Do you ever wonder what your daily protein requirements are? Many are perplexed about how much protein they need and are even more confused when they try to find the information. An online search of daily protein requirements will turn up varying recommendations with amounts based on weight, minimum numbers, and percent ranges. Who divvies up their food according to a percent?
How Much Protein Do You Really Need?
Daily Protein Requirements – The Conservative Approach
The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein – from plant or animal sources – for every kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound) per day. This is called the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and is recommended to meet the needs of the majority of the population. The Institute of Medicine also sets a wide range for acceptable protein intake—anywhere from 10 to 35 percent of calories each day. For a typical 2000 Kcal diet, that would translate into 50 – 175 grams of protein per day. In North America, the majority of the population meets the RDA.
Daily Protein Requirements – Optimal Protein Intake
The amount of protein that each person needs is variable as it depends on your age, body weight, disease state and activity level. While the conservative approach of the RDA has been used for years to prevent deficiency, there is mounting evidence that protein intakes need to be higher to be optimal, especially as you get older.
Increasing your protein intake greater than the RDA has shown improvements in muscle building, body composition, weight management, metabolic function and healthy aging. All of which contribute to an improved quality of life. Whether you are a busy parent who gets themselves to the gym when they can, an avid master’s swimmer, running your first marathon or an older adult wanting to age successfully, your body can likely benefit from a higher protein intake.
Below are some guidelines that can be used to determine your optimal protein intake.
Protein needs are often discussed as daily totals yet it is most effective if you space your protein intake out over the day at meals and snacks rather than loading up at dinner like most North American’s do. A great place to start is to strive for 20-25 grams of protein per meal and 10-15 grams at snacks. If you are new to lifting weights, protein post workout will also help to maximize your strength training gains.
Protein – Are There Risks?
Concerns are sometimes expressed about the possible negative health effects of a higher protein intake. The Institute of Medicine has not defined an upper limit for protein intake given the lack of evidence documenting risk or negative outcomes, yet they do warn against exceeding the macronutrient distribution range of 15-35%.
The fears of a high protein diet are often kidney disease and bone loss. While those with kidney disease need to watch their total protein intake as instructed, so long as you get enough calcium and vitamin D, research does not show a detrimental effect on bone health. In fact, it may even improve your bones. However, if you are watching your calories be aware that when you increase your protein intake other important nutrients may be lost as you make the changes. Balance is key.
*The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2015;101(Suppl):1320S–9S
*Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE Study Group. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2013 Aug;14(8):542-59.
*American College of Sport Medicine . Position Statement, 2009