Getting enough protein in your diet is essential to good health. It helps to build strength and muscle, can keep you feeling full and aid in weight loss, helps the body recover from injury, and much more.
There’s every reason to be sure you’re getting enough protein — but how much protein is enough? And is there a risk of getting too much?
As a rule of thumb, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams per pound, which averages to about 46 grams of protein for sedentary women and 56 grams of protein for sedentary men.
However, like most components of diet, an individual’s needs will vary based on a number of factors, including body weight, age, muscle mass, activity level and current state of health. The RDA is the minimum amount of protein intake required to prevent deficiency.
People who exercise more will need more protein. The amount depends on the length, frequency and intensity of that exercise. If you’re someone who exercises — such as taking a spin class or lifting weights — a few times each week, an extra 20 grams of protein per day could go a long way to help the body recover and repair muscle.
The good news is — for most people — getting enough protein isn’t too difficult:
- A small 3-ounce piece of meat has about 21 grams of protein. A typical 8-ounce piece of meat could have over 50 grams of protein.
- One 8-ounce container of yogurt has about 11 grams of protein.
- One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein.
- One cup of dry beans has about 16 grams of protein.
Quinoa, legumes and nuts are great sources of plant-based protein for vegetarians and vegans. By making sure you have at least one or two protein-rich foods on your plate at each of your meals, you should be well on your way to reaching your ideal protein intake.
Some people turn to protein supplements — sold in forms of ready-to-drink shakes, bars, gels and powders — to increase their protein intake. But unless you are an elite endurance athlete or a bodybuilder, you probably don’t need protein supplements. If you are a healthy, active adult, you should be able to meet your protein needs with whole foods from your regular diet, and protein supplements are not likely necessary.
Although there is a risk of eating too much protein, this risk typically applies to those with kidney and liver disease. The risk that applies to most people is simply discarding other food groups, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, in favor of protein.
As with most things in life, balance is key.