How much protein do you need?
Protein requirements depend upon factors including body weight, body composition, rate of growth, physical activity level, type of physical activity, adequacy of energy and carbohydrate intake, and illness or injury.
Research indicates that protein needs for athletes are greater than 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight recommended for sedentary people.
Endurance exercise alters protein metabolism and increases amino acid oxidation leading to increased protein needs. The increase in need is dependent upon the intensity and duration of the exercise, with higher intensity and longer bouts of exercise associated with increased protein needs. Research supports a range in protein needs from 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram body weight for endurance athletes such as marathoners.
Individuals such as body builders, who are using resistance training to increase muscle mass, require 1.4 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This increased need for protein, however, is much less than what most of these athletes assume it to be. In addition, these increased needs are easily met through traditional food sources.
Adolescent athletes involved in high-intensity physical activity must meet the nutrition needs of growth combined with physical activity. Their protein needs vary from 1.8-2.0 grams per kilogram body weight.
Protein supplements consist of either whole protein, such as egg, milk or soy protein, or individual amino acids or combinations of individual amino acids. Whole protein supplements do not offer an advantage over food sources of protein, but may be more convenient. Powders tend to be more concentrated protein sources than pills. Energy bars are most convenient and can offer a significant amount of protein. Instant breakfast type powder mixes offer a cheaper alternative to specially marketed protein powders.
Most athletes are meeting or exceeding their protein requirements through diet. There are, however, some athletes at risk for inadequate protein. These individuals are typically restricting caloric intake in order to achieve a low body weight and generally include wrestlers, gymnasts, dancers, and runners. Inadequate protein intake increases an athlete’s risk for injury and chronic fatigue.
Many Americans — athletes and nonathletes — are meeting or exceeding their protein needs.
Research does not support protein intake greater than 2.0 grams per kilogram body weight. High levels of protein can lead to increased water loss because the body excretes water to dispose of urea, a substance formed in the breakdown of protein. Water loss coupled with the fact that most athletes loose a great amount of water through sweat, can lead to dehydration. An excess of protein can also take calcium away from bones, thus predisposing one for osteoporosis.
Example of Protein Needs
Person/Activity Protein Needed
120 pound sedentary female 44 grams protein per day
120 pound female marathoner 65-76 grams protein per day
120 pound female body builder 76-98 grams protein per day
180 pound sedentary male 65 grams protein per day
180 pound male marathoner 98-114 grams protein per day
180 pound male body builder 114-147 grams protein per day
Meat, Fish, Poultry
Lean beef, chicken, turkey breast: 1 oz, 8 Grams of Protein
Beef 3 oz. hamburger, roast beef, 21 Grams of Protein
Poultry:3 oz. grilled chicken sandwich, 21 Grams of Protein
Fish: 1 oz, 7 Grams of Protein
Fish: 3 oz. tuna sandwich, 21 Grams of Protein
Lunch meat:1 oz, 5 Grams of Protein
Eggs: 1, 6 Grams of Protein
Kidney beans: 1/2 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Navy beans: 1/2 cup, 7 Grams of Protein
Garbanzo beans (chick peas): 1/2 cup, 6 Grams of Protein
Tofu (soybeans): 2 oz, 5 Grams of Protein
Peanuts: 1/4 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Peanut Butter: 2 tbsp, 8 Grams of Protein
Nuts: 1 oz (handful), 5-7 Grams of Protein
Low-fat cottage cheese: 1/2 cup, 13 Grams of Protein
Milk (whole, skim): 1 cup (8 ounce glass), 8 Grams of Protein
Yogurt (whole, skim): 1 cup (1 8 ounce container), 8 Grams of Protein
Cheddar cheese: 1 oz, 7 Grams of Protein
Ice cream, frozen yogurt: 1/2 cup, 4 Grams of Protein
Processed cheese (American): 2 oz, 13 Grams of Protein
Breads, cereals, grains
Macaroni and cheese: 1/2 cup, 9 Grams of Protein
Pasta : 1 cup cooked, 8 Grams of Protein
Bagel: 2 oz, 6 Grams of Protein
Raisin bran: 1 oz (2/3 cup), 3 Grams of Protein
Rice: 1 cup cooked, 3 Grams of Protein
Bread 1 slice: 2 Grams of Protein
Baked potato: 1 large, 4 Grams of Protein
Peas, green: 1/2 cup, 4 Grams of Protein
Corn: 1/2 cup, 2 Grams of Protein
Lettuce: 1/4 head, 1 Gram of Protein
Carrot: 1 large, 1 Gram of Protein
Banana, orange, apple: 1 medium, 1 Gram of Protein
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