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How much Protein should I eat each day?

Brian Bambl B.S. Exercise Science 2011-05-20

One of the most popular nutrition questions that people ask is, “How much protein should I eat each day?” 

The amount of protein each person needs varies from individual to individual and is dependent on several of your body’s needs.  Protein is important for building/repairing tissues such as muscle tissue (heart muscle, skeletal muscle, and smooth muscle), connective tissue, your nails, and other tissues of your body.  It is also important for the production of proteins in cells, enzymes, red blood cells, white blood cells, hormones, and for the production of many other proteins in your body.  The extent to which your body must produce and replenish all of these proteins will determine your body’s protein needs. 

Cheese, eggs, ribs, beef, salmon, chicken


As you can see protein plays several roles in your body and is an essential part of your diet, but some marketers and protein promoters would like you to believe that it is/should be your whole diet.  Protein truly has become the “super macronutrient” ahead of carbohydrates and fat.  Many food manufactures are adding protein to their foods to feed this protein frenzy.  However, the fact is that most Americans get more protein than they need for their basic daily needs without any protein fortification of foods and without any protein supplements being added to their diets.  The basic daily protein requirements for adults are .8 grams/kilogram of body weight or .37 grams/lb. of body weight.  However, many factors can increase the extent to which your body needs protein, including;

  1. If you’re growing
  2. If you’re nursing
  3. If you’re pregnant
  4. If you’re trying to lose weight
  5. If you’re looking to gain muscle
  6. What activities you’re participating in
  7. How many Calories that you’re consuming
  8. If you’re sick/have a specific disease

Here is a list of protein requirements for adults who participate in specific to activities, are in various stages of life, and specific situations. 

Protein needs

In addition to getting enough total protein it is also important that the protein that you eat provides the necessary amino acids.  The proteins that your body makes from the foods that you eat require as many as 20 amino acids. Your body can make 11 of these amino acids and these are called non-essential amino acids.  The other 9 amino acids you must consume in your diet and are called essential amino acids

Amino acids

Proteins that contain all 9 of the essential amino acids are known as complete proteins.  Good sources of complete proteins include: Cow’s milk, soy milk, tofu, eggs, chicken, tuna, beef, and other meats.  Incomplete protein sources include: grains, rice, beans, and vegetables.  Although incomplete proteins do not contain all nine essential amino acids they can still lead to a healthy diet and sufficient protein if eaten in the right combination.  Protein sources that don’t contain all nine essential amino acids, but combine with another source of protein to provide all nine essential amino acids are called complementary proteins.  Contrary to the old idea complementary proteins do not have to be eaten during the same meal.  The most important thing is that your diet has enough of the essential amino acids in a 24 hour period.  The amino acids will circulate in your blood and the cytosol of your body’s cells for about 24 hours before being used as energy.

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