As a group fitness instructor and a self proclaimed “nutrition nerd,” students have often asked me about how much protein they need. There are many nutrition authorities that tout high protein/high fat/low carbohydrate diets. The problem with those diets is that despite our best efforts our bodies will naturally use the amount of protein it requires based on our activity level. However, when we try to over consume protein, our body has to work extra hard to excrete the excess. What this leads to, eventually, is several possible problems including disorders of bone and calcium balance, disorders of the kidneys and liver, and increased risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease (Nutritionfacts.org).
What is the appropriate amount of protein to consume on a daily basis then? Well, it depends on your activity level, but for the normal gal or guy that is sedentary or does a moderate workout 3-4 days a week then protein intake should be calculated by multiplying .4 x your body weight. For the endurance athlete this number increases slightly to .54-.63 x your body weight and for a strength athlete the number increases to .63-.81 x your body weight. So what does that look like in a real person’s day? Take a look at this sample menu. This is a representation of what I might eat in a day. You will see that I hit a number that is right in between the endurance and strength athlete. I do a fair amount of High Intensity Interval Training and work out with moderate to heavy intensity 5-6 days a week so my protein intake should fall into that middle ground.
- 1/2 cup rolled oats with water, 1/2 blueberries, 1/4 tsp. coconut sugar, 2 tbsps. raw walnuts (approximately 12 grams of protein)
- Cherry Pie Lara Bar (5 grams of protein)
- Carrot, chickpeas and avocado salad on a bed of greens with approximately 3 tbsps. of lemon cucumber vinegar (approximately 10 grams of protein)
- 1 1/2-2 cups raw veggies (carrots, red peppers, cucumbers and celery) with 2 tbsps. Engine 2 Oil-free hummus (approximately 7 grams of protein)
- Quinoa Stir Fried Rice (1 cup quinoa, 1 cup sautéed vegetables, 1/4 cup chickpeas, coconut aminoes, fresh ginger and garlic) (approximately 20 grams of protein)
- Large garden salad with 3 tbsps. vinegar (approximately 5 grams of protein)
- 2-3 squares of Trader Joe’s organic dark chocolate (approximately 3 grams of protein)
Equals=62 grams of protein in this day