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How much protein should I consume every day?

How much protein do I need a day
How much protein is enough?

Have you ever wondered how much protein you should be eating each day? You're not alone! Protein is super important for our bodies, but figuring out the right amount can be tricky. Let's break it down together—what protein is, why we need it, the different types, some common myths, and how to portion it out in your meals.

What is Protein?

Protein is a vital nutrient essential for developing, repairing, and maintaining body tissues. It plays a crucial role in building muscles, producing enzymes and hormones, and supporting the immune system. Balance and moderation are key. 

Proteins are large, complex molecules made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of life. There are 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential, meaning our bodies cannot produce them, so we must obtain them from our diet. Protein is found in every body cell and is necessary for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs.

Think of protein as your body's building blocks. It's made up of amino acids, like tiny LEGO pieces, that our bodies use to build and repair muscles, produce enzymes and hormones, and support our immune system. 

Why is Protein Important?

  1. Muscle Growth and Repair: Your muscles need protein to heal and grow stronger after a workout.

  2. Enzyme and Hormone Production: Proteins are crucial for making enzymes and hormones that keep our bodies running smoothly.

  3. Immune Function: Proteins help make antibodies that fight off infections.

  4. Transport and Storage: Proteins like hemoglobin carry oxygen in your blood, and others store nutrients for later use.

Types of Protein

  1. Animal Protein: Found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. These are complete proteins, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids.

  2. Plant Protein: Found in beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Most plant proteins are incomplete, but you can mix and match (beans) to get all the essential amino acids.

  3. Supplemental Protein: Protein powders and bars boost your intake, especially if you're super active or need a quick protein fix.

Common Misconceptions About Protein

  1. More Protein Equals More Muscle: Just eating a ton of protein won't magically build muscle. You need to pair it with exercise, especially strength training.

  2. Plant Proteins are Inferior: Not necessarily true! You can get all the essential amino acids from plant proteins by combining different sources, plus you get extra nutrients like fiber.

  3. High-Protein Diets are Harmful: A high-protein diet (over 200g per day) may be acceptable for some healthy people, depending on their current amount of lean muscle tissue. 

How Much Protein Should I Consume?

protein portion guide
Make your protein portion the size of your palm.

The general guideline is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. For an average person, that's about 56 grams daily for men and 46 grams for women. But this can vary:

  • Athletes: If you're super active, aim for 0.55 to 0.90 grams per pound to help with muscle repair and growth.

  • Older Adults: To keep muscles strong, older adults might need 0.45 to 0.55 grams per pound.

  • Weight Loss: A higher protein intake (0.55 to 0.73 grams per pound) can help you feel full and maintain muscle while losing weight.

Practical Portion Guide

Your body can only absorb approximately 30-35 grams of protein in a three-hour window. A balanced approach to protein intake involves distributing it evenly throughout the day. Here's a practical guide for incorporating protein into each meal:

  • Breakfast: Aim for 15-20 grams of protein. Examples include:

  • Two eggs (12 grams) and an apple with peanut butter (7 grams).

  • A Greek yogurt parfait with berries and nuts (15-20 grams).

  • Lunch: Aim for 25-30 grams of protein. Examples include:

  • A grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, avocado, and various vegetables (25-30 grams).

  • A quinoa, black bean bowl with mixed vegetables, and a dollop of Goat's milk yogurt (20-25 grams).

  • Dinner: Aim for 25-30 grams of protein. Examples include:

  • Grilled salmon (25-30 grams) with steamed vegetables.

  • Stir-fried chicken with mixed vegetables (25-30 grams).

  • Snacks: Incorporate 5-10 grams of protein. Examples include:

  • A handful of almonds (6 grams).

  • A hard-boiled egg (6 grams)

The key is finding an eating and living approach that feels good for you and meets your individual needs. You can learn more about how your body is doing with our Vitality Score. Learn more about nutrition and healthy habits that benefit your metabolic health with our help.

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