Whether you’re a fitness competitor or somewhat deconditioned, you probably have wondered how much protein you really need on a daily basis. It’s a question at the top of many people’s minds. An athlete that places special demands on the body has increased requirements, as does a pregnant woman, and the population at large as we age.
It’s challenging to get the protein we need as it’s far more convenient to over-consume protein’s macronutrient counterparts — carbohydrates and fat — in our grab-and-go American culture. Go to any local restaurant buffet and try to find protein amongst the salads, pizza, bread, muffins and baked potatoes, and you’ll be like me, unabashedly fishing out the rare bits of chicken breast from the noodle soup tureen.
Protein is a unique macronutrient in that it builds and repairs the body — and so especially important for people with compromised immune systems — and protein the body doesn’t require, can be used as energy or fuel.
There are a few things to consider in making a good estimation about protein requirements including age, activity, and the number of calories consumed in any given day.
It’s now time to get out your calculator, or google an equation, like my high school daughter does. Or you can download an Excel file on your laptop and follow the simple instructions by clicking on this link: Toni’s Protein Calculator
We’ll walk through the math briefly so you understand the formula.
A person with an average activity level–which is most of the population–needs .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, which is about 25-30% of the total caloric intake.
First convert weight into kilograms. The equation looks like this:
Weight x .453592 = kilograms of body weight
185 LBS x .453592 = 83 kilograms
Then, 83 kilograms x .8 = 66.4
So now you know that a person of 185 pounds needs around 66 grams of protein per day. Because our body’s ability to absorb the macronutrient protein over time, we need incrementally more as we age. By the time we reach 65, an additional 50% above the RDA is required.
66 grams + 33 grams = 99 grams
Ideally, this person would be eating five small meals per day, so about 20 grams of protein with each meal which is roughly equivalent to half a chicken breast or a serving of Toni’s OatMEAL (forgive the plug)!
Earlier I had referred to the amount of calories a person consumes in a day, and it’s important to be aware the grams of protein required do not adjust downward. The amount of protein they need every day remains fairly static in spite of under eating. In this case, focus on the total grams, and not the approximate percentage of total calories.
This information is to be used a guideline, be sure to talk to your physician or nutritionist to ensure it is specific to you and takes your personal situation or medical conditions into account.
Stay healthy and strong!