How Much Protein do You Need?

Getting plenty of protein is a must, regardless of your age. Protein aids in healthy weight management by boosting satiety and optimizing energy expenditure, according to a review published in 2013 in “Advances in Nutrition.” An important component of your hair, skin, nails, bones and muscles, protein is a key nutrient needed to maximize the way you look and feel. The amount of protein you require daily depends on your size and activity level.

Protein Recommended Dietary Allowances

Protein recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, are determined using 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily for adults, which equates to 0.04 grams of protein per pound of body weight. RDAs for protein are 46 grams for women, 56 grams for men and 71 grams of protein daily during pregnancy and lactation, according to the Institute of Medicine. RDAs should be treated as minimum daily protein needs, as active individuals and older adults often need additional protein. One study published in 2013 in the “Journal of the American Medical Directors Association” suggests that older people get at least 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.

Protein Needs of Active Adults

Because protein is used in your body to maintain, repair and build muscle fibers, active adults and athletes often benefit from ingesting protein in amounts greater than RDAs. A study published in 2014 in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” reports that many active adults need 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein for each pound of body weight daily. This equates to 72 to 108 grams per day for a 120-pound active woman and 108 to 162 grams of protein daily for a 180-pound active man. Researchers who conducted this study report that the average U.S. adult consumes 91 grams of protein on a daily basis.

Dangers of Excessive Protein

While calorie-controlled, high-protein diets can aid in weight loss and healthy weight management, ingesting too much protein may cause unpleasant side effects — or lead to health problems. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine notes that dieters consuming high-protein, low-carb diets reported constipation, bad breath, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, heart-related problems, kidney issues — such as kidney stones — and gallbladder problems or removal. To avoid health-related problems associated with high-protein diets, the American Heart Association recommends getting no more than 35 percent of your total calories from protein, which equates to 175 grams daily when eating 2,000 calories per day, and 219 grams of protein when following a 2,500-calorie meal plan.

Sources of Healthy Protein
Choosing protein, in suggested amounts, from a variety of healthy sources maximizes the way you look and feel, and reduces chronic disease risks. Try grilled chicken breast, which contains 26 grams of protein in each 3-ounce portion, low-fat cottage cheese providing 28 grams of protein per cup, four large egg whites containing 14 grams of protein or 1 cup of low-fat milk providing 8 grams of protein. Other healthy, protein-rich options include seafood, lean red meat, plain Greek yogurt, reduced-fat cheese, nuts, seeds, nut butters, legumes, soy products and seitan.