Try going to the supermarket or seeing a food ad and not see the promotion of protein. It seems like protein has taken over! There is even protein water being marketed now! I think we might have hit peak protein.
So what is the deal with protein anyway? Sure, protein is essential to our bodies. We only need 0.8g of protein for each kilogram of body weight, or about 0.36g of protein per pound, according to the Dietary Reference Intake, which is the amount that a normal person should have for basic health. People who are active do require more protein to help with muscle recovery, but it is not as much protein as you think. Athletes might only require 1.2-1.8g per kg or 0.54-0.81 g/lb body weight. This means that an average 150lb adult only needs about 55g of protein to reach the DRI. If they are an athlete, they would need from 82-122g per day, depending on their needs and goals.
Major sources of protein include meats, animal products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as eggs, beans, nuts and seeds. These aren’t the only foods that contain protein. Even fruits, vegetables and grains contain some protein. In fact, pasta contains about 7g of protein per serving.
To put things in perspective, an 8oz glass of milk has about 8g of protein, 1oz of almonds have 6g of protein and a 3oz portion of chicken (about the size of the palm of your hand) has about 30g of protein. As you can see, most Americans are probably meeting their protein needs.
The big hype about protein comes from studies which show that protein can increase satiety and help keep you fuller for longer, which in turn could lead to weight loss. This is mostly true, but seems to only apply to solid protein sources vs liquid sources (we’re looking at you, protein2o protein water).
So what are we supposed to do? First off, if you are trying to lose weight, don’t necessarily add protein to your diet, but you can shift some things around. You may want to plan accordingly though and space protein sources throughout the day to have at your meals and snacks, in order to keep you satisfied. Remember, for weight loss total calories are still most important. So, if you feel that you respond better to a higher protein diet, then be sure to adjust your carbohydrate intake accordingly and still aim for an appropriate calorie range. If you are an athlete and trying to enhance performance and increase muscle mass, then you may want to reflect on how much protein you are taking in, but still be sure to have enough carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as healthy fat choices from fish, nuts and seeds.