How Much Protein Do I Need?

Each week, the winner of the ExerciseTV and SocialWorkout challenge gets to ask me their top 3 fitness questions and help me chose a topic/exercise for an upcoming video. I thought I’d share the question I got from last week’s winner, because it’s one I get a lot. I think many people are confused about how much protein they need. So…here is my advice:

Question:
“I have been dying to find out the answer to this question: what are the pros and cons of protein bars and protein shakes. I use carnation breakfast essentials and also a protein powder. I want to keep my daily protein at 80 grams and I don’t each much meat. I find the little extra protein drink helps me reach my daily goal. Am I wasting my time? Should I find a different protein source. I already have lots of high protein foods in my daily diet. (greek yogurt, cottage cheese, almonds, soy milk, veggie sausage patties, fish or turkey or chicken for dinner, oatmeal, wheat germ, etc.)” 

My Answer:
This is a great question Mindy! First of all – I would say that you might want to consult with a DR or RD to see exactly how much protein (and other nutrients) your body is lacking and requires. But, by the sound of it – you are probably already getting more than enough. Everyone has kinda been going through a protein craze over the last few years, but the truth is that most people don’t need as much as they think. However, if you are trying to lose body fat, train for a figure/fitness competition or get more of a lean look…then you should have more protein than the average person. But, at a certain point – the extra protein is just converted to waste anyway because your body doesn’t need it. For most people that workout and are active – you can get by with eating about 0.3-0.6g per pound of body weight. For instance – if you weigh 130lbs you would will be fine staying between 39-50g protein a day. Also, another way to look at it is if you eat 2,000 calories a day – about 10%-15% of that needs to come from protein – so 200 calories worth or 50grams (protein has 4 calories per gram).

Now to specifically address your question…protein bars and shakes can be beneficial and I use them myself (I don’t meat, but do eat fish, eggs and dairy). But, not all are created equal. Look for ones that have the most “bang for your buck” and have higher protein but less calories, fat and sugar. Try to make your shakes yourself so you can monitor the ingredients (a lot of “smoothie” places use too much sugar and chemicals). But, that’s great that you aren’t just relying on shakes and bars, although they can be good when you are in a hurry or can’t make something. All the sources you listed above are great for protein…so keep mixing them into your diet! Don’t forget other veggies (like sweet potatoes), quinoa and beans – they are all great sources.

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