How much protein do you need?

Protein does a great deal for your body, including growing hair, forming blood cells, building muscle and providing energy. Hence, even if you have begun supplementing your diet with whey protein powder, you may find yourself wondering if you are taking in enough of this essential nutrient.

How much protein you should consume depends on a wide array of factors, such as gender, age and your daily activity level. Everyone's dietary needs are different and can shift based on your personal goals, whether they involve gaining strength, losing weight or just maintaining your present mass. Consider the following tips and information when planning your diet and deciding on the best source of protein for your needs:

Daily needs
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently recommends that an adult take in 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 50 grams of proteins a day, for a 2,000 calorie diet. However, as the Harvard Health Blog emphasized, the recommended daily allowance is only a minimum and may not reflect actual nutritional needs.

"The recommended daily allowance may not reflect nutritional needs."

Nancy Rodriguez, professor of nutritional science at University of Connecticut in Storrs, told Harvard, "There's a misunderstanding not only among the public, but also somewhat in our profession about the RDA." She said that FDA guidelines are both too low and widely misinterpreted as a daily target, suggesting an improved guideline might be twice the currently recommended amount of protein, or 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight.

Other experts agreed that the FDA recommendation needs to be updated. A review of recent studies published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism explained that a healthy diet calls for a higher protein intake, preferably spread out over the course of the entire day. Increasing daily consumption may benefit overall muscle health and help prevent muscle loss as people grow older.

Building muscle
Dietary protein is especially important if you intend to build lean muscle mass. As you break down muscle fibers through exercise, the amino acids aid in recovery and growth. A study from McMaster University in Ontario found that consuming whey protein up to 24 hours after exercise could enhance skeletal muscle growth.

As a literature review published in Advances in Nutrition discussed, keeping a positive nitrogen balance makes a difference in the effectiveness of your regimen. A positive balance occurs when the amount of nitrogen, an element that you take in through protein, is greater than what you lose through sweat and other excretions. It's important to avoid overtraining, which can lead to a negative nitrogen balance and injury. Always make sure you are consuming sufficient protein and allow yourself time to rest.

Of course, consuming more protein will have little effect unless you put in the time and effort at the gym. Sports science nutritionist Dr. Karen Reid told Men's Health that top athletes consume about two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily. She suggested approaching that level for the first 12 weeks of an exercise program, when you are experiencing pronounced soreness, to promote muscle growth.

Whether you're trying to lose weight or gain muscle, increased protein in your diet may help.Whether you're trying to lose weight or gain muscle, increased protein in your diet may help.

Maintaining a healthy weight
Protein may also be useful for losing weight. Research published in the The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology found that the nutrient satisfies hunger, which helps you cut down your consumption of carbohydrates and fats. Greater amounts of protein also mean higher energy expenditure and improved retention of lean muscle mass, both of which can aid in losing unwanted pounds.

Again, you will need to be conscious of your personal physical needs, be attentive to your overall diet and put in work to achieve results. When taking on a high-protein diet for weight loss or any other purpose, it is vital to stay active and consume other nutrients in sufficient quantities.

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