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  • Writer's pictureLisa Magnuson

Are You Eating Enough Protein?

The quick answer; probably not!

Let's start with how much protein you should be eating.

The current RDA for protein is 0.36 g/lb (0.8 g/kg) of body weight.

For example, if you are a sedentary 130 pound woman you need 47 grams of protein per day and if you are a sedentary 160 pound man you would need 57 grams per day.

The RDA however is a recommendation based on survival, basically how much do you need to not be malnourished. I don't know about you, but I have higher standards for myself than just to prevent deficiencies!

In other words, this number would be the very low-end of what most people would need to not get sick.

Soooo how much should I eat? And can I eat too much?

No, not really. The average American eats about 15% of their daily calories from protein and the Institute of Medicine affirms that a diet where 35% of daily calories come from protein is still within a healthy range. In fact, they have not found an upper limit on how much protein is too much (or possibly harmful).

The gold standard is right around the 0.7- 1.0 g/lb (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) for the general population. If you are wanting to really crank out some muscle, you need to up your protein intake.

So, back to the top- our 130 pound woman eating 0.7 g/lb would need 91 grams of protein instead of the RDA recommended 47.

And our 160 pound man would need 112 grams of protein instead of 57. And this is on the low end of the spectrum still.

What does this look like in food portions/choices?

Here are some numbers for you to ponder. You can look at a few of these foods and easily add up your protein intake and see if you are getting enough.

Good sources of protein:

3 oz of tuna/salmon = 21 g/protein

3 oz of chicken/turkey = 19 g/protein

6 oz greek yogurt = 17 g/protein

1/2 cup cottage cheese = 14 g/protein

1/2 cup cooked beans = 8 g/protein

1 cup (8 oz) of milk = 8 g/protein

1 oz of nuts = 6 g/protein

1 large egg = 6 g/protein

(If you ate all these foods (listed above) in these quantities in one day you would only get 99 grams of protein!!!)

These are just some examples of good sources of foods that contain higher levels of protein. Many other foods we eat contain minimal grams of protein so it can add up over time, but you see how important it is to add in some of these foods with higher levels of protein to boost our intake.

For our 130 pound woman requiring 91 grams of protein to meet the 0.7 g/lb minimum, she would need to eat:

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 oz of nuts

  • 1 cup of milk

  • 6 oz of yogurt

  • 3 oz of tuna

  • 3 oz of chicken

All this, just to get to 83 grams of protein (we can assume she can make up the other 8 grams of protein to meet the 91 g/day from other foods throughout the day).

Wowza! It seems like this lady is on a high protein diet from the looks of her food choices, but in reality this is just to meet the low end of the 0.7 g/lb that we recommend.

I want to "beef" up!

Let's say you are moderately active and want to build some muscle and would like to try out a high protein diet and aim to get 35% of your daily calories from protein.

Here is one hypothetical situation.

You are 165 lbs and would need 2475 calories per day to maintain your weight.

You would need to eat 866 calories worth of protein everyday equating to about 217 grams of protein.

This would equal about 1.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight. (1.3 g/lb)

So this person would have to eat two servings of each food in the entire set of protein rich foods I listed above (plus about 20 more grams from other sources) to reach this protein goal EVERYDAY!!

If we put the 130 lb woman in this same position of wanting to get 35% of her calories from protein to increase her muscle mass she would have to consume 169 grams of protein instead of 91!

I think it is easier to understand breaking down macros (fat, carbs, protein) by looking at real food which is why I listed the foods above to give you a "real life" snapshot of what a regular and high protein diet would look like.

When you reflect on how many protein rich foods you are eating I think you may come up lacking. I definitely ate more protein today when I was writing this! Aim to eat one full serving of protein at every meal, and most likely every snack. If you aren't getting this then you are probably not eating enough protein to gain muscle and could possibly be losing muscle as well. Food for thought?

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