Protein is an important macronutrient that provides your body with the means to grow and maintain tissue. Your body is constantly changing and protein aids in the replacement of injured tissue, lost blood, or even just worn out cells. Protein also allows the body to produce enzymes, hormones and antibodies, all of which are essential for proper functioning. It is essential that you get all the protein your body needs for health and wellness.
Percent Daily Values
The percent daily value on a nutrition facts label is a guide to the nutrients in one serving of food. For example, if the label lists 20 percent for protein, it means that one serving provides 20 percent of the protein you need each day. The percent daily values are set by the FDA and are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Average adults should consume between 10 and 35 percent of their daily calories from protein. If you are following a 2,000 calorie diet and wish to consume 30 percent of your calories from protein, you need 150 grams of protein daily. A diet with 10 percent of your calories from protein translates to 50 grams of protein. Alternatively, you can calculate your protein needs based on your body weight -- multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36 to get the number of grams of protein you need. If you weigh 150 pounds, for example, you need 54 grams of protein daily.
Certain populations need to be very aware of how much protein they are taking consuming. As you age, you begin to experience sarcopenia, the reduction of muscle mass. This occurs naturally, but the rate at which it happens can be affected by your physical activity and your diet. According to a study conducted by the University of Texas in 2007, increased consumption of protein is associated with building lean muscle mass, even in the elderly. This finding was proven when comparisons in lean muscle building were evaluated in young and old individuals following a high protein meal. Both groups increased muscle protein building by 50 percent following protein intake. Protein consumption in the elderly is generally less than in the young and middle aged. However, this study proves that it is important for young and old to monitor protein intake.
Athletes may need to consume a greater amount of protein than the average person. According to Dr. Michael Colgan, author of "Optimum Sports Nutrition," the amount of protein you need to eat varies depending on your sport. For strength sports, athletes need 2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight. For athletes participating in speed events, 1.7 g/kilogram is needed each day. Endurance athletes need 1.4 g/kg per day.
Choosing Healthy Proteins
Not only should you be aware of how much protein you are eating, but you also need to make healthy decisions regarding the protein you choose to eat. Certain sources of protein, like red meat, serve up a large amount of saturated fats and cholesterol along with the protein. Healthier sources of protein include poultry, fish, eggs, soy and beans. This is not to say you should never eat red meat as it may be just fine in moderation. Being aware of the nutrients that go along with your protein is an important part of making healthy dietary decisions.