How much protein do I need?

How much protein do I need?

on Thursday, 12 October 2017. posted in fitness, nutrition

How much protein is needed for the general person? And how much is optimal for an athlete or the active person?

Here are the Australian Adult (aged 19-70) recommended daily intakes (RDI):

Men: .85g – 1.07g of protein per Kg

Women: .75g - .95g of protein per Kg

Pregnant or breast feeding  1 g of protein per Kg

For example: a 65 kg general adult’s protein needs would be roughly 65 g of protein a day.

{Reference & for more info-Australian Nutrient Reference Values}

These numbers are enough for the average individual, but here I will talk about how much protein is the optimal amount for athletes or the active or muscular person. Some nutritionists say that protein is generally over consumed, and some suggest eating more of it. I think it depends on the individual and their lifestyle goals.

In my opinion a balanced diet is the key, not eating too much protein but also not ignoring it. I think optimal nutrition is in-between the middle of extremes. To read more on the importance of carbs and protein click here.

For athletes or active people who perform resistance training, protein helps to enhance strength and gain lean muscle.  Protein is also a great tool for weight loss, as it may protect your lean muscle mass during weight loss. The key to weight loss is losing unwanted fat but keeping your active lean muscle, as active lean muscle helps to keep your metabolism high.

So how much for the active/athletes?

Research suggests that increased strength and lean muscle gain can be obtained from the RDI (listed above) up to much larger amounts. But there is no need to go consuming lots of chicken breasts and be sipping on protein shakes all day! In most cases there seems to be very little evidence that any more than 2 g per Kg per day is going to be more beneficial. 1.5-2g per kg per day is the most you should need for best lean muscle results. So an active 70 kg person could consume up to 140 g of protein per day to achieve the best effects of protein in the diet.

Is eating a little more than this harmful?

A little more is probably not harmful for the healthy athlete, some muscle builders eat about 2.5 g of protein per kg for the sake of hard earned muscle, as they are aiming for muscle bulk and appearance rather than performance. But for most athletes and active people I would recommend 1-2g of protein per kg and consume the rest of your energy in carbs and some healthy fats to achieve a balanced diet, their best physical and mental performance and so that their training intensity can be maintained. Eating extremely high protein (e.g., 4-5g/kg or more) could be harmful to the body. Very high protein diets promote low carb diets, and these will usually have inadequate fibre and nutrient intakes. When eating extremely high protein diets you are entering the fad diet territory and we all know fad diets aren’t maintainable long term and damage our relationship with food. Eating extremely high protein and low carbs may also interfere with training effectively and to the best of your ability. Balance is key.

Remember as tempting as it is to be an extremist and think ‘the more the better,' carbohydrates and fats are equally important in a healthy diet and for your best functioning body. 

What are some good sources of protein?

Fish (white, salmon, etc), legumes (chickpeas, lentils, beans etc), seafood, lean cuts of meats (chicken/turkey breast, lean red meats), eggs, dairy products (low or high fat), tempe or tofu, whey or pea protein powders 

This is a great infographic on protein consumption for athletes

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