Mamatoga Fit Tip Tuesday: How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

That, my friends, is a loaded question. Well, sort of. As usual, we could get into a lot of debates on this topic. In the fitness world there are many varying opinions as to how much protein a person really needs.

The answer is “there are lots of answers”. Even Harvard School of Public Health concedes that protein requirement is not a one- size –fits- all answer.

Here is what we do know. The minimum recommended amount for individuals, according to the Institute of Medicine, and other varying sources, is about 0.6 - 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day.  So, if you weigh 180lbs, you would aim for 108 to 144 grams of protein per day. The leaner you are and the higher your activity level, the higher your protein level should be on that scale.

I take in considerably more protein than this just about daily, something you have probably noticed if you have been following my recent blog project, “J-trim’s 30 Day Food and Exercise Journal”. You can go here to read it.

The question is why? And is it safe?

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people in good health can consume 20 to 25 percent of their calories in protein daily without harming the kidneys. If you have diabetes or early stage kidney disease, however, it is recommended you stay in the 10 percent range, since this may help improve kidney function.

I think the whole Atkins craze (which I never bought into) has given diets higher in protein a really bad rap. I seriously increased my dietary protein intake almost two years ago when I started lifting heavier weights and reading up on ways to build a leaner, stronger  frame. As far as dietary needs go, men and women’s needs don’t differ all that much.

Many strength training books, when talking about protein needs for the purpose of building muscle, recommend about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Some recommend even more. Yet there have been other books and studies showing that you can take in much less protein, and still get muscle building results, as long as you are getting the essential amino acids that are necessary. But that’s the hitch. Protein consists of 22 amino acids. Of those 22, only 8 or 9 are essential. Essential means your body cannot create them from other materials. You have to get them from food or food based supplements.

Now I don’t know about you, but I really don’t have time to go figuring out how many of the grams of protein in my chicken breast, or cottage cheese, are essential aminos that my body actually needs. For instance, a glass of milk has 8 grams of protein, but only 3 of those protein grams are essential. So when I take in anywhere from 100 to 130 grams of protein on any given day (I weigh 127lbs) not all of those grams contain the essential aminos that I need.

In addition, the more active you are, the more protein you need as well. Protein builds and maintains muscle so you should have it with every meal. It is also important that you combine healthy carbs with your proteins. If you don’t get enough carbohydrate calories to provide the body with energy, your body will tap into the protein for energy instead of using it to maintain and grow muscle.

And another important point. Just eating more protein will not build muscle necessarily, although there have been some amazing studies recently that are looking into that possibility. If you want a leaner stronger frame, you need to use your body. Get active. Lift weights. Really work hard. Follow a specific program and if you don’t know what that program should consist of, get some really good books and learn.

Anything by Lou Schuler, Alwyn Cosgrove, Rachel Cosgrove, or Mark Verstegen should be at the top of your list.

Want to see what my protein and carb (as well as fat) intakes look like? Check out my blog!

Next week we are going to talk about meal planning. Does it make a difference what you eat and when? Find out next week!