Last week we tackled the “How much sugar should I consume in a day?” question. Another question I get asked a lot is, “How much protein should I consume per day?” Women especially have a hard time figuring out how much protein we should eat. I think we have this preconceived notion that we are going to look like a cave man if we start eating too much meat every day! But in fact, protein is a vital component in our diet.
What is protein?
Protein is made up of amino acids which are the body’s building blocks. Our muscles, skin, organs, and enzymes are all made of protein. Proteins are also used to make enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve important functions. Some of these amino acids can be produced by the body, while we must get others from the diet. The ones we cannot produce and must get from our foods are called the “essential” amino acids. Complete proteins are important because amino acids work as a team. If you’re low on one essential amino acid, the rest of them can’t do their jobs at an optimal level.
How do I know if my diet contains all nine essential amino acids?
The easy answer is to eat animal products. Just like us, animals are made of protein, including the nine essentials. However, I know not everyone wants to get all their protein from animal sources, so good news…there are plenty of plant-based protein sources as well. Quinoa, hempseed, chia seed, and soy are just a few. Eggs and dairy are also a complete protein source.
How much protein should I consume per day?
There is no cut-and-dry answer for how much protein we should consume per day..especially for women. It depends on factors such as your weight, activity level, and whether or not you are pregnant. However, we can figure out a general guideline with a simple math formula.
Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2 to figure out your weight in kilograms. Then multiply that number by 0.8 (if you’re not very active), 1.3 (if you’re active or pregnant), or 1.8 (if you’re extremely active).
Check out the handy chart below to see how much protein you should be eating each day. If you don’t see your weight, just use the formula above to calculate your daily protein.
Should I just pile on the protein to make sure I get enough then?
No. The body doesn’t convert excess protein to muscle. If you eat too much protein, it’s converted into either glucose or fat. It can also cause metabolic acidosis, when the body’s fluids become overly acidic. If you have existing kidney issues, a very high protein diet can be harmful as the kidneys play a huge roll in processing protein.
Protein is neither a magic muscle builder nor is it a toxic kidney killer. Protein is part of a balanced diet, which should also include complex carbs, furits and veggies, and healthy fats. I personally try to get a serving of protein at every meal as part of my active diet. As in the case with most things, a good diet is all about balance.
**If you need help figuring out some complete protein sources to add to your diet, please message me, I’m more than happy to help!