How much protein should I be eating?     How much protein should I be eating? This is a very common question that I’m asked by my clients as it relates to both weight loss and exercise.

There are many different opinions on how much protein we actually need.  Of the three macronutrients: Fat, Protein(PRO) and Carbohydrates (CHO), it was typically recommended to consume 30% or less Fat, 45-50% CHO and 25% PRO . But then along came the Atkins diet and the low carbs fad or worse yet, NO carbs, and the need for increased protein consumption moved to the forefront.  Typically, these types of diets produced quick weight loss but failed to sustain it.

In the fitness world, increased protein was always the staple for building muscle and supporting your workouts. More protein powder shakes please!

But what if I’m just trying to lose weight? How much protein should I consume? This is a very valid question. Just as anything that’s eaten in greater quantity than the body uses or burns off  gets stored as fat, so does protein. Too much protein on board goes into the storage tank, i.e., usually the abdominal midsection, for later use.

The DRI (Dietary Recommended Intake) is .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or .360g per pound. This amounts to 56g/day for the average sedentary male and 46g/day for the average sedentary female.

But we also know that activity levels,  age, muscle mass and physical goals determine the “right” amount of protein for any one person. So after taking into consideration the on-going aging process and how it impacts muscle mass (gradual reduction) and our personal goals, such as weight loss, a protein intake of 30% of calories seems to be optimal.  A quick formula to determine 30% of calories is to multiply your calorie intake by .075.

With regards to weight loss, protein boosts the metabolic rate and curbs the appetite by increased feelings of fullness. This results in greater control over late-night snacking and an overall decreased intake of daily calorie consumption.

With regards to the fitness room, if you are trying to build muscle and practice a twice-weekly, strength training regimen using heavy weights, the formula used is 1g of protein per pound of body weight using your ideal weight.

But there are other reasons that affect one’s need for protein intake. For example,  significant problems with the elderly are osteoporosis and sarcopenia (reduction in muscle mass). We are all aging. Staying physically active, including some strength training, and eating enough protein, can help you gain muscle and strength so that by the time you reach the “elderly” category, you are reasonably well equipped to keep up with the grand kids and maintain an independent quality of life. In this circumstance a protein intake of .5-.6g per pound of lean body mass (your ideal weight) should be enough to maintain current muscle mass and support an active lifestyle.

Here are your best sources of quality protein: lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products, (cottage cheese, yogurt, milk) quinoa, legumes and nuts, nut butters (peanut and almond) and edamame. Aim to include some combination of these foods on a daily basis using the 30% of calories guideline, and you should be satisfying your protein requirements.

Eat Well and Be Fit.

Jackie Tate M.S, C.F.T.             9-12-16


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