How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Protein is an important nutrient–one that 60% of Americans say they want more of in their diet. This is why food labels proudly tout protein grams, magazines devote pages to ‘high protein’ picks, and people everywhere are eager to up their protein intake.

But how much protein do you really need? And how much is too much?

Let’s start with the basics.

  • Everyone needs to eat protein on a daily basis. It’s an essential nutrient that’s made of amino acids – the building blocks that help grow and maintain the body’s tissues — including muscles, tendons, blood vessels, skin, hair, and nails.
  • Protein helps you feel fuller for longer, and may be an important tool for weight loss.
  • Most people ARE getting enough protein. Deficiencies of protein are rare in the U.S. The National Academy of Sciences says healthy people need to get 10%to 35% of their daily calories from protein, and most Americans tend to exceed that amount.
  • More protein should not mean “eat more meat.” Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) definitely provide high-quality protein, but so do many plant foods — including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables.
  • Spread your protein intake throughout the day. The body uses protein’s amino acids best when you eat protein in three main doses per day (i.e. in your main meals). This type of distribution is thought to be best for building muscle and aiding fat loss.

Since protein is so important to our health, isn’t more protein better?

There are risks of over-consuming protein. Too much can be problematic for people with certain conditions, such as kidney disease. Plus protein, like all nutrients, means calories — which can lead to weight gain. For more on protein and where to find it, visit choosemyplate.gov

Remember, if you are considering a high-protein diet (or any kind of diet), check in with a medical professional, such as Prosperity Internal Medicine, first. If you have specific health concerns and would like to get your cholesterol checked, please call us at 703-876-9300. Our group uses the latest advances in medicine, offering our patients access to innovative health management technologies, proactive team-based care, and an evidenced-based, patient-centered approach.