How Much Protein Does Your Body Need?

How Much Protein Does Your Body Need?

How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day?

This is a popular question that often comes from people trying to bulk or maintain muscle mass, and even from people just looking to keep their bodies healthy. In general, if you are at a healthy weight and your exercise habits are minimal, your protein intake should sit somewhere in the range of 0.36–0.6 grams per pound (0.8–1.3 grams per kilogram).1 The lower end of this range is considered the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), or the amount needed to meet a person’s basic nutritional needs. For men, this is approximately 56-91 grams per day; for women, it’s about 46-75 grams per day.1 However, you can calculate a more accurate number for your individual needs.  

Despite the fact that we have some guidelines on how to determine your protein requirements, it really isn’t an exact science. Each individual should consult with a specialist to determine what is best for their body. 

Calculating Your Protein Needs

According to the recommendations above, the math behind this is quite simple. Let’s do a quick example to demonstrate how it’s done. Again, this is using the most basic protein recommendation. 

If you are 130 pounds, if this is a healthy weight for you, and if your exercise habits are minimal, you would want to multiply by the lower end of the range we mentioned above (0.36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight). 

130lbs x 0.36g = 46.8g 

This quick calculation shows that your protein consumption should amount to approximately 47 grams of protein per day.  

If you like, you can go a step further. Since protein has 4 calories per gram,2 you can multiply 47 by 4 to get the total number of calories you should consume from protein. 

47g x 4 = 188  

Now you know that 188 of your daily calories should come from protein. 

Who Needs More Protein Than the Recommended Daily Amount? 

Endurance Athletes

Endurance athletes need significantly more protein than sedentary individuals, about 0.5-0.65 grams per pound of bodyweight (1.21.4 grams per kilogram).1  

The calculation here would follow the same process, only you would replace 0.36 with a number within the new range. Of course, the more intense your endurance workouts are, the greater this number will be. Generally, a number within the range of 0.5 to 0.65 helps endurance athletes meet their protein requirements.

Let’s do a quick example using kilograms instead of pounds. 

If you took your weight in pounds, you would first need to divide your weight by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms. Let’s use 130 pounds again to demonstrate how this works: 

130 ÷ 2.2 = 59.09 

Next, multiply your weight in kilograms by a number within the new range. Keep in mind that this range changed too. It’s 0.5-0.65 grams of protein per pound, but 1.2-1.4 grams of protein per kilogram. Let’s use the lower end of the range which is 1.2. 

59.09 x 1.2 = 70.91 

This calculation shows that, if you are an endurance athlete, your minimum protein consumption should amount to approximately 71 grams of protein per day. 

Strength Training Athletes

Athletes looking to increase muscle mass are advised to consume at least 0.55 and up to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.21-2.0 grams per kilogram).3 Athletes who strength train regularly (and at an intense level) need just a little bit more. The recommendation is at least 0.68 and up to 0.91 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.5 to 2.0 grams per kilogram) every day.3  

Older Adults

Older adults have increased protein needs as well, about 0.45–0.6 grams per pound of bodyweight (1–1.3 grams per kilogram).1 According to our registered dietitian, the increased intake recommendation is partly to help maintain lean mass and partly to compensate for a slightly diminished ability to digest and absorb protein.2 Healthline explains that increasing protein can also help prevent osteoporosis in older adults.1  

People Recovering from Traumatic Injuries

People recovering from serious injuries may also need more protein. The assumption is that, because traumatic injury induces hypermetabolism, protein requirements increase.4 While more work needs to be done to develop accurate energy requirements, some suggest that about 0.68 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.5 grams per kilogram) is an appropriate amount.4 

Pregnant Women

A 2015 study found that the recommended protein intake for pregnant women is in fact lower than previously thought. Still, the overall amount is similar to the needs of a high performing endurance athlete! According to this study, these are the appropriate amounts of protein for the average pregnant woman: 

During Early Pregnancy – 0.55 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.22 grams per kilogram). 

During Late Pregnancy0.69 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.52 grams per kilogram). 

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Protein?  

The short answer is yes. According to a review from the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, the maximum safe protein intake is 1.14 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, or 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram.2  

Medical News Today identifies the following symptoms associated with too much protein: 

  • intestinal discomfort and indigestion 
  • dehydration 
  • unexplained exhaustion 
  • nausea 
  • irritability 
  • headache 
  • diarrhea 

How do you reach and manage your protein intake goals? Share your ideas in the comments below! To stay in-the-know on trending health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 

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

Sources  

  1. Gunnars, Kris. “Protein Intake – How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 5 July 2018, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-protein-per-day  
  2. James, Debbie. “Protein Percentages for Seniors: Q+A.” Living Healthy, 30 Jan. 2020, https://blog.lafitness.com/2017/07/18/protein-percentages-for-seniors-qa/ 
  3. Coleman, Erin. “How Much Protein Do You Need When Lifting Weights?” Healthfully, 24 Dec. 2019, https://healthfully.com/393951-how-much-protein-do-you-need-when-lifting-weights.html 
  4. Frankenfield, David. “Energy Expenditure and Protein Requirements after Traumatic Injury.” Nutrition in Clinical Practice : Official Publication of the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2006, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16998142  

Intermittent Fasting: Post-Workout Protein | QA

Intermittent Fasting: Post-Workout Protein | QA

Question:

I work out in the morning about 5am every day. I also participate in intermittent fasting. My question is about the intake of protein. They say after a workout within about 30min you’re supposed to intake the protein, but that would break my fast (I eat at 11:30am every day). Should I break my fast or just be sure to intake enough protein within the day? 

– Celeste C.

Answer:

Choosing between the benefits of intermittent fasting and refueling post workout depend on your primary goals. Losing weight would dictate adhering to your time schedule for eating, while gaining strength or lean mass would necessitate repleting muscle building blocks in a timely manner. Endurance exercise repletion generally involves carbohydrate recovery – though protein helps. Really, we may only be talking about 50-75 calories or so from approximately 15 grams protein! If you think that would damage your fasting impact, then skip it. But doing so will certainly mean resistance workouts won’t have the maximum intended outcome. 

– 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.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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The Fact and Fiction of Gluten-Free

The Fact and Fiction of Gluten-Free

What is Gluten? 

Gluten is a common term for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, malt, and brewer’s yeast.1 It is what helps maintain the shape and texture of foods made with these grains. The list looks simple enough, but we have not yet considered the various products made from these grains that are then used in various foods. This can make it difficult to really know which consumables contain gluten. 

For example, products like semolina, farina, spelt, farro, bulgar, emmer, and more, are all products made from wheat. If you see one on a food item’s ingredient list, you may not immediately know that it contains gluten.

What is the Problem with Consuming Gluten?

Consuming gluten typically isn’t a problem unless you have a sensitivity to or intolerance for it. People diagnosed with Celiac Disease experience the more serious side-effects because the intake of gluten actually causes damage to the small intestine. Not only does this hinder nutrient absorption, it can also result in symptoms like weight loss and diarrhea.2 For these reasons, malnutrition is a serious concern for individuals with this condition.  

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity essentially means that, even though a person tests negative for Celiac Disease and negative for a wheat allergy, they still experience some of the milder side-effects. Typically, this means they may experience some intestinal symptoms, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain if they consume gluten.2 

Busting the Myths About Gluten

Gluten-Free Diets Aid Weight LossMYTH 

How surprised would you be to learn that the opposite can actually be true? Gluten-free foods can contribute to weight gain because food manufacturers will often add fat and sugar to help recreate the qualities that gluten gives to food.3 In fact, there is no evidence that supports the idea that gluten-free foods can help someone lose weight.3   

The reason gluten-free diets are perceived as beneficial for weight loss probably comes from the fact that going “gluten free” can simply mean sticking to unprocessed foods. For example, avoiding glutinous foods (like cake, pasta, etc.) can mean a lower daily calorie count which is potentially what helps gluten free dieters lose weight. 

Gluten-Free Labels Mean Zero Gluten Content – MYTH 

Research has determined that there is a safe threshold in terms of gluten consumption. So, if a food is labeled as “gluten free,” what that really means is that it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.4 Okay, but what does that even mean? We rarely quantify things this way. Parts per million refers to how much gluten there is in relation to all the other ingredients. This is not a fixed number. Some foods have a little more and some have a little less.  

Each low-gluten food item adds to your overall daily intake. This means that if you consume too many “gluten-free” foods, you can accidentally consume more than the safe amount. Individuals with Celiac Disease are advised to consume no more than 10-50 milligrams per day.4  

Gluten-Free Diets are Easy to Follow – MYTH 

Following a gluten-free diet is actually pretty tough to adhere to, and if you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating (or if you stick to the same foods every single day), you may put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Not to mention that gluten-free foods typically aren’t enriched with the nutrients you’re already missing by avoiding gluten-containing foods.3 

According to an article by the Gluten Intolerance Group, some of the most common nutrients that are difficult to obtain on a gluten-free diet include: 

  • Thiamin 
  • Riboflavin 
  • Niacin 
  • Folate 
  • Iron 
  • Calcium 
  • Vitamin D 
  • Magnesium 
  • Fiber 
  • Zinc 

Which Foods You Should Avoid

If you need to go gluten-free, Healthline explains that the easiest way to avoid gluten is to eat unprocessed, single-ingredient foods. This means you should avoid foods like bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, muffins, pizza, crackers, and certain beverages like beer. You should also avoid foods made or topped with soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, certain broths or marinades, and even some salad dressings.1  

If you are going to consume grains, you are encouraged to stick to foods like quinoa, rice, buckwheat, tapioca, corn, and gluten-free oats.1 To be extra-safe, check the packaging for a “gluten-free” label on these items because many foods that are naturally gluten-free (like oats) may still be contaminated with gluten because they are processed or packaged in the same facility as gluten-containing products.  

The lists go on for both the do’s and don’ts of gluten-friendly dieting, so be sure to check with a reputable source for a more complete list of foods. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for gluten-free dieters? Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 

Sources  

  1. Raman, Ryan. “The Gluten-Free Diet: A Beginner’s Guide With Meal Plan.” Healthline, 12 Dec. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-free-diet.  
  2. Kubala, Jillian. “Is Gluten Bad for You? A Critical Look.” Healthline, 6 Mar. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-gluten-bad#who-benefits  
  3. Fontenot, Beth. “Gluten: Fact and Fiction.” The Doctor Will See You Now, 28 Dec. 2011, http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/nutrition/art3542.html  
  4. Spector Cohen, Inna, et al. “Gluten in Celiac Disease-More or Less?” Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 2019, https://www.rmmj.org.il/issues/40/articles/897  

Mid-Workout Snacks to Boost Your Energy | QA

Mid-Workout Snacks to Boost Your Energy | QA

Question:

I am a 59-year-old male who is still playing competitive soccer. – 2 x 45 minute halves each game. Any suggestions for a halftime snack to boost my 2nd half energy level?

– Joe B.

Answer:

Bravo for keeping up your game! Many athletes experience a decline in energy level toward the end of a match, especially those lasting nearly 2 hours. Hopefully you are consuming a balanced meal a couple of hours prior, then a sports drink 5 to 10 minutes before kickoff. A halftime snack helps to postpone fatigue, stabilize blood sugar and keep up the pace during the second half.  

Items with significant fat, fiber or protein — which slow digestion and thus blood glucose replenishment – should be avoided at this time. For that reason, even a flavored yogurt cup or granola bar may not be suitable. 

A halftime snack should be comprised of carbohydrates, fluids and electrolytes. Examples include: watermelon slices, orange wedges, grapes, applesauce packet, half fruit bar + water, coconut water, and a sports hydration drink. Carbohydrate gels are another (more expensive) option.  

Sources: 

  1. Dirks, A. (2019, March 14) Nutrition for Soccer Players: What to Eat When. https://www.soccertoday.com/nutrition-for-soccer-players-the-right-time-to-fuel-up/ Accessed 1.10.2020 
  2. FIFA (2010, January) Nutrition for Football: A Practical Guide to Eating and Drinking for Health and Performance. https://resources.fifa.com/image/upload/practical-guide-eating-and-drinking-515515.pdf?cloudid=ukbqfkkxw2o8s1gyjria Accessed 1.11.2020 

– 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.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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What to Do When You’re Eating for Two | QA

What to Do When You’re Eating for Two | QA

Question:

My husband and I are thinking about having a baby, what is a good nutrition guide to follow when pregnant?

-Misty

Answer:

How wonderful! Why not follow a smart pre-conception diet now? Laying down a good nutritional foundation means that you’ll not only increase the likelihood of conceiving but also of a healthy first trimester – for you as well as the baby. Get hubby on board, too. 😊 

Many “conception diets” recommend that half your plate be from fruits and vegetables, a quarter from whole grains and a quarter lean protein, which agrees with USDA’s Choose MyPlate guidelines. If you’re trying to get pregnant, drinking reduced or whole fat milk is correlated with normal fertility, but not 1% or skim (non-fat). Consume healthy plant-based fats like avocado, nuts, olives and coconut oil in moderation. Limit refined sugar, red meat and foods containing trans-fat. 

As many women don’t know they are carrying a baby until several weeks into pregnancy, taking a prenatal vitamin with 100% RDI of folic acid (400 µg folate equivalent) and iron (18 mg) is advisable. Many produce items (notably spinach, asparagus, Brussel sprouts) have the B-vitamin folate, necessary for early neural tube development. Dietary sources of the important blood mineral iron include meat, fortified cereals, beans, and dark green leafy vegetables. 

During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, follow your obstetrician’s advice and that from established and trusted institutions such as The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), and The US Office on Women’s Health (OWH). 

You’ll need extra fluids, nutrients and calories as your pregnancy progresses. In the first trimester, folate and other vitamins and minerals are crucial for proper neural tube development, so a good prenatal vitamin is key. Strictly avoid alcohol during this time.  

The second trimester is when you start to expand blood volume and increase maternal stores while your baby grows rapidly from the size of a nut (3”, 1 oz.) to a football (12”, 1 lb.) while developing all of its organs and features. About 2 additional cups of fluids are needed per day. Adding around 300 extra calories from healthy foods with adequate calcium and iron will support this growth.  

In the last trimester, your baby is filling out to full-term weight. This is when you are truly “eating for two, ” although in terms of energy, you really only need an additional 200 calories on top of your 2nd trimester needs. 

Sources: 

  1. Eagleson, H. (n.d.) The Fertility Diet: What to Eat When Trying to Get Pregnant. https://www.parents.com/getting-pregnant/fertility/what-to-eat-to-get-pregnant/ Accessed 1.10.2020 
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff (2018, April 13) Prenatal Vitamins: Why They Matter; How to Choose https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-vitamins/art-20046945 Accessed 1.10.2020 

– 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.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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