Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Do You Know How Much Protein You Need (and where to get it)?

There’s a lot of focus on protein these days but is it necessary to work so hard to meet your protein needs? Proteins do many, varied jobs in our bodies. Fat and protein can’t do these jobs. Proteins provide structure to our bones, teeth, and connective tissues. They are the enzymes that our intestines make to break down our nutrients so they can pass into the bloodstream. They are the antibodies that fight infections. They make and repair muscles.
With all that work to do, we need to get the right amount of protein each day. How much do you need? 

The average person needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To run this calculation on yourself, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. This will give you your weight in kilograms (kg). Then multiply by 0.8 to get the grams of protein you need. Here’s an example:

150 pounds/2.2 = 68 kg
68 kg x 0.8 = 54 grams of protein a day.  

Let’s take a look at what that translate into for the average person:

Your Weight:                                   Your Protein Needs Per Day:
125#                                                               45 grams
150#                                                               54 grams
175#                                                               63 grams
200#                                                               72 grams
225#                                                               81 grams
250#                                                               90 grams
275#                                                               100 grams

But, athletes and older people may have higher protein needs. Elder adults should aim for 1.0 to 1.2 grams for each kilogram of body weight. Athletes should aim for 1.2 – 1.8 grams for each kilogram of body weight.

Athletes and Elder Adult Protein Needs:

Your Weight:                                   Your Protein Needs Per Day:
125#                                                               68 grams
150#                                                               81 grams
175#                                                               95 grams
200#                                                               109 grams
225#                                                               122 grams
250#                                                               136 grams
275#                                                               150 grams

Here are some high protein foods that make it easy to get your protein!

Foods High in Protein
·         3 ounces cooked poultry or beef          27 grams
·         3 ounces tuna, salmon, other fish        21 grams
·         ½ cup Greek yogurt                               12 - 14 grams
·         ½ cup cottage cheese                            14 grams
·         ½ cup tofu                                               10 grams
·         ½ cup cooked beans                               9 grams
·         1 cup of milk or soy milk                        8 grams
·         1 ounce of cheese                                    8 grams
·         ¼ cup or 1 ounce of nuts                         7 grams
·         1 egg                                                          6 grams
·         1 cup cooked pasta                                  6 grams

Timing and protein quality count too! Dairy, eggs, lean meats, and soy foods are generally the protein sources best used by the body. Spreading that protein out throughout the day at each meal and snack can help you hang on to your muscle strength if you’re older. For athletes, getting 25 – 30 grams within 2 hours after a training session may help maintain and build muscle.

What about high protein drinks and protein bars? I like people to focus on foods first. But if you have a poor appetite or just can’t eat enough of these foods, high protein drinks may do the trick. But it doesn’t have to be Ensure or a protein drink – something like good old Carnation Instant Breakfast can work just as well. The bottom line is to read food labels to find high protein foods you like!

Beth Kitchin, PhD, RDN
Assistant Professor
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences

Follow me on Twitter: @DrBethK