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  • Writer's pictureMeghan Stock

My Ultimate Guide To Your Protein Needs


How much protein do you need? Spoiler alert - it's probably not as much as you think!

Various protein food sources

Protein is the cornerstone to a healthy diet, but how much you need depends on who you ask.  The only thing people seem to agree on is that it’s important.  Figuring out how much you need isn’t that hard, but you will need to do a bit of math, but nothing you can’t handle on your phone!   Read on to learn why you need it and why getting enough, but not too much, is important!


What is protein?

What are my protein needs?


 

What is protein?


Protein is a molecule made up of amino acids.  There are 20 amino acids out there, these are broken down into essential and non-essential.  Essential amino acids are ones that our bodies cannot make on their own. These are ones we must get from the foods we eat; there are 9 of them.  Amino acids are used by our bodies to repair and build up tissues such as muscle, so it’s important that our bodies have a good supply of amino acids on board at all times.

Protein-containing foods include meat (fish, chicken, beef, pork, eggs – anything from an animal), dairy products and some plant-based sources. Plant-based protein sources include legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils), soy, tempeh, nuts, and seeds.

Since each protein-containing food is made of up different combinations and amounts of amino acids, it’s imperative to eat a variety of proteins to make sure you’re getting enough different amino acids. 


What are my protein needs?


The amount of protein you need depends on a variety of factors. To do the calculations, you need to know your weight in kilograms (here comes the math):


Weight in pounds x 0.45 = weight in kilos


Most people who are moderately active will need between 0.8-1.0 g protein/kilo body weight per day. 

This is:

Weight in kilos x 0.8 = grams of protein per day OR

Weight in kilos x 1.0 = grams of protein per day


If you are very active (i.e. weight lifting or cardiovascular activity multiple times a week), and trying to build muscle, you can consider up to 1.2 g protein per day.


Weight in kilos x 1.2 = grams of protein per day


There seems to be a trend on social media recently that this math should be done based on pounds of body weight.  This results in protein needs over 2 times more! 


Too much protein puts a lot of stress on the kidneys, which can result in long term kidney damage.  It’s also difficult to eat that much food, and protein can replace carbohydrates in the diet, reducing the amount of energy and fibre you can eat in the day.  More is not necessarily better!  When doing the math to find out how much you need, take into consideration how much you actually need, it’s probably not as much as you think.


How do I get what I need?


Now that you’ve done your math, you have the number of grams to aim for in a day, you’re probably wondering, how to get it in? 


There is a slight complication to the math.  Our bodies can only absorb so much protein at once. This amount varies, but it’s approx. 30g at at time. That means you’ll need to spread your protein intake out over the day to make sure you’re absorbing all the protein you’re eating.  For example, if you are eating a large steak (100g/4oz), you’ll only be absorbing less than half of it, so you’re not getting what you think.


The easiest way to start figuring out how to eat protein is to have a source of protein at each meal and snack, as part of your balanced meal.  Including a protein food each time you eat will get you close to your needs. 


If you have 30g protein at lunch and supper and 10g at breakfast and 2 snacks a day, you’ll be getting 90g.  This would meet your needs if you weight 200 lbs (using 1.0 g/kg/d), or 168 lbs (using 1.2 g/kg/d/d).  30g protein is a piece of meat approx. the size of a deck of cards, or 1.5 cups of tofu. See, not that much!


Go through the exercise to see how much protein you actually need, then, pay attention to how much you're eating and let me know how close you are.


Have any questions on the math, or what your particular protein needs are?  Feel free to reach out for help.   

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