Protein: How Much You Need And How to Get It
While all calories provide us with energy, protein packs a powerful punch - providing us with the satiety to help hold us over until our next meal. In fact, one small study found a protein rich breakfast may help stave off hunger pains and cravings longer than one packed with carbohydrates alone. This is why many dietitians encourage clients to enjoy walnuts or yogurt on their oatmeal instead of brown sugar and dried fruit and the same would go for a hearty meat or soy protein based pasta sauce in place of a tomato sauce alone.
What IS protein?
Did you know protein is found in our muscles, hair, nails, and skin? This is because the protein and amino acids they are composed of are needed for continuous building and repairing of the tissues in our body. It is also interesting to note that our body is not able to store protein for later use. The excess calories are converted to fat instead. Merely one of many reasons we must include protein-rich foods in our diet each and every day.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients our body needs to stay healthy. The other two are carbohydrates and fats. Our bodies use protein to build muscle, strengthen our immune system and to help provide our body with the fuel it needs to maintain our energy levels. Because they take longer to digest and thus provide us with a more sustained release of energy, protein-rich foods (meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, beans, seeds) help us feel more satisfied than carbohydrates alone.
How much protein do I need?
The recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.4 grams protein per pound of body weight. This is 60 grams of protein per day if you weigh 150 pounds. Perhaps an easier way to view the calculation is to divide your weight in pounds in half and subtract 10. Most of us fall somewhere within the range of 45-60 grams per day. I recommend 10 and 15 grams per meal.
Rather than tallying up grams of protein, it is easier for some people prefer to consider the actual ounces of protein foods served. The average adult only needs about 6 oz of meat or protein equivalent daily. We only need 1-2 ounces of protein at each meal, leaving room for one or two protein-rich snacks.