PROTEIN INTAKE, HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU TAKE PER DAY?


Protein - What Is It and Why Do We Care?

Proteins are the main building blocks of the body.

They're used to make muscles, tendons, organs and skin.

Proteins are also used to make enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve important functions.

Without protein, life as we know it would not be possible.

Proteins are made out of smaller molecules called amino acids, which are linked together like beads on a string. The linked amino acids form long protein chains, which are then folded into complex shapes.

Some of these amino acids can be produced by the body, while we must get others from the diet. The ones we can not produce and must get from our foods are called the "essential" amino acids.

Protein is not just about quantity. It's also about quality.

Generally speaking, animal protein provides all the essential amino acids in the right ratio for us to make full use of them (only makes sense, since animal tissues are similar to our own tissues).

If you're eating animal products (like meat, fish, eggs, or dairy) every day, then you're probably already doing pretty well, protein-wise.

If you don't eat animal foods, then it is a bit more challenging to get all the protein and essential amino acids that your body needs (good article on this here).

Most people don't really need protein supplements, but they can be useful for athletes and bodybuilders.

Protein Can Help You Lose Weight

Protein is incredibly important when it comes to losing weight.

As we know... in order to lose weight, we need to take in fewer calories than we burn.

Eating protein can help with that, by boosting your metabolic rate (calories out) and reducing your appetite (calories in). This is well supported by science. Protein at around 25-30% of calories has been shown to boost metabolism by up to 80 to 100 calories per day, compared to lower protein diets. In a study in obese men, protein at 25% of calories increased feelings of fullness, reduced the desire for late-night snacking by half and reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60%.

In another study, women who increased protein intake to 30% of calories ended up eating 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks, just by adding more protein to their diet. 

More Protein Can Help You Gain Muscle and Strength

Muscles are made largely of protein.

As with most tissues in the body, muscles are dynamic and are constantly being broken down and rebuilt.

To gain muscle, the body must be synthesizing more muscle protein than it is breaking down.

In other words, there needs to be a net positive protein balance (often called nitrogen balance, because protein is high in nitrogen) in the body.

For this reason, people who want a lot of muscle will need to eat a greater amount of protein (and lift heavy things, of course). It is well documented that a higher protein intake helps build muscle and strength.

Also, people who want to hold on to muscle that they've already built may need to increase their protein intake when losing body fat, because a high protein intake can help prevent the muscle loss that usually occurs when dieting.

When it comes to muscle mass, the studies are usually not looking at percentage of calories, but daily grams of protein per unit of body weight (kilograms or pounds).

A common recommendation for gaining muscle is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, or 2.2 grams of protein per kg.

Numerous studies have tried to determine the optimal amount of protein for muscle gain and many of them have reached different conclusions.

Does Protein Have any Negative Health Effects?

Protein has been unfairly blamed for a number of health problems.

It has been said that a high protein diet can cause kidney damage and osteoporosis.

However, none of this is supported by science.

Although protein restriction is helpful for people with pre-existing kidney problems, protein has never been shown to cause kidney damage in healthy people.

In fact, a higher protein intake has been shown to lower blood pressure and help fight diabetes, which are two of the main risk factors for kidney disease.

If protein really does have some detrimental effect on kidney function (which has never been proven), it is outweighed by the positive effects on these risk factors.

Protein has also been blamed for osteoporosis, which is strange because the studies actually show that protein can help prevent osteoporosis. 

Overall, there is no evidence that a reasonably high protein intake has any adverse effects in healthy people trying to stay healthy.

How to Get Enough Protein in Your Diet

The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs and dairy products. They have all the essential amino acids that your body needs.

There are also some plants that are fairly high in protein, like quinoa, legumes and nuts.

What About The Average Person?

If you're at a healthy weight, you don't lift weights and you don't exercise much, then aiming for 0.36 to 0.6 grams per pound (or 0.8 to 1.3 gram per kg) is a reasonable estimate.

This amounts to:

56-91 grams per day for the average male.
46-75 grams per day for the average female.
But given that there is no evidence of harm and significant evidence of benefit, I think it is better for most people to err on the side of more protein rather than less.


Photo credit & source : healthline 

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