You Can Get Fit!

Puzzled About Protein?

Posted on: November 30, 2010

How much protein do I need to eat? Do I need a protein supplement or a protein powder? So much confusion! Ack! Kinda makes you want to run into the corner and eat more turkey. (OK, maybe we’re not that desperate. Luckily, I avoided the turkey!)

For a long time, I’d read conflicting information: the general media told me that Americans ate too much protein, while fitness journals suggested that active people needed more (but never really quantified it to my satisfaction). But I finally found a satisfactory answer!

If you are inactive or lightly to moderately active (say, an hour of exercise 4 days a week), you should consume 0.8 gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight. If you are more active, increase this to 0.9 gram. If you are extremely active (4+ hours activity per day, every day), you probably need 1 gram per kg body weight.

Don’t freak out—the math is easy. To convert your weight in pounds to kg, simply divide your weight by 2.2. So, if you weigh 150 lbs, you would also weigh 150/2.2 = 68.2 kg. (Hey, isn’t that a better number? You might want to use that on a regular basis when people ask your weight.) So, then, this person would want to eat between 54.5 and 68.2 g of protein in a day, depending on their activity level—and you can always figure out the grams of protein in a particular item by reading a nutrition label, or by looking up a whole food (meat, beans, milk, etc) on the internet.

Your best bets as protein sources are whole foods rather than supplements, if at all possible. Go for meat, poultry, or fish for the highest nutrient density. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, the protein in soy has been found to be roughly equivalent quality to that from animals, whereas other legumes are slightly lower quality proteins. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat beans! Maybe choose some edamame over garbanzos if given the choice.

Hopefully this clarifies things a bit! A word of caution: it’s really easy to overeat your protein RDA if you’re not being careful! Not too long ago, I bought a sandwich from a take-out chain that contained both chicken and cheese. I looked up the nutrition info online, and was shocked that I’d eaten my day’s allotment of protein in one sandwich! (I tell ya, supplementation is often unnecessary!)

Enjoy the last day of November! Start thinking about your December goals!

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