When it comes to following a healthy, balanced diet, a common question is: “How much protein do I need?” So how many grams of protein per day do you need?
Protein foods are essential for building muscle, burning fat, supporting metabolism, and even bolstering the health of certain organs like your thyroid and adrenal glands — in other words, we need protein to be healthy.
How much protein should you have per day? It really depends on your specific health goals and some other factors.
How Much Protein Do I Need? (How to Determine Protein Intake)
To discuss how many grams of protein per day you need, it’s helpful to break it down into three categories or questions:
- How much protein do you need to support healing and body regeneration?
- How much protein do you need to burn fat?
- How much protein do you need to build muscle?
In general, if you just want to support overall health and longevity, consuming about 50 percent of your body weight in grams of protein per day is ideal. In this case, if you weigh 160 pounds, then getting about 80 grams daily from healthy protein sources is recommended.
Therefore, if you’re eating three meals a day, you want to aim for about 25 grams from high-protein foods in each meal.
Second, let’s say you’re trying to really burn body fat fast and looking for the right fat-burning foods. This increases your protein requirements.
In fact, many people (especially women) who hope to lose body fat actually have a protein deficiency, which is why it’s recommended to consume about 0.7 grams to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily to burn fat and lose weight. Essentially, you’re going to replace some of those extra carbohydrates in your diet with more sources of protein.
In this case, if you weigh 160 pounds, then multiply that figure by 0.75. At this weight, you’ll want to consume close to 100 to maybe 120 grams total daily. So if you eat four meals a day, aim to consume 25 to 30 grams worth of high-proteins foods.
Third, if you’re trying to build muscle, take your weight and multiply it by one to determine how many grams you need from high-protein foods daily. So if you weigh 160 pounds and want to pack on some muscle, then you should be trying to get 160 grams of protein daily. Over four meals, that’d be 40 grams of protein intake for each.
In a nutshell, to figure out how much protein you need in a day depends on your health and fitness goals, so use these general guidelines to help you find the right protein intake for you.
Benefits of Protein
Protein is not only important for building lean muscle tissue, but it’s also critical for organ function. In fact, a lot of your organs, cells and tissues require protein for proper regeneration. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of proper protein intake:
1. Boosts Muscle Mass
Increasing your protein intake will boost muscle mass, while also supporting your tendon, ligaments and other body tissues. Whether you are focused on bodybuilding or developing a learner, toned appearance, adequate protein intake is critical.
2. Helps with Weight Loss
Research shows that proper protein intake increases satiety and promotes the retention of lean muscle mass, while improving metabolic profile. High-protein dietary choices can help you avoid excessive snacking between meals and prevent increased total daily calorie intake, which can contribute to weight loss.
3. Boosts Mood
The amino acids in protein foods help with neurotransmitter function, support hormone balance and help to control mood, which has been shown in studies. This explains why it’s possible for people who lack key amino acids to experience mood-related issues like anxiety, depression and irritability.
4. Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
Insulin production depends on adequate protein intake, and unlike high-carbohydrate or high-sugar foods, protein does not result in fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Research suggests that dietary protein can also slow down the absorption of sugar during meals.
5. Supports Bone Health
Studies indicate the positive association between eating more foods with protein and better bone health. Adequate protein intake helps treat broken bones and improve bone weakness.
6. Supports Cardiovascular Health
Research shows that protein intake is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, and a diet high in protein may help reduce high blood pressure.
7. Promotes Healthy Brain Function
Amino acids are needed to make hormones, neurotransmitters and enzymes that are critical for cognitive function. Studies indicate that the brain needs a steady supply of amino acids to maintain healthy energy levels, focus and concentration.
Now that you know that protein intake is associated with just about every body function, you may be wondering about the best sources of protein for healthy eating. You can increase your protein intake with plant-based and meat foods.
Here are some of the best foods for a healthy protein diet:
- Grass-fed beef
- Organic chicken breast
- Whey protein powder
- Wild-caught salmon
- White beans
- Black beans
- Hemp seed protein powder
- Sprouted whole grain bread
- Collagen protein powder
- Nutritional yeast
- Goat cheese
Too Much vs. Too Little (Risks and Side Effects)
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the recommended daily intake of protein for adults at an average weight and activity level is 56 grams daily for men and 46 grams daily for women. This is the minimum required protein intake, and the amount can increase depending on your goals.
It’s ideal to eat smaller amounts of protein throughout the day instead of getting your protein requirement in one or two meals. This allows your body utilize what it needs throughout the day instead of storing what isn’t used as fat.
It’s true that eating very high levels of protein is correlated with some health risks. If you’re not cutting calories from carbohydrates while increasing calorie intake from protein, you may experience weight gain instead of weight loss.
Very high protein intake may also cause digestive issues, including constipation, gut-related issues and changes in blood sugar levels.
Finally, it’s important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet that doesn’t completely neglect any nutrients. This will ensure that you’re getting the micro- and macronutrients you need for optimal health.
- It’s important to be conscious of your protein intake because it plays a critical role in many body functions — plus it can help you lose weight, build muscle mass and maintain healthy blood pressure.
- How many of your daily calories should come from high-protein foods? Examine your health goals, and look at how many grams of protein per day you’re getting on a regular basis. Do they match up?
- Getting enough protein in your diet is so important to your overall health. Make sure you aren’t consuming too many calories, and space out your protein intake throughout the day.