It’s no coincidence that protein is a much-discussed topic in the fitness world. It’s one of the big three macronutrients alongside carbohydrates and fat, but has a much better reputation in the everyday world, if you will (no, “it will make you fat!” like fat, or “it’s the root of all evil!” like carbs).
Think of protein as the construction worker nutrient of the body. On a basic level, protein gives us energy. It also contributes to maintaining, building, and repairing muscle. Everyone from your average individual to weight-lifters will benefit from keeping this in mind. As you evaluate your health and wellness goals, take some time to consider protein in your diet and how it relates to your overall health.
A great place to start is to determine whether or not you’re getting enough protein in the first place! Protein needs vary depending on age, gender, and physical activity level. Generally, children require less than adults, women less than men, and inactive individuals less than active individuals.
Current Recommendations for Daily Protein Intake
- 1.5 g/kg/day for infants
- 1.1 g/kg/day for 1-3 years
- 0.95 g/kg/day for 4-13 years
- 0.85 g/kg/day for 14-18 years
- 0.8 g/kg/day for adults
- 1.1 g/kg/day for pregnant and lactating women
For example, if you are a 150 lb adult, here’s how you’d calculate your protein needs:
150 lb / 2.2 kg/lb = 68.2 kg x 0.85 g/kg = ~58 g of protein/day
The Best Protein
Regardless of your requirement, the key is really maximizing the power that protein has to offer. Select high-quality proteins—those that contain the essential amino acids your body can’t synthesize on its own—as well as protein that is low in unhealthy fats. This is often referred to as “lean” protein.
Foods Packed With Protein
When you think of protein-packed foods, meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy likely come to mind, but there are even more foods that contain their fair share of protein per serving.
- Canned fish like tuna, sardines, or anchovies: 21-24 g/3 oz serving
- Lentils, cooked: 18 g/8 oz serving
- Navy beans: 20 g/8 oz serving
- Green Peas: 7 g/8 oz serving
- Quinoa, cooked: 8 g/8 oz serving
- Tofu: 12 g/5 oz serving
- Soy Milk: 7 g/8 oz serving
- Soy Beans: 8 g/4 oz serving
- Tempeh: 31 g/8 oz serving
- Seitan: 21 g/3 oz serving
- Greek yogurt: 14-18 g/6 oz serving
- Cottage Cheese: 13 g/4 oz serving
- Nuts and Nut Butters: 6-8 g/1 oz serving
- Soba Noodles: 12 g/3 oz serving
Mix up the protein sources in your diet to keep things interesting and get the most out of what you consume!
Sources: NationalDairyCouncil.org | ChooseMyPlate.gov | VegetarianResourceGroup.org |
NationalAcademies.org | Body Building Ultimate List of High Protein Foods