The question is typically raised as to how much and how often one should consume protein. The truth is, there are tons of articles and guidelines that differ on the internet and some people you meet in the gym will swear by certain amounts. Additionally, your long terms goals should be taken into account with the maintenance and/or growth of skeletal muscle tissue to be a top priority. Why is protein so important? This nutrient is critical to our very existence as it’s comprised of the ‘building blocks’ of our human vessel. With all the information on the world wide web about all things related to protein intake requirements, plus the word of mouth testimonials from fellow gym members, who do you listen to? First, you need to know a bit about protein and why it’s important to us. Confused still? No worries; below is a complete guide to protein intake for both men and women.
What is Protein and Where Can You Find a Complete Guide on Intake Recommendations?
Right here. As mentioned before, protein provides us with the very foundation, the ‘building blocks’ needed to make us, well, us. These ‘building blocks’ are called amino acids and they are bonded together, almost like an unclasped, beaded necklace. These amino acids when linked, form long chains of protein which then fold into different shapes. There are some amino acids which can be produced by the body and others which cannot; these are called essential amino acids and they must be obtained from food sources. How is a person to know where to start, you ask? Protein intake requirements are based on many factors and the guidelines for men and women to follow based on specific exercise and activity levels, can be found below. Read on!
The Complete Guide on Protein Intake
Men and women have differing nutrient needs and for most cases, men will need more protein than women, nevertheless a healthy diet no matter your age or gender, should be comprised of, among other essential nutrients, protein. High quality protein, for that matter, consumed throughout the day with each meal, if possible. Protein is crucial when maintaining and building skeletal muscle which contributes to physical strength, performance and macronutrient storage and use in the body. The current protein intake guidelines are set at an amount that prevents net nitrogen loss (nitrogen is a fundamental constituent of amino acids) however, this doesn’t always take into consideration the people with more active lifestyles. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) according to the US Food and Nutrition Board (1980), of protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. With that said, follow along ahead and see where you fit into the “equation” of optimum protein intake.
There are varying amounts of protein that women need to consume depending on fitness levels and goals. Many women fear that any protein will cause large muscle mass, but really the only way to reach this look is to exercise in a way that produces this effect. In order to build muscle, the body needs to produce more than it breaks down, a net positive protein balance. This is an important point to note, as muscles are in a constant cycle of ‘break-down and repair’. In order to determine protein intake requirements, read further to find out which category you fall into.
Sedentary and Very Little Physical Activity
For basic health needs to be met, women should, at least, consume 0.36 g of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you are a sedentary woman and weigh 100 pounds, you will need to take in about 36 grams of quality protein daily (0.36 g x 100 lbs). This should be a very easy level for most women to meet. Lean protein is always a good option, when aiming to meet protein requirements especially when ensuring that you get all eight essential amino acids. Lean protein would consist of (for example):
- Skinless chicken (3 oz ≈ 28 g of protein)
- Tuna (3 oz ≈ 22 g of protein)
- Greek yogurt (3 oz ≈ 9 g of protein)
- Nuts (1 oz ≈ 7g of protein)
- 1 egg ( ≈ 7 g of protein)
Plant protein isn’t always a complete source, however a combination of several different kinds of plant proteins (such as quinoa, buckwheat, beans, lentils,
chia and hemp seeds for example) can help you get those EAAs!
Women who are more active should look to consume more protein than those who are not active. For generally active women, a range of 0.6-0.7 grams of protein per pound of weight (weight x 0.6 or 0.7) will be sufficient to meet daily needs. This means, for example, that a woman who weighs 100 pounds and engages in an active lifestyle would need about 60 to 70 g of protein per day (0.6 g x 100 lbs). For a typically active woman, one who partakes in a non-sedentary lifestyle but doesn’t weight train, it is an adequate amount of protein to consume.
This is where the guidelines for protein needs become a little blurry, especially for those who need and want to go to the next level. Women in this category should look to consume 0.75-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (weight x 0.75). Aiming to boost muscle mass or engage in strength training exercises means that more protein will be necessary to guarantee a positive net protein balance – that the muscles that are being broken down are being repaired at a faster rate – rendering them bigger and stronger in the long run.
The general consensus on the amount of protein required by bodybuilders, is still out for debate however, it’s believed that about 0.85 g of quality protein per pound of body weight is sufficient for those who fall into this category. For top bodybuilders, one gram per pound may even be necessary.
In light of all the differing schools of thought when it comes to dietary needs and intake requirements, it’s important to understand that high protein consumption over long periods of time can hurt and scar internal organs. Your kidneys cannot handle high amounts of this nutrient day-after-day and still be healthy, which is why the overconsumption of protein can be detrimental, if not dangerous to your health. Going higher than one gram per pound of body weight could get you results, but the health risk of organ injury tends to increase dramatically. You can use a calculator here if you want a more detailed recommendation on protein consumption that is age-related.
One of the key benefits of protein for any woman, is that it helps maintain lean muscle mass. Not the kind that makes you bulky, but that which increases strength, burns energy and reduces body fat. It’s especially important in the long run, as for women, after menopause occurs, many find it difficult to maintain the tone of their muscle tissue. Losing muscle tissue has an effect on mobility and that in turn can lead to an injury, but at the very least, a lifestyle that is far less active, so always ensure you’re getting the two Qs: the right QUANTITY of high-QUALITY protein!
While the nutritional needs of men and women are mostly similar, they do differ in terms of calorie and protein intake. A moderately active woman will require around 2,000 calories per day, whereas a moderately active man will need 2,800 calories. Similarly, men tend to need more protein than women.
The sedentary man can generally meet protein demands from diet alone. Men in this category should look to consume around a third of a gram of protein (0.36 g) per pound of body weight per day. For a man weighing 180 pounds, for example, that works out to about 65 g of protein (0.36 g x 180 lbs).
For men who are more active, many sources suggest that protein consumption be upped. Consider consuming around 0.9-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight in order to meet cellular demands. The need for the increase in protein intake is due to the fact that exercising will cause the body to draw from its own protein stores resulting in muscle break down. In order to avoid this and maintain or increase muscle mass, these stores need to be replenished and then some.
Bodybuilders and Athletes
Men in this category know who they are. Muscle mass is not scarce and the gym is a second home. These men can consume up to about 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is a lot of protein and it is advised that these men consume it in intervals throughout the day.
Shakes and Supplements
Many protein shakes and supplements are known to have close to 50-60 grams in the entire serving. This is great for those who have fitness goals to build muscle mass, but men and women need to be aware of the health risks of ingesting high quantities of protein surplus to their needs. Consult with a doctor or pharmacist for proper protein recommendations and for any questions regarding your health.
No matter your lifestyle or your level of physical activity, protein makes up an essential component of everyone’s diet (barring any illness or disease that requires the careful monitoring of protein intake).
You may think that protein isn’t crucial, especially with a sedentary lifestyle, but it is. As we discussed, it’s comprised of the fundamental structures that help with many different cellular processes in and around the body, as well as maintaining and building skeletal muscle. The body is dynamic; it’s constantly in motion which means that protein stores are always being depleted regardless of how active or inactive we are. Knowing your daily protein requirements is vital to overall good health and this guide to protein intake proteins should provide with the information to help you navigate your fitness journey.