Eating the right amount & type of protein in your diet is essential for good health.  As you walk through the stores, you’ll see protein shakes, protein bars, protein snacks, protein powders, and a host of other protein rich products!  Some are promoted for maintaining good health, while others are promoted for exercise & fitness, still others are promoted for dieting and weight loss.  So how much protein do you need?  Protein intake should be individualized based on the persons age, activity level, health status, and other factors.

Protein is used in your body for maintaining and building body tissue & muscle mass, immune system function, enzyme function, hormone production, and energy production. 10-35% of an individual’s daily calorie intake should be from proteins.

The average adult American man weighs 89 kg (196 pounds) and the average adult American woman weighs 76 kg (168 pounds).  The recommended daily allowance of protein for a 196 pound adult sedentary man who does not exercise is 71 g of protein & 168 pound adult sedentary woman is 61 g protein (0.8 g of protein/kilogram of body weight/day).  If an individual exercises regularly (such as running/aerobics/light–moderate work), protein intake can increase to 1.2 g of protein/kilogram of body weight/day.  That means a 196 pound man may need 106 g of protein per day & 168 pound woman may need 91 g of protein per day.  If an individual performs heavy exercise regularly (such as weight lifting and heavy work), protein intake may need to increase even more!

Most people should be able to obtain their daily protein requirements through a healthy, balanced diet.  Foods that are rich in protein include meats, eggs, milk and dairy products, vegetables, and nuts.  Many vegetables are high in protein (especially beans/peas/soy/corn/broccoli/etc.) allowing vegetarians & vegans to attain their daily protein allowance through a healthy diet.

Protein supplements utilize protein-rich additives to help concentrate protein in their product. Whey protein and Casein protein are derived from milk and dairy products.  Soy protein and Pea protein provide lactose-free and vegetarian/vegan options.  The best protein supplements are “complete” with all nine essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids (BCAA).

Protein supplements are not intended to replace a healthy, balanced diet.  Before initiating a protein diet or protein supplement, always discuss with your medical provider or registered dietitian.

Donald Fillman, MD