The Protein Primer

3 mins read
Written by:
The BodySpec Team

Whether you are an athlete in training, a weekend warrior, or someone who's trying to lose a few pounds, you know that nutrition is crucial to your success. And these days, dietary advice always focuses on the importance of protein. But how much protein should you really be eating?

As with most nutrition questions, the answer is “it depends!” Your activity level and goals will determine how much protein you need to make the most out of your workouts.

If you’re not very active and just trying to maintain where you are currently:

For a healthy, average, sedentary adult, the government Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is 0.36g of protein per pound of bodyweight. For a 150 lb person this would be about 54g of protein per day. What does that look like in terms of real food?

Food ItemGrams of Protein
2 Eggs12g
6oz Greek yogurt18g
3oz chicken28g

As you can see, it's not hard for the average person to eat plenty of protein in a day. But what if you add in exercise? Your protein intake needs will vary depending on the frequency and intensity of your workouts.

If you’re working out moderately (an average of 3 times per week):

Around 0.8g protein per pound of body weight is sufficient to help your body recover and maximize muscle synthesis. For that same 150lb person, that equates to 120g of protein per day. In addition to the previous items, add on the following foods to reach this amount:

Food ItemGrams of Protein
3oz piece of salmon22g
1 cup cooked quinoa8g
½ cup black beans8g
2 tbsp peanut butter14g
1 cup soy milk8g
Running Total118g

If you’re in serious training and working out 5-6 times weekly at high intensity:

At this level, you may benefit from a higher amount of daily protein, around 1.4g per pound of body weight. To get to the higher end, say around 210g protein per day (1.4g/lb bodyweight for a 150lb person), you would need to add on the following to reach your target protein intake:

Food ItemGrams of Protein
2 cups of milk16g
1 oz almonds6g
2 slices whole wheat bread7g
Whey protein shake (2 scoops)60g
Running Total207g

Even at the highest level of protein intake, it’s not hard to reach your target if you eat a varied diet. Ideally, you should try to get your protein using whole foods first, but if needed, adding in any protein bars or shakes will help your intake shoot up very quickly.

What if I eat too much protein?

There are definitely drawbacks to eating too much protein!

  1. Excess protein WILL be stored as body fat, because it is extra calories that your body is not burning.

  2. Eating a lot of protein does not equate to packing on muscle mass – the only thing that will do that is proper training plus eating enough total calories.

  3. High amounts of protein in a diet often means that other vital foods like vegetables and fruit get replaced. If these are being ousted in favor of protein bars/shakes, that could be exactly why you aren’t seeing the results you are expecting.

Stay tuned for part two, in which we’ll discuss protein supplements!

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