Are You Getting Enough Protein?

There are a lot of myths surrounding what is the right amount of protein to include in your diet.  Unless you are vegan or vegetarian, odds are you probably have more than enough protein from consuming a well-rounded diet.  The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein in males and females age 19 and older is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body mass.  In terms of macronutrient distribution protien should ideally be 10-35% of the total calories consumed daily. In general, the western diet typically exceeds the guideline on protein.  Most meals are based around some type of meat, and the portions are larger than a serving size.   One serving size of meat, poultry or fish equates to 2-3 ounces or roughly the size of a deck of cards (think of that the next time you eat a hamburger or chicken breast!).  While 0.8 g/kg of protein is adequate for the general population, there are instances where higher protein intakes are beneficial.

Athletes require higher protein in their diet because the metabolic stress from exercise breaks down muscle tissue on a cellular level.  The intensity of the sport/ exercise is directly related to the amount of protein needed. Thus, the higher the intensity the higher the protein needs.  Strength and power athletes need the most protein because their training causes more cellular damage and would do well to consume around 1.4 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  Endurance athletes do not have as high of requirements because they train at lower intensities, therefore it is recommended to consume around 1.0 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight.  Another consideration to make with athletes is timing of protein intake.  Exercise increases muscle protein synthesis, and consuming protein after a workout can maximize protein synthesis.  Increasing protein intakes of individuals on a weight loss program is beneficial for several reasons.  Higher intake of protein can help maintain lean mass and prevent muscle loss.  Protein also helps with feeling full, which makes it easier to maintain a calorie deficit.

More protein is not always better.  Proteins are broken down into amino acids and either used in protein synthesis, converted to carbohydrate through gluconeogenesis, or potentially converted and stored as fat.  Excess protein over long period of time can have negative effects on the kidney. Individuals with renal or metabolic disorders should consult their physician on the appropriate amounts of protein to consume. 

As with anything individual needs vary, so it is good to get a baseline of your current exercise and dietary habits to compare and plan your nutrition needs around.  At SSMI we want to help provide optimal care to our patients, especially when planning controllable variables like diet and exercise.  If you feel like you need extra help achieving your goals schedule your appointment with us and invest in your health and wellness!

-Alex Edwards, CEP, CSCS

Exercise Physiologist


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