Whether you prefer a hardy piece of steak or a bowl topped with grilled tempeh there is no denying that protein is an essential macronutrient. But how much do we really need? Unfortunately, this isn’t a straightforward answer. Intake depends on your goals, lifestyle and health conditions. Despite your dietary preferences, adequate intake can be achieved through proper nutrition and or supplementation. We know the amount of information out there can be overwhelming so we’ve taken the liberty of summarizing a few key points to help you determine how much protein you should be eating.
The RDA (aka Recommended Daily Allowance) for protein is between 8-10% of your daily calories. This equals 0.8g/kg/day. On average this translates to about 46g and 56g for women and men respectively. This value only describes the amount of protein needed to avoid loss of lean muscle mass!
Want to determine your protein RDA, lets practice!
1. Take your body weight in lbs and divide by 2.2. The answer equals your weight in kg.
2. Multiply your weight in kgs by 0.8. Your answer is your protein RDA value
While the above will provide you with an amount to help avoid loss of lean body mass there is a different recommendation for those seeking to reduce the risk for chronic disease. The AMDR (aka Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) are associated with values needed to reduce the risk of chronic disease. These values are based on your total caloric intake and range from as little as 10%-35% your daily caloric intake.
Confused? Let us apply this!
If your average daily caloric intake is 2000 calories a day, 10% of that would be 200 calories. Now, 35% of 2000 calories is 700 calories. This means that for someone with a caloric intake of 2000 calories/day protein consumption should equal between 200-700 calories to help reduce their risk for chronic disease
For athletes or those increasing activity level, the values for preventing risk and avoiding loss of muscle mass may be slightly low. With increased activity comes increased demand for the body. Generally, for athletes/ individuals with high activity levels (training 5-7days/week), recommendations range from 1.5-2.0g/kg of body weight assuming you have an adequate caloric intake.Specifically for endurance athletes, such as those training for a marathon, the recommendation is between 1.2-1.4g/kg of body weight a day. Strength athletes, such as those lifting heavier weights require slightly more protein ranging from 1.4-1.8g/kg a day
More is NOT Better
We can’t deny the power of protein, but more isn’t necessarily better. A recent meta-analysis indicated NO additional benefits in protein supplementation beyond 1.6g/kg. However, this study analyzes AVERAGES. This means that there is still some individuality between subjects. Another study done with women looked at the effects of protein intake of 2.8g/kg/day. When compared to their control group (consuming 1.5g/kg/day) there were NO significant differences in lean body mass or fat mass.
Blindly drinking protein supplements and eating as much chicken as possible is not the best approach to meeting your needs. Notice that many of these recommendations give us a range to work with. The best way to determine your protein needs is to first determine your goals and look at your activity level. From there you can apply the ranges that best fit your lifestyle and diet preferences (vegan etc).