When it comes to macronutrients, carbs and fat tend to get all of the attention. “Do low-fat diets work?” “How many carbs should I eat a day?” Poor protein, which is undoubtedly the MOST important macronutrient, usually gets left out of the conversation.
Why is Protein So Important?
You’ve probably heard that protein is the building block of your entire body. That’s pretty important! Protein is not only responsible for building our muscles, but also all of our connective tissue, or organs, our bones, and even hormones and other important chemicals in the body. Without adequate protein intake, your health and body composition will suffer.
How Much is Enough?
But now for that all-important question: Just how much protein does a person really need to eat each day?
This has been a long debate in the world of nutrition. Most official dietary guidelines endorse a fairly limited. This is common for all nutrients whether it’s protein, vitamin D, or vitamin C, the guidelines are always typically low. This is because the guidelines are to ensure people don’t develop a deficiency. Guidelines have little to do with helping people optimize their health.
For instance, most guidelines recommend 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.36 grams per pound. This comes out to just 56 grams of protein a day for the average male and just 46 grams a day for females – granted these averages are calculated considering that the average man and women are far more sedentary than active.
Again, these small amounts will help prevent outright deficiency. But many studies have now shown that it’s simply not enough for optimum physical health.
It’s also important to take into consideration lifestyle factors when determining the amount of protein you should eat instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach. For instance, someone who works out 5 days a week with a focus on lifting weights should absolutely eat more protein than someone who is sedentary. People 55 and older should also be eating more protein than, say, someone in their 20s, as older people lose muscle mass each year, which makes them more susceptible to falls.
So, the average male should really be looking to get anywhere from 56-91 grams of protein per day and the average woman should aim for 46-75 grams.
Can You Eat Too Much Protein?
There is a myth that says eating too much protein can cause kidney damage or osteoporosis. However, there is absolutely no clinical or scientific data that backs up these claims. Protein restriction has been found to be helpful for people with pre-existing kidney problems, but it has NEVER been shown to cause kidney damage.
So, in conclusion, seeing as eating adequate protein is critically important for health and there are no negative side effects of eating too much, it’s better to err on the side of caution and eat at the upper end of the adequate protein range.