How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?

When it comes to basic nutrition, no building block is more important than protein. Most people know protein is needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, but it also serves other important purposes. You need protein to build organs and skin. You need protein to make hair, blood, and connective tissues. Protein makes enzymes and neurotransmitters. It also keeps your immune system in top shape.

Proteins themselves are made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. To function properly, the body needs 20 different amino acids. The irony is that while the body makes hundreds of amino acids in a day, it cannot make the 9 essential amino acids. We get those amino acids from food and they do the big job. For example, Isoleucine supports the production of hemoglobin, while leucine is an amino acid that helps in the growth and repair of muscle tissue.

That’s the most important feature, says nutritionist Wesley McWhorter. “Especially in regards to consuming too much protein or eating too little.”

Here’s the inevitable question: How much protein do we really need? It’s really not that complicated, although the rules, so to speak, change if you’re an athlete or someone who spends hours at the gym.

Keep it 100

McWhorter says the general guideline is 0.35 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So a 200-pound person needs to eat about 72 grams of protein per day. Most people won’t have to: Americans typically consume about 100 grams of protein per day.

But this may be easier or harder depending on your usual diet. Meat and fish are good sources of essential amino acids. Beef, chicken, turkey, salmon – all can be the backbone of a high-protein diet. A 3-ounce serving of salmon contains 19 grams of protein. The same serving of skinless chicken breast contains 27 grams of protein.

But you can get enough protein in all kinds of diets. Johns Hopkins has a good ability to break down protein-rich foods. You will notice that many foods help with weight loss: Black beans, lentils, peanut butter, eggs, cow’s milk and soy milk are all rich in protein.

You may need more

For athletes and those who spend hours at the gym, you should add more protein. One gram of protein per pound of body weight is right — and super easy to remember. “Walk on [the usual number] McWhorter said. “When you break muscle, you need to build it back.”

Getting this much protein can be a challenge. Supplements and supplements can be helpful, but as always, whole foods are often better. (Many amino acids from shakes or other similar sources can be simply excreted in the urine.)

Also keep in mind that protein doesn’t do much without a workout first. “If you’re the average guy who doesn’t exercise a lot, if you sit on the couch and drink a protein shake, you won’t have bulging biceps,” says McWhorter.

Do not eat too much

Just because protein is good for your nutrition doesn’t mean you necessarily have to overfill your plate. When you’re eating a high-protein diet, you should think about what else — or isn’t — in your diet. Vegetables and other high-fiber foods should also be part of your meal. You won’t get it if you’re eating a baked potato and a tomahawk steak (no matter how delicious that is).

Another important factor is how efficiently the body can use it. Our bodies have the capacity to store fat indefinitely, but they do not store protein. It is used continuously throughout the day. But eating more protein than you need — a hallmark of the keto diet — will result in that protein being converted to glucose for energy, or worse.

“If you don’t allocate your protein intake, your body won’t use it all. So your body will store it as fat,” says McWhorter.

It’s better to spread your protein intake evenly throughout the day, regularly eating some protein at different meals, especially if you’re working out a lot and need to continue to repair muscle. A few eggs in the morning, a piece of fish at lunch and a dinner plate with chicken, broccoli and rice is the best way to go. How Much Protein Do You Actually Need?

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