Updated: Jul 16, 2019
Proteins are the most complex and diverse group of molecules that come together to form life. Every structure within our bodies from bone and muscle tissue to hair and nails is comprised of proteins. Proteins do most of the work in cells and are required for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs. Our immune systems contains proteins called antibodies which recognize pathogens and protect us from disease, while all the hormones and enzymes within our bodies are made from proteins as well.
It’s important to be aware of your individual protein requirements in order to supply your body with enough protein to support muscle and body functions. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is published by The Institute of Medicine and represents the nutrient needs for an average healthy population. The DRI for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (0.8g/kg), or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman. This amount of protein is considered the minimum amount needed to support normal body functions with minimal physical activity. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists the protein requirement for typical adult maintenance as (0.8-1g/kg) per day. Older adults (>60) should aim for 1g/kg per day to ensure that there is enough available protein to prevent age related muscle loss.
Healthy adults who are undergoing muscle building and/or endurance training will require additional nutrient intake to facilitate muscle synthesis. Daily protein recommendations for Endurance-Training: (1.2-1.4g/kg); Resistance-Training: (1.4-1.7g/kg), or about 0.63-0.77 grams of protein per pound per day.
Emphasis should be placed on timing and distribution of dietary protein ingestion over the course of the day (e.g., approximately 0.25 g protein per kilogram of body weight per meal x 4 to 5 meals per day) to optimize muscle synthesis. Ingestion of 20g protein is recommended within 4 hours of training, however no benefit has been shown in consuming more than 20g protein at one time.
Remember there are approximately 7 grams of protein in 1 ounce of cooked meat. Protein powders such as whey, casein, soy and other vegetable-based proteins are also good sources of protein to augment daily requirements. Those who adhere to a vegan diet can derive their protein needs through legumes and vegetable sources. Be sure to get enough protein every day to ensure optimal health and muscle protein synthesis.
Recent studies have shown that diets which include more plant-based proteins are healthier than those diets which favor beef and pork products.
In 2015 The World Health Organization classified processed meat as a carcinogen and classified red meat as a probable carcinogen. Processed meat includes sausages, hot dogs, bacon, ham and some deli meats. Processed meat refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include fermenting, smoking, salting and curing. Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb and goat.
The American Cancer Society is among the leading institutions that have long recommended a diet that limits red and processed meats, but is high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. It is recommended that people mostly choose fish, poultry and beans for protein sources instead of red and processed meats.
The occasional hamburger or hot dog is not going to kill you. Just be mindful of your eating patterns and choose healthier options when you can.
Certain diseases may require lower or higher protein intakes. Standard blood tests can determine the presence of kidney, liver or genetic diseases that would alter protein requirements.
Some typical protein sources iunclude:
Food Serving Size Protein grams
Beef cooked 3 oz 20
Chicken or Turkey 2.5 oz 20
Cottage Cheese ¾ cup 20
Greek Yogurt 7 oz 20
Milk (low-fat) 2 cups 20
Jerky 1 oz 9
Hard Boiled Eggs 1 6
Almonds 1 oz 6
Peanut Butter 1 tbsp 4
Hummus 1/3 cup 6.5
My Favorite Daily Protein Smoothie:
1 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
· ½ cup frozen blueberries
· ½ cup frozen strawberries
· ½ banana
· 1 scoop protein powder
· 1 tablespoon ground chia seed
· 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
Blend together for a nutritious shake that's bursting with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber!