You need protein for just about every function in your body, from brain cell communications to building up muscle mass. Your protein needs vary, however, depending on your gender. In general, men weigh more than women and require more calories to maintain weight, so basic protein requirements for men are higher, although you can calculate your own needs based, on your weight and activity level.
Protein has a set recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, put together by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. The recommendation for men is 56 grams of protein daily. As a woman, however, your recommendation may vary. Usually, you need 46 grams a day, although if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding, aim for 71 grams of protein daily. These amounts are the average intakes you should get to support everything your body needs, and are usually sufficient for all healthy adults.
Calculating by Weight
Your needs may be more or less than the recommended dietary allowance, depending on your weight. For every kilogram of body weight, you should get 0.8 gram of protein, no matter your gender. Simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert to kilograms. As an example, if you weigh 180 pounds, or 82 kilograms, you’ll need 65.5 grams of protein each day.
Protein as an Athlete
If you’re highly active, training for a sporting competition or bodybuilding event, you might need as much as 1.8 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, according to Canadian researchers from McMaster University. Their research review, published in the 2011 “Journal of Sports Sciences,” states that increasing protein during times of peak training can prevent loss of lean muscle mass. In this instance, a 180-pound man or woman would need 147 to 164 grams of protein each day.
Protein from meat, eggs, dairy, poultry, fish and seafood provides all of the essential amino acids you need. These are known as “complete proteins.” Most plant foods are incomplete protein sources because they don’t have adequate amounts of certain essential amino acids. Not to worry, though, you can still get all the protein you need, even if you don’t consume any animal-based proteins. Whether you prefer beans, lentils, wild rice or nuts as ways to get your protein, your system automatically pairs these incomplete protein sources together, allowing you to get all of the essential amino acids.
- Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Total Water and Macronutrients
- Journal of Sports Sciences: Dietary Protein for Athletes: From Requirements to Optimum Adaptation
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein