Protein Intake: How Much Do You Really Need?

Assistant Director of Fitness & Recreational Services

As an individual adopts a new exercise regimen, he or she may look to adopt healthier eating habits to help that individual meet his or her goals. Specifically for individuals wanting to increase muscle mass and strength, nutrition is key.

A key building block for gaining muscle mass and strength is protein. Average adult men need 56 grams per day while women need 46 grams, or about .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to the U.S. Food and Nutrition Board. In perspective, that means a 130-pound woman would need about 47 grams of protein. The formula is:

(weight in lbs)/2.2 *.8 = __

However, students trying to build muscle need more protein than this. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends an intake between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for those looking to build strength. The formula looks like this:

(weight in lbs)/2.2*1.2 = __

Protein shakes are a very popular item, and many people consume these shakes post workout. Getting protein needs from whole foods, however, is more efficient and healthier because one’s body gets the other nutrients provided.

The body has a harder time absorbing the 30 grams of protein present in a drink versus the protein present in whole foods. Eating whole foods gives the body more time to break down and digest all the nutrients. If one does take protein drinks, be weary of the brand used. Studies have been done assessing the amount of protein present in products in accordance with the amount claimed to be present. Do research and make sure the product has what it says it does.

So, what are some good whole food sources of protein? Fish is a food item that is high in protein; salmon has a whole 17 grams of protein in just a three-ounce serving. Along with being high in protein, fish also contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids.The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of fish at least twice a week.

One large egg has six grams of protein and can be quick and easy for breakfast, delicious on a sandwich for lunch or make a great addition to any salad. One cup of chopped or diced chicken meat has a whopping 38 grams of protein. Nuts also offer a good amount of protein along with healthy fats; one cup of mixed nuts has 27 grams of protein, according to the USDA. Keep these around for a quick and easy snack, but be careful not to overindulge. A couple of other good options include cottage cheese, turkey and pork.

When trying to work towards fitness goals, remember that nutrition is key. Monitor the amount of protein one intakes and try to eat a large variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Whenever possible, avoid fast food and highly-processed foods such as potato chips and instant macaroni and cheese. They say a six pack starts in the kitchen, so what are you waiting for?