Over the last ten years, high-protein diets have become a prominent trend in the health and fitness world. People are eating less carbs and more protein to aid with both weight loss and body building. But before you throw the bread out the door, it’s important to understand what protein is and how much you actually need.
What is protein?
Proteins are nutrients made up of small building blocks called amino acids. These amino acids are broken down and then made into new proteins your body needs to grow, repair, and function.
Our bodies are able to produce some of these amino acids, but there are nine, called essential amino acids, that we must obtain from the food we eat.
While protein comes from a variety of sources, it’s important to understand that not all proteins are the same. In general, there are two kinds:
- Compete proteins- Found in animal sources like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, these proteins provide your body with all the essential amino acids
- Incomplete proteins- Found in plant sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains, these proteins lack one or more essential amino acids.
If you’re a vegetarian, or eat a more plant-based diet, don’t fret! Combining complementary plant-based proteins, like rice and beans, can provide your body with the same benefits as a complete protein.
How much protein do I need?
Because our body does not store protein for future use like it does with carbohydrates and fat, constant protein intake is important. But how much is enough?
In the United States, the recommended daily allowance of protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight. On average, this is:
- 46 grams per day on average for women
- 56 grams per day on average for men
However, while this is a recommendation for an average adult, exactly how much protein you need depends on a variety of factors, including age, sex, health and physical activity. To calculate a more precise amount, use this calculator from the USDA.
Overall, it’s important to remember that while consuming protein is important to keep your body functioning, too much protein can be detrimental to your health. For a healthy diet and lifestyle, make sure to eat a balanced combination of proteins, carbs, and fats.