It’s no secret that protein is an essential macronutrient with numerous health benefits for the human body. In addition to helping maintain proper water balance in the body, protein builds and repairs tissues, transports nutrients, and performs other essential functions.
While it is obvious that protein is necessary for good health, it is not always easy to determine the amount of nutrients needed.
“The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 g per kilogram of body weight,” nutritionist Amberly Malone of AdventHealth-Central Texas told Killeen.
According to Harvard Medical School, the RDA is the amount of a specific nutrient you need to meet your essential nutritional needs.
This means that the exact amount of protein needed for a healthy diet differs from person to person.
“To calculate this (amount), just take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2.2 to convert it to kilograms, and then multiply that number by 0.8 to get grams of protein per day,” Malone says.
Although the RDA is quickly calculated, it is important to note that this amount only shows the minimum needs of the body to prevent a deficiency.
“Your individual needs will depend on your age, health status, activity level and personal goals,” Malone said.
While adults need to watch their daily protein intake to prevent deficiencies and stay healthy, this action is usually not necessary with children.
“It’s usually not necessary to monitor how much protein your child is getting,” Malone said. “Most children can meet their protein needs simply by eating a healthy, normal diet. Include a protein food with every meal and your child will probably meet his needs.
Good sources of protein include meats, fish, eggs, beans, and lentils, dairy products, and dairy alternatives like soy milk, nuts, seeds, and high-protein grains like quinoa.
“For those looking for more plant-based options, some other options include tofu, tempeh, lentil pasta, edamame, and seitan,” Malone said. “While great for vegans and vegetarians, eating more plant-based foods benefits everyone.”
Even protein shakes can count towards your daily protein goal, but should be part of a healthy diet.
“Protein shakes can…be very helpful for people with high protein needs, like athletes,” Malone said. “But getting your protein from whole foods comes with added benefits of other nutrients that you probably won’t find in protein shakes.”
It is also important to monitor the nutritional information of your dietary supplements.
“Some protein shakes contain way too much protein for the average person,” she said. “They tend not to be very satisfying and don’t keep you full for very long. If you like protein shakes, include them in your diet. But don’t forget to also eat whole sources of protein and preferably make this your main source of protein.
This guideline is particularly important for people who work out.
“Those who exercise regularly will have increased protein requirements, especially for people with specific muscle-building goals,” Malone said. “It’s best to speak with a dietitian or other qualified professional to understand your personal protein needs.”
While high-protein, low-calorie diets can promote body breakdown — losing fat while maintaining muscle — a calorie deficit is necessary to simply lose weight.
“Eating too much protein can inhibit your weight loss efforts,” Malone said. “It’s best to speak with a dietitian or other qualified professional to develop a weight loss plan that’s right for you.”