Updated: Oct 2
If you work out on a regular basis, chances are that you have a goal to obtain more muscle definition. This isn’t easy to achieve if you’re not eating enough protein, which is a macronutrient that supports muscle growth and provides structure to your cells and tissues. Everyone has different protein needs, and making sure you’re getting enough in your diet requires some careful planning.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight. Although this is a good place to start, it’s really the bare minimum amount of protein you need to support basic life needs. If you’re sedentary, 0.8 grams per kilogram body weight might be enough – but the truth is that many of us incorporate some sort of exercise or movement into our days, which increases the amount of protein our bodies require.
For those who workout on a regular basis, 1.0-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram body weight is a reasonable goal to strive for. Extreme athletes need even more. It’s also important to consider the percentage of calories that you consume from protein. In general, if you’re active you should aim to consume 15-25% of your daily calories from protein.
Here’s an overview of recommended protein needs:
Minimum Need: 0.8 g / kg body weight
Physically active and/or goal to change body composition: 1.0-1.5 g / kg body weight
Extreme athlete (training most days of the week): 2.0 g /kg body weight
Example protein calculation: A 150 pound female who is physically active 7 days/week, engages in vigorous workouts 5 days/week, and aims to consume 2500 calories each day needs approximately 102-125 grams of protein.
20% of 2500 calories = 500 calories / 4 (calories/gram) = 125 grams
150 lb / 2.2 (kg/lb) = 68.18 kg x 1.5 grams= 102 grams
Now the question is how to obtain the recommended amount of protein in your diet. It’s important to mention that our bodies can’t absorb more than 20-30 grams of protein in one sitting, so trying to obtain all the protein you need in one shake or bar isn’t going to cut it. Instead, you need to plan your meals and snacks appropriately. For most people, it’s necessary to eat 3 meals per day that contain up to 30 g protein, and 1-2 snacks that provide up to 20 g protein in order to meet recommended protein needs.
All of these recommendations are a great place to start as far as protein intake. However, protein needs are highly individualized and it’s important to work with a nutrition professional to nail down your exact requirements.
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