Protein is an essential nutrient that builds lean, healthy muscle, beautiful skin, lustrous hair, as well as vital internal organs. Consisting of chains of amino acid, including the essential amino acids, which we depend on our diet to supply, as our bodies do not produce these essential amino acids. Without sufficient protein, our bodies won’t be able to work as well as they should. For example, a compromised immune system can result from a deficiency in protein. However, most of our protein sources are also high in fat so finding the right balance and eating enough protein for a healthy body can sometimes be challenging. Below are some suggestions to help you determine how much protein you should include in your diet each day.
A recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been determined for us, by the government, based on a combination of gender and age. The protein needs for children are relatively low at 16 to 28 grams for ages 1 to 10. When men and women hit adolescence, ages 11-14, their protein needs are about the same at 45 to 46 grams. However, women’s protein requirements lessen, to about 50 grams as they hit 25 + years, while men’s increase to about 63 grams. However, women do need more protein when they are pregnant – up to 60 grams.
While using an age/gender chart to determine your RDA may be an easy answer, our body size is another important part of determining our protein needs. The more we weigh the more protein we need to keep our body working properly. Many of the RDA calculations were based on inactive people believing that most people don’t exercise regularly, so for those individuals their RDA would be about .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. The more exercise and athletic you are, the more protein you are going to need.
Using the above calculations, take your weight and multiply it by .36 giving you a minimum protein requirement per day. Therefore, an average person with a weight of 200 pounds would need about 72 grams of protein per day. An average person with a weight of 100 pounds would need about 36 grams of protein a day.
If you are athletic or exercising regularly and feel the need to increase your daily protein, don’t over do it and remember to drink plenty of water. An overload of protein can be stressful to your kidneys.
Now that you have calculated the amount of protein that you should be eating each day, you’ll want to know how much protein is in the food you’re eating. Below are a few examples:
1 cup skim milk = 8 grams
1 egg = 6 grams
½ cup cottage cheese = 14 grams
1 slice bacon = 21 grams
1 oz of peanuts = 7 grams
6 oz of tofu = 12 grams
3 oz of sirloin steak = 26 grams
¼ lb hamburger patty = 28 grams
1 oz American cheese = 6 grams
Reaching the recommended daily allowance for your body doesn’t require a lot of food. But, if you do want to indulge on protein, choose foods derived from plants, such as peanuts and tofu, rather than animal products, such as cheese and meat that are higher in fat content. Remember that portion control is always the key to healthy eating, even when you’re eating your favorite foods. Your life depends on it.
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~ Karen Ficarelli
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