Calculate Your Protein Requirements

Protein-rich foods are important in your daily diet because they provide the amino acids needed to build and repair muscles, and many vitamins and minerals necessary for numerous functions throughout your body. But how much protein is enough?

These are recommended grams of protein based on the person's profile and body weight per day.

Individual Profile Per pound of weight Per kilogram of weight
Infants and children ages 1-6 years 0.45-0.68 0.99-1.4
Sedentary adult and children ages 6-18 years 0.4 0.88
Adult recreational exerciser -- average for adults 0.5-0.75 1.1-1.65
Adult competitive athlete or frequent weight lifting   0.6-0.9 1.32-1.98
Adult building muscle mass 0.7-1.0 1.54-1.98
Dieting athlete 0.7-1.0 1.54-2.2
Growing teenage athlete 0.9-1.0 1.98-2.2
Pregnant women need additional protein Add 15-30 grams/day     Same

The rule of thumb is to include two to three servings (3 to 5 ounces each) of protein-rich foods every day -- an amount to maintain and build lean muscle mass.

0.75 Grams Protein X Your Weight = Optimum Protein Requirement for an Adult Recreational Exerciser

No scientific evidence to date suggests protein intakes exceeding 0.9 grams of protein per pound [2.0 grams per kilogram] will provide an additional advantage. What happens to excess protein consumed? Any excess protein you consume is burned for energy or, as a last resort, stored as glycogen (carb in the muscles) or fat.

What Makes A Complete Protein

To ensure we’re on the same page with terminology, a complete protein contains the nine essential amino acids. They are: phenylalanine, methionine, lysine, leucine, isoleucine, threonine, histidine, valine and tryptophan. A tenth amino acid, arginine, is essential during times of rapid growth – for example, during childhood – because, although your body can synthesize it, you can’t always produce enough of it.

Complete Protein Food Sources

Animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood and dairy products, contain all the essential amino acids, while most plant foods are lacking in one or more of these essential amino acids.  However, eating a variety of different plant foods throughout the day will give you sufficient amounts of all the amino acids. This explains why most plant-based protein powders contain more than one protein source, such as a combination of pea, hemp, and rice protein.

Which Protein is Best For Post-Exercise Recovery?

Ideally, you want a protein that contains the three branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs): leucine, isoleucine and valine. These three specific amino acids are shown to support muscle growth, decrease muscle soreness, reduce exercise fatigue, and prevent muscle wasting. However, they are only found in animal-based protein powders, such as whey protein. If you prefer plant-based protein powder, of the the BCAAs, leucine is especially important for the process of muscle making. Find out which of the many protein powders is right for you in this comprehensive guide to protein powders.

I like these protein-packed pancakes. They're made with whey protein, so the pancakes contain all the BCAAs for recovery. They'll also fill you up and curb your mid-morning cravings.

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

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