Before buying protein products, ask yourself:
How much protein does my body need? What protein sources are best for my body? Do I even need additional protein supplements?
Protein is the building block of all muscle. It is part of our DNA, supports our digestive enzymes and hemoglobin levels, enhances muscle fibers, keeps our bones strong, and helps support our immune system. And while it is important to eat protein every day, you probably do not need to add protein supplements to your diet.
Most consumers, however, are not aware of this. According to Statista, 2017 protein and meal replacement supplement sales were projected to reach approximately $3.37 billion in the U.S. But, before buying into the supplement craze, it is important to determine how much protein your body needs. Not to mention, the essential proteins our bodies require are actually readily available in everyday foods!
How much protein does your body need?
A protein recommendation is very individualistic and depends on several key factors. Your weight, height, activity level, nutritional needs, and possible nutritional deficiencies will all influence the amount of protein your body requires. While we can provide an outline of what might be the correct recommendation based on body weight and activity level, it is important to consult a nutritionist or physician before determining how much protein your body uses and whether a supplement is needed to support your body health.
Your level of activity includes your workout routine as well as your occupation. Those with sedentary occupations, like a desk job, naturally use less energy throughout the day, while those with active occupations will expend more energy day to day and often require more protein.
The American College of Sports Medicine indicates that anywhere from 10-35% of the average American’s diet should contain proteins. In terms of bodyweight, this means that a sedentary person should consume at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound, per day. This is the absolute minimum you need without negatively affecting your health. For example, this translates to 54 grams of protein per day for a 150 lb. person. The USDA will help you calculate your daily nutrient recommendations based on your inputs.
Of course, if you exercise more, you can increase your protein consumption— but you don’t need to overdo it! If you are eating protein with the hopes of building muscle, the quality, quantity, and timing of consumption is actually more important than the overall amount you eat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating 20-30 grams of complete protein within 2 hours of exercise. It is a common misconception that in order to “bulk up” or “stay lean” you need to eat a large quantity of protein every day.
Where should my protein come from?
When eating protein, you want to make sure it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Eggs, milk, and beef are high-quality proteins that are easily digestible. And it is important to diversify your protein choices— you want to provide your body with a variety of protein throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and support your overall health.
Lean meats, like turkey, chicken, and fish are also a good source of protein. 3 oz. of chicken or fish contains anywhere from 19-24 grams of protein.
3 oz of cooked chicken is about the size of a deck of cards.
One large egg contains around 6 grams of protein.
Dairy is another great source of protein— a 5.3 oz container of plain Greek yogurt contains 15 grams of protein. A cup of milk has roughly 8 grams of protein and an ounce of cheese contains 7 grams of protein. Legumes have protein, too! A cup of lentils contains roughly 16 grams of protein.
If you fall into the category of a very highly active or professional athlete, it may be necessary for you to take in more protein throughout the day. And while protein supplements can be a good way to do this, it is important to find a high-quality protein powder that doesn’t have unnecessary additives, like artificial flavorings, artificial food dyes and coloring, and even metals! (D2D actually tested a few of the most popular protein powders to see what may have been hiding in them.) So, before purchasing a protein powder, consult with a nutritionist to see what might be best for your body.
Can you have too much protein?
You might not need your morning protein shake as much as you think. Research has indicated that protein overconsumption can be linked to cardiovascular disease and may have harmful effects on your kidneys, bones, and liver. A 2013 study entitled Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults concluded that “too much of a good thing” can be useless and even harmful to your body. And while more long-term human studies are needed to better determine the effects of excess protein in our bodies, preliminary research indicates we should follow the recommended amount.
Overall, the human body really does not need a ton of protein to stay healthy. Though protein supplements can help if you are in a bind, is not necessary as there often is sufficient protein supply in your everyday meals.