Learn how protein works and why getting enough is key to achieving and maintaining good health.
What is protein?
Protein is an essential nutrient made up of little building blocks called amino acids. They make protein vital to building and repairing muscle, bone, hair, and nails. But that’s not all.
Protein gives you energy, and plays a key role in maintaining your immune system, making enzymes and hormones, and transporting nutrients throughout your body. Protein also helps your body repair and recover from illness and surgery, wounds, and falls and fractures. It even supports healthy aging and weight management.
But, unlike carbohydrates and fats, protein isn’t stored in your body. You have to consume it every day to stay healthy.
How much protein
do I need?
Everybody is different, so the amount of protein you need depends on factors like your age, weight, activity level, and overall health. For healthy adults over age 19, the recommended dietary allowance is a minimum of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. That means a healthy 50-year-old woman, weighing 150 pounds, would need a minimum of 54 grams of protein per day.
For adults over 65, experts recommend even more, about 0.5 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. So a healthy 65-year-old woman weighing 150 pounds would need about 75 grams of protein per day.
It’s also helpful to spread your protein intake across the entire day. Getting 20 – 35 grams with each meal or snack can help maximize protein synthesis and preserve muscle.
*A healthy 65-year-old woman weighing
150 pounds would need about 75 grams of protein per day.
Find your personal
How do I make sure I get
Getting 20 – 35 grams with each meal or snack can help maximize protein synthesis and preserve muscle.
Protein is found in a variety of foods. Animal sources of protein include chicken, pork, beef, fish, eggs and dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Plant sources of protein include soy, whole grains, nuts and legumes.
In general, animal sources are considered high-quality or complete proteins, because they contain all the essential amino acids needed for health. Plant proteins often lack certain amino acids. Plant protein powerhouses soy and quinoa are two exceptions.
No matter which sources you like best, protein is an efficient way to fuel up, even if you’re counting calories. Each gram of protein provides 4 calories, compared to a gram of fat which provides 9. Experts say that between 10 – 35% of your total calories should come from protein.