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Know Your Protein Sources and Portions

Nina Ghamrawi, MS, RD, CDE
October 26, 2022
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“Wow, look at those muscles! Do you work out?” Is what I wish people would say to me just for drinking a protein shake. But eating a lot of protein, by itself, won’t make your muscles perfectly defined and worthy of stares. In fact, eating more protein than you need can still make you gain weight. So let’s talk about how much protein the human body typically needs, and how much you can get from certain common foods.

What you need

The human body on a regular basis, needs around 0.6 to 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight if you are sedentary.  For most moderately active people, however, we will need around 1 g per kg body weight. This means that:

  • A moderately active person weighing around 150 lbs needs only around 68 g of protein per day.
  • A sedentary person weighing 150 lbs needs much less, between 41 to 55 g of protein per day.

If you are lifting weights for more than 1 hour per day, you may need 1.2 to 1.5 g per kg of your weight, and if you do straight lifting for 2 or more hours per day, you may need as much as 2 to 3 g protein per kg body weight.

This means that most of us need just 2 to 3 ounce (oz) of protein at each of our 3 meals per day, or maybe up to 4 oz at lunch and dinner if we are active. However, most Americans eat at least 30% more than this! While it's true that eating protein is a great way to fill you up and get you through the day, we don’t actually need as much as we may think.

Here’s a look at different sources of proteins, and how much protein is in each serving.

Food Sources and Portions

Animal sources of protein (meat, seafood, eggs and dairy) are the main sources of “complete proteins.” These are easier and more “bioavailable” for your body to process, according to mainstream research. You can also meet your daily needs for protein oftentimes with just a small amount! However, these are very easy to find fried, highly processed, with added sugar, or with added salt.

Are you Vegetarian, Vegan, or “Flexitarian”?

While they are great for your heart, cholesterol free, and usually higher in fiber than animal sources, plant sources of protein usually are not easy for your body to use alone. Instead, certain plant proteins can be paired together to become “complete proteins.” Plant proteins need to be consumed in larger proportions in order to meet your protein needs, so they are great if you are extra hungry.

Takeaways

So whether you are a vegan or you just love meat, getting enough protein is important for optimum health. However, getting too much, although it keeps you full and satisfied, can also lead to weight gain. Eat more vegetarian proteins to fill you up, since they also are more balanced with a small amount of carbohydrate and fiber. Definitely talk with your Dietitian online or in a Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) visit to get an exact calculation of how much yo

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