How much protein should I consume?

Another common question in nutrition is: How much protein do I need? Before I break this down for you, let’s start with what protein is.

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fat. It is composed of amino acids, it’s building blocks. There are 20 amino acids that we focus on: 9 essential amino acids and 11 nonessential. Essential meaning that we need to get these amino acids from our diet since our body cannot synthesize them like the nonessential ones. Some nonessential amino acids become conditional in times of high stress, illness, or injury.

The nine essential amino acids include:

  1. histidine
  2. isoleucine
  3. leucine
  4. lysine
  5. phenylalanine
  6. valine
  7. tryptophan
  8. threonine
  9. methionine

Complete vs. Complementary Proteins

A protein source is considered complete if it contains all nine essential amino acids. All animal proteins are complete, but plant-based eaters may need to be more mindful of pairing complementary proteins to get their full dose in. A common example of this is rice and beans, since the limiting amino acid in beans is methionine and rice contains methionine.

What does protein do for us besides build muscle?

The main function everyone thinks of for protein is MPS (muscle protein synthesis), but protein contributes much more to our health! Protein also regulates the following physiological processes:

How much protein is currently being consumed?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans of 2020-2025 suggest that 3/4 of the U.S. population consumes over the recommended amount of protein. However, nearly 90% do not eat enough fish (the recommendation is 2-3 times a week of 4 oz servings), and more than 50% do not consume enough nuts, seeds, and soy products. It is good to differentiate your diet in general, proteins included, since you receive various nutrients from each source and feed certain gut bacteria 🦠 with each food.

How much protein do I need?

The Average Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) for protein is 10-35%. That’s a wide range. We can also reference the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 0.8-1.0g/kg. This is the lowest recommendation, for those are sedentary or lightly active. If you are moderately to highly active, you may want to aim for a bit higher, say 1.2-1.5g/kg. Serious or elite athletes are looking at anywhere between 1.5-2.0g/kg. A study was conducted in 2016 to determine the safety and efficacy of the 2.0g/kg dosage. It results in determining that this was safe & healthy for those who engage in intense exercise.

Those who are ill, injured, pregnant, breastfeeding, require increased intake of protein due to increased energy demands.

You can calculate your protein needs yourself or consult with me to determine if you are over- or underestimating. If you are underrating and are not getting enough protein, you may experience:

  • frequent hunger
  • fatigue
  • longer recovery time
  • increased anxiety
  • poor sleep
  • exacerbated depression
  • weakness
  • hair, skin and nail issues
  • compromised gut health

So, where can you get protein from?

Here are some quality food sources:

  • organic, grass-fed beef
  • wild-caught fish
  • shellfish
  • turkey or lean chicken
  • duck
  • lamb
  • pork
  • pasture-raised eggs
  • milk, yogurt, cheese
  • nuts & seeds
  • beans & legumes
  • soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soy milk and edamame
  • seitan
  • protein powders
  • protein bars

In conclusion, every individual is different in terms of needs, activity level, current medical status, etc. that influence their protein needs. You can simply calculate your needs with the guidelines above, but know that they may not be 100% accurate. Feel free to schedule a consultation HERE to determine your macronutrient needs.

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