Question:

I’m a vegetarian and concerned that I may not be getting enough protein in my diet (now getting around 50 grams a day). I lift weights and do cardio 6 days a week but feel I’ve stalled and am not making new progress. Can you please confirm how much protein I need a day and provide suggestions on how to achieve that goal?

– Sara M.

Answer:

Your question centers around a popular subject on Living Healthy!

  1. Can I replace chicken, seafood or turkey with tofu to get my protein? (2015)
  2. What are vegetarian things I can eat that contain a lot of protein? (2014)
  3. 5 Foods with the Most Protein (2014)
  4. Is Protein an Issue for Vegans? (2013)
  5. What are vegetarian things I can eat that contain a lot of protein? (2013)
  6. The Benefits and Basics of Going Vegetarian (2013)

How much protein you need depends on your age and weight, as well as your overall caloric intake. In general, people’s base requirements are 0.8 gm protein per kilogram body weight and at least 1.0 gm/kg if over the age of 65. To gain lean mass, the need increases to 1.2-1.6 gm/kg for resistance training. With an energy-balanced diet, protein should provide about 15% of calories. But for those that are restricting calories, a greater proportion of energy should come from protein, about 20-30%.

To reach 60-70 grams of protein, I’d suggest the following daily servings – 2 servings of beans, 4 servings of vegetables, 1-2 servings of dairy if lacto-vegetarian, 6-8 servings of grains, 1 egg if ovo-vegetarian, and any remaining energy from fruit and fat (not protein sources). If whole foods are an obstacle for whatever reason, you can always supplement with a protein powder as a last resort. Most vegetarian plant-based ones provide at least 10 grams protein per 20 grams powder.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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