How much protein do you really need?

Eat with Zest Nutrition | How much Protein do you Really Need?

Protein is one of the top nutrition buzzwords. There is an ever growing market of protein powders, protein bars and high protein products lining the grocery store shelves. 

So how much protein should you really be getting? Great question!

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight

[Hint: 1 kg = 2.2 pounds (lbs). To figure out your weight in kg, divide your weight in lbs by 2.2.]

Although the RDA provides enough protein to meet the basic nutritional requirement, it may not be enough to optimize health, maximize lean body mass and support weight management. 

The RDA for protein, for the average adult, results in about 10% of daily caloric intake coming from protein. Some research shows that, for weight loss, 30% of calories from protein is most effective. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends anywhere between 10-35% of daily caloric intake from protein, with it generally being recognized as safe to eat up to 3x the RDA, or 2.5 grams per kg of body weight.

Keep in mind that the body can only utilize ~30 grams of protein at any given time, so anything above this at one sitting is not advantageous to building muscle. The excess protein will either be

a) utilized for energy (in the case that total calorie needs have not been exceeded) or

b) stored as fat (when excess calories were consumed than can be utilized for energy).

Eating protein every 3-4 hours will maximize your ability to utilize dietary protein. Also of note, when our body breaks down protein it uses water, so it is good to keep in mind that higher protein diets may require increased fluid intake. 

To strike a healthy protein balance, a good recommendation for most healthy adults is to aim for twice the RDA, ~1.6 grams per kg of body weight, or ~15-20% of daily caloric intake, spaced at consistent intervals throughout the day.

lean protein sources

So what does this look like actually?

Example: Let's take a 130 pound, moderately active woman. 

First we do the math...

130 lbs / 2.2 = 59 kg  -->  59 kg x 1.6 = 94 grams protein per day

Then we space it out throughout the day to allow for maximize utilization... (Note: these are not examples of complete meals, rather an idea of protein sources)

Pre Workout Snack = 10 grams >> (ex: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt)

Breakfast = 20 grams >> (ex: 3 large eggs)

AM Snack = 12 grams >> (ex: 1/4 cup nuts)

Lunch = 20 grams >> (ex: small 3.5 oz can tuna)

PM Snack = 12 grams >> (ex: 1/2 cup cottage cheese)

Dinner = 20 grams >> (ex: 1 cup tofu)

As you can see, it is quite easy to meet your protein needs when eating small, frequent meals throughout the day. Although convenient, protein powders and bars are not necessary to meet your daily protein needs. 

Below is a Zest Guide to Lean Protein Intake. Get the full document, along with many other nutrition resources, free when you sign up for our complimentary Success In Six online program.

protein sources

There is WAY more to be said on the topic of protein so please leave your questions below! 

Happy fueling :)

Megan