Every day we need to restart our protein intake--but the question is how much do you need each day? The exact number of grams depends on a handful of personal factors including your gender, age, activity level, health status, etc. That means that the amount of protein you might need today probably will not be the same when you are 10 years older or when your activity level changes.
Because of this, it is helpful to re-evaluate your protein intake on an ongoing basis. According to the USDA & Institute of Medicine, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). So if you weigh 160 lbs, (multiply 160 by 0.36) then you need about (57.6) 58 grams of protein per day.
What many people don't realize is that this is just the minimum amount needed to prevent nutritional deficiencies. (****Also important to note, the DRI for protein is intended for healthy/normal weights, rather than those who are overweight or obese.)
Nonetheless, emerging research is proposing that amounts above 0.8 g/kg may be required for various reasons including optimal health (especially for the elderly), for successful weight loss/weight management and muscle gaining efforts.
Reasons for Increased Protein Intake
- For weight loss or weight management (helps to sustain muscle mass while weight loss is achieved and helps to induce satiety)
- For proper nourishment during pregnancy and lactation
- To help gain muscle mass, when coupled with appropriate strength training
- To prevent age-related loss of muscle (sarcopenia)
- For proper wound healing or preventing muscle loss during hypermetabolic conditions (e.g. severe burns, physical trauma, post-invasive surgery, certain advanced cancers, end-stage kidney disease or other critical illness)
Reasons for Decreased Protein Intake
- Decreased physical activity (i.e. not working out as much as you previously were)
- Chronic kidney disease (except for 'end stage')- when the kidneys are impaired, the body cannot properly metabolize dietary protein
- Liver disease - same as kidney disease; to reduce the workload on the liver during protein metabolism
In reality, the exact amount of protein you need can only be determined by high-tech lab testing. But since that is highly inconvenient and very costly, scientists have come up with several mathematical formulas to help us get an educated estimate of what our individual bodies may need each day.
It is important to keep in mind that an estimate will always just be that--an estimate, but the more factors it incorporates the more likely it will be a better estimate. Going slightly over your estimated need will not cause adverse effects in healthy individuals. So long as you are consuming sufficient water, the body will generally eliminate what it does not use.
Find your estimated amount of protein needed each day here.
***If you are overweight, your protein needs should be calculated using what your ideal/healthy weight should be. Your health care provider or Registered Dietitian can help you determine what this weight should be.