Protein is important for building and repairing tissues in your body. It is also important for making hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals in your body. Protein is needed to help build bones, cartilage, skin, blood, and muscles. Higher intake of protein is associated with preventing age-related muscle loss and strength, improvement in satiety that can help prevent or treat obesity, and increased athletic performance since it plays a role in stimulating muscle protein remodeling after exercise.
What Is the Minimum Amount I Need
In my work, I am continuously surprised on how little protein some of my clients eat, considering the role of protein in health and wellbeing. And it is why I want to write about what amount you need to be at least consuming according to the Recommended Daily allowance (RDA); why you may need to eat a higher amount, and what to do if you want to use it as a fat loss aid.
It is important to know that the RDA for protein reflects only the 'minimum' requirement - meaning it is the least amount you should be eating. Depending on your activity level, health condition, lifestyle, and goals, eating beyond the RDA amount most likely will help you improve your 'gains' in the weight room, sense of vitality, skin health, hormone balance, and more. If you are curious to know the minimum requirement the RDA has recommended based on your bodyweight, you can use the following equation.
(Bodyweight in lbs)/ by 2.2 x .8 = minimal intake of protein in grams
If you don't want to use the above calculation, you can use the graph below to make an estimation on how much protein you may need to be at least consuming on a daily basis based on your weight.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Protein In Grams
Basically, if you weigh 175 lbs, the RDA’s protein requirement for you would be 63 grams of protein. Considering a serving size of beef is around 30 grams, 63 grams of protein would be about 2 serving sizes of beef (4-ounces or a 'deck of cards' of cooked beef). An important part to remember about this equation is if you buy 4 ounces of uncooked beef, please note that the protein you end up eating may be less than 4 oz of cooked beef - meaning, the cooked version might be less than 30 grams of protein. if you are eating a 4 oz serving size of cooked beef for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your protein intake will come out to 12 oz of beef protein - which is about 90 grams of protein.
A deck of cards is the typical serving size of meat, including cooked beef and chicken.
If you are curious about the amount of protein in other animal based protein choices, such as chicken and fish, they are more or less similar in the amount of protein in cooked beef (30 gram per 4 oz) too. Eggs come around 6 grams of protein - meaning you will need to eat about 5 eggs to get the amount of protein you can get in 4 oz of cooked beef. If you are sensitive to egg whites and can only eat egg yolks, keep in mind that there are only 2.7 grams of protein in each egg yolk. For milk, there is about 30 grams of protein per 4 cups of whole milk. For 30 grams of protein in peanut butter, you need to eat about a 1/2 cup of peanut butter, which comes out to a whopping 759 calories - wowza! If you are concerned about calorie intake and obesity, peanut butter may not be the appropriate choice as a protein source.
Why More Protein?
If you are still unsure if you need more protein, Chris Kresser at Chriskresser.com, a functional practitioner in the East Bay, writes about what conditions may require a higher protein intake in his blog. He mentions 5 groups of people who may benefit from a higher protein intake, which includes the following:
People who want to lose weight
People with blood sugar and metabolic problems
Athletes and people who train hard
The elderly and chronically ill
People who are under a lot of stress
Chris Kresser also includes a great graph I posted below on the percentages in protein calories (specifically, high protein intakes) and grams of what it would look like with certain calorie intake.
Based on this graph, if you were to weigh 175 lbs and followed a 2,200 calorie diet with a healthy body, you could - in theory - increase your protein intake up by 130 grams or 6 more serving sizes of beef above the RDA for protein (remember that for a 175 lbs individual, 63 grams of protein is the lowest amount of protein recommended for healthy individuals).
Sadly, I couldn't find a maximum amount of protein recommended for athletes and healthy individuals. Not sure if there are any studies that have explored this topic yet. But I did find a study that fed resistance-trained men and women who ate 5.5 times the RDA requirement in protein with no increases in body fat or negative side effects.
Below is a graph I made comparing the RDA requirements and a higher intake for protein.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein at .8 verses higher protein needs at 1.7
How to use protein to lose fat and not muscle
Lastly, for people who want to lose weight Chris Masterjohn, who has a PhD in nutritional sciences and can be found at (chrismasterjohnphd.com), recently posted on Instagram that if you want to lose fat and not lose muscle during weight loss, eating the amount in grams of protein you want to weigh in lbs at the end of your weight loss is recommended (ex. If you want to weigh 125 lbs, eat 125 grams of proteins). Chris includes other recommendations (ex. using body building techniques in resistance-training and calorie tracking), but I don’t want to veer off too much off the topic of protein intake, so check out his post for more information.
Barriers to Eating More Protein
One of the obstacles that may stop you from eating more protein is a possible fear that a high protein diet may be harmful to your kidneys or bones. If you are healthy, you most likely need not to worry. Studies have shown that protein intake up to 35% of total calories is fine for healthy individuals. From my research, it is only people with kidney disease that need to be concerned about high protein intakes. If you do have kidney disease, I recommend working with an experienced health practitioner and your doctor to figure out the appropriate approach and amount for you.
The other concern I hear from clients is feeling full when eating at or below the RDA requirement. If this scenario sounds like you, I recommend working with a health practitioner (ex. holistic nutritionist, naturopathic or functional doctor) to figure out how to improve your ability to digest protein. By working with a qualified practitioner, you may find that it could be just a lack of stomach acid to break down protein or stress that can be helped by herbs, supplements (ex. Betaine HCL Pepsin) and ultimately long term changes in your diet and lifestyle to support your digestive health.
As a side note, healing can take time to shift, so please be patient with whomever you decide to see for help. Expect that it may take some weeks to notice any changes in the way you digest protein and how you feel. The body can take time to absorb, rebuild, and recover from years of malnourishment. At the same time, it doesn't mean to not ever start nourishing yourself or that you may experience mini milestones in improvements before a couple of weeks or months. Rome wasn't built in a day. Likewise, your amazing body may need time and patience to replenish any deficiencies you may have, so it can can help you be your most vital self.