How much protein do we need?

Healthy protein is an essential component of our daily diets. Here's how to figure out how much protein you need and where to get it.

By Dr. Joey Shulman

How much protein do you need?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that is a requirement in the daily diet (the other two macronutrients are carbohydrates and fat). Protein is derived from building blocks called amino acids. Each protein is formed from the bonding of various amino acids into configurations.

There are 20 amino acids in total. Out of the 20 amino acids, 11 are non-essential, meaning your body can make them. The remaining nine must be derived from the food we consume on a daily basis. Similar to the alphabet, which can form a variety of long and short words, the different configurations of the amino acid structures are the building units for literally hundreds of protein varieties in the body.

As a major constituent of the diet, protein serves as the foundations for health, repair and replenishment. Our muscles, skin, hair and connective tissue are all made up of protein. This essential macronutrient is also involved in many of the body’s important chemical messengers such as enzymes, neurotransmitters and hormone function.

How much protein is enough? 
In the athletic world, there is no greater debate than how much protein you require on a daily basis. There are a number of varying recommendations and calculations when it comes to how much protein you should be consuming. On closer inspection, the daily intake of protein depends on age and activity level. For example, weight trainers and teenagers require more protein than a sedentary individual.

There are a few calculations that can be used in terms of protein recommendations. You can go by total percentage of calories per day. In other words, it is safe and within normal limits to consume 20 to 30 per cent of your total daily calories from optimal protein sources such as lean meats, eggs and dairy products. In other words, if you are a female consuming 1,800 calories per day and 20 per cent of the calories are derived from protein, the calculation would be:

1800 x 0.20 = 360 calories from protein
Since 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, divide protein calories by 4
= 90 grams of protein daily

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