Protein is one of the most important nutrients we take in during the day, but the amount we’re supposed to have varies depending on a number of factors, such as: what are you using the protein for? Are you a man or a woman? Are you sedentary or active? And a lot of the variance just depends on who you ask.
Proteins are the building blocks of the body, used to make muscle and tendons and organs.
How Much Protein is Recommended Per Day?
The Daily Reference Intake (DRI) is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which works out to 56 grams for the average sedentary man and 46 grams for the average sedentary woman.
One factor to take into account, however, is where you’re getting your protein from, because not all protein is made the same. Animal protein has all the essential amino acids in the right ratios, so animal protein is the best natural source of protein--meat, fish, eggs and dairy. Generally speaking, if you’re sedentary and if you’re eating these foods every day, you’re getting plenty of protein.
However, there are other ways to get protein in your diet, including supplements as well as plant-based, vegan protein sources, such as tofu, lentils and beans.
How Much Protein Do You Need to Lose Weight?
If you’re trying to lose weight, you should actually be getting more protein in your diet, not less. Protein is one of the triggers that increases a person's likelihood to lose weight.
If you want to lose weight you should be consuming between .73 and 1 gram of protein per pound. This works out to between 113 grams for the average sedentary man and 93 grams for the average sedentary woman.
There are many benefits to increased protein when trying to lose weight, but they include satiety (protein fills you up), lean mass (it helps you preserve lean mass during periods of caloric restriction), thermic effect of food (protein has the highest thermic “cost” in terms of breaking down, digesting, and turning food into energy), and storage of body fat (it’s much harder to store protein as fat than it is for carbohydrates and fats).
How Much Protein Do You Need to Gain Muscle?
Protein helps to build muscle mass. Muscle mass is built when the net protein balance is positive: when the synthesis of muscle protein exceeds the breakdown of muscle protein. This muscle protein turnover is greatest after exercise, and it’s been shown in research that muscle mass increases when resistance exercise is combined with protein intake.
To increase muscle mass in combination with exercise, it’s recommended that someone who lifts weights or runs, swims, or cycles daily to eat 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, in an average 155 pound man that would be 77 to 124 grams of protein per day, and for the average woman it would be 63 to 102 grams of protein per day.
Research shows that there’s a benefit to pre-workout protein supplementation. But post-workout protein supplementation has a big impact on skeletal muscle hypertrophy (the strengthening and growth of the musculoskeletal system). Failing to eat after exercise will limit the progress of lean muscle development. Some research shows an “anabolic window” where protein intake within an hour of exercise has the most benefit.
As you can see protein is important in both gaining muscle and losing body fat. Prior to setting up a diet to accomplish either of these goals an astute dieter would review the protein ranges listed above and set their diet accordingly for optimal success.
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