Don’t count calories. Instead look at what’s really on your plate. Protein is an essential nutrient that everyone is always talking about.
Before we talk about what’s enough (and what’s too much), let’s talk about what protein is and WHY you need it. Scientifically speaking, protein is in every single cell in your body and is made up of a chain of amino acids — think of amino acids as the building blocks of protein. Your body needs protein to repair cells, build and maintain muscle, and carry oxygen throughout the body. This one of the three fuel sources your body needs to function (carbs and fats are the other two).
Complete vs Incomplete
A majority of animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are a complete source. Complete proteins are made of all nine of the essential amino acids (those building blocks) that our bodies can’t make on their own. (There are twenty total amino acids, but our body can produce eleven of them)
Another source is incomplete proteins such as: legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and even some vegetables. These can be a great source of protein too but they don’t contain those nine essential amino acids. So vegetarians or vegans need to have more of a variety of those plant-based proteins so they still get all nine essential amino acids.
When looking at those complete or incomplete proteins learn more about other nutrients your food give you too! Check out the FDA’s interactive nutrition facts label.
So how much do I need?
Well it all depends on your age, lifestyle, and activity level. In general, to prevent a deficiency, the average sedentary adult needs 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Ex. A 170lb sedentary adult needs about 61 – 62 grams of protein a day (170lbs / 2.2 = 77.3 kilograms x 0.80 = 61.84).
If you exercise regularly, are generally an active person, or have performance or weight loss goals you will need more! Keep in mind that equation is to just prevent a deficiency, we want you thriving 😉
Signs you need more protein:
- Low energy or brain fog
- Hindered weight loss or weight gain
- Increased cravings for sugar
- Brittle hair and nails
- Muscle weakness or joint pain
- Increased illness or longer periods of illness
- Mood changes
Need to work more protein into your day?
The biggest tip is to think about spreading your protein throughout the day. Make sure each meal and snack has some source of protein and try to split our total need evenly across your major meals.
For example, if your goal is 100 grams of protein a day. Split that and work on 30 grams at breakfast, 30 grams at lunch, and 30 grams at dinner. Oh and that remaining 10 grams can be in your snacks throughout the day. Having a variety can help too! Try adding some nut butter or a Greek yogurt to fruit for snack. Adding a little more protein to each meal can help get you there. Having eggs for breakfast — add in some extra egg whites. Making a sandwich for lunch — double the meat. It does all add up!
Can I take it too far?
You can! Your body can only process so much protein and what it doesn’t need or use is like consuming extra calories. Sure they are coming from a good source, but excess is excess (and your body tends to store excess anything as fat). It also creates more acid and toxins in your body that the kidneys have to filter out.
For most adults, excess protein is not an issue. If you are following a specifically high protein diet or are consuming protein via supplements and powders — you might want to track your intake for a few days. Consuming more protein than your body weight (in pounds) has shown to really not have much benefit for you.
We can help ensure your body gets the right amount of protein. Schedule a complimentary consult to get started.