Most people know all about protein, or so they think, but in fact how much is needed is often a question that causes much confusion. Protein is essential to growth and repair of all tissues and cells within the body but it is also important to fluid balance, immune health and many other functions. As you might expect more protein is needed during periods of growth or times of healing or repair of cells that are damaged due to activity, surgery or other trauma. While protein has many functions the amount needed is much less than many people expect.
The current guidelines for protein intake recommend 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Since most of us don’t think of our weight in kilograms this recommendation translates to a minimum of 45 grams to as much as 115 grams per day for someone who weighs 250 pounds.
Consuming 45 grams of protein per day is a simple task for most people if you follow the guidelines setout in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, examples of how to meet this are listed here.
· Three ounces of meat, fish or poultry (about the size of a woman’s palm), plus three cups of milk or yogurt equals 45 grams
· One and a half cups of kidney beans plus three cups of milk or yogurt
· Six ounces of tofu and one and half cups of kidney beans
In addition to the health benefits of protein it can help you feel full longer so including some at most meals is a good way to keep control of what foods you choose to eat and how much you eat. Beyond the traditional meat and potatoes or a deli sandwich there are some easy ways to get protein in your meals or snacks including the following.
· A cup of low-fat yogurt with 2 tablespoons nuts
· Two tablespoons peanut or almond nut butter spread on an apple or banana
· One fourth a cup of nuts with one half a cup of dried fruit and one cup of whole grain cereal
· One third a cup of hummus with fresh veggies
· One cup of yogurt combined with frozen fruit for a fast smoothie
If you workout on a regular basis you will need more protein to help repair muscles damaged during activity. If your activity is predominately cardio or aerobic activity your need increases slightly since damage to muscles is less than it is during weight or resistance activity. For regular activity you would benefit from about 0.2 grams per kilogram more protein per day, so about 50 grams minimum per day. Remember that this minimum is based on weight so if you weigh more your minimum would be higher.
For those who lift weights regularly or for competitive athletes the need can go as high as 2.0 grams per kilogram or up to a minimum of 90 grams per day. The best advice for protein intake is to make sure you get enough and to only boost intake if your activity or growth requires it since excess protein ends up as extra body weight.
Tips for the Week
· Choose lean protein like turkey, chicken and fish
· Enjoy plant protein like hummus, beans or tofu in place of animal protein once or twice a week
· Switch to nonfat dairy choices to get your 3 A Day of Dairy