to 46 grams per day.
• Aim to get about 10% of your daily calories from protein.
Your Balanced Diet May Require More Protein
Here are certain circumstances that affect how much protein you may need to maintain a healthy diet.
If You’re Very Active
If you exercise frequently you may need more protein.
By “frequently” I mean that you routinely get at least 35 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise four or five days a week and also do resistance training two or more times a week.
If so, consider eating a total of about 0.5 to 0.9 grams per pound of body weight each day, says Nancy Rodriguez, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut. That amount is necessary to rebuild muscle tissue. This is particularly important if you do a lot of high-intensity workouts.
If You’re Trying to Lose Weight
Some registered dietitians recommend that when you’re trying to lose weight you increase your protein intake.
Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, helping you feel full, and also pushes your body to secrete the gut hormone peptide YY, which reduces hunger. “When you bring protein to about 30% of your daily calories, you’ll naturally eat less,” says Lauren Slayton, RD, founder of Foodtrainers, a nutrition practice in New York City. “Protein decreases appetite and also, in my experience, helps you manage cravings.”
I’m not a proponent of a high protein diet for weight loss, but I do believe that every meal should contain a healthy dose of protein because it takes a long time to digest. That will keep you feeling full longer. Adequate protein will also help you keep more of your lean muscle as you lose fat.
One 2011 study suggests amping up protein to as much as 0.8 to 0.9 grams per pound your body weight per day to stave off muscle loss when restricting calories. Remember to cut back on refined carbs to balance out the extra calories from adding protein.
If You’re Middle Aged
Eating more protein as you get older may help you maintain muscle and ward off osteoporosis, “so you can stay stronger and more functional,” says Rodriguez.
In a 2015 study, adults over the age of 50 who roughly doubled the RDA (eating 0.68 grams per pound of body weight) were better able to rebuild and retain muscle after only four days, compared with control groups eating the RDA.
This works out to be about 15% to 25% of your daily calories. Over the course of a day, that would be about 20-30 grams per meal and 12 to 15 grams per snack, for a total of 90 to 105 grams.
Click here to read the full article about your protein needs for a balanced diet in Health Magazine.