Wondering if you’re getting enough protein in your diet? If so, you aren’t alone. These days, it’s not just bodybuilders who are counting the amount of protein they’re consuming on a daily basis. With these key building blocks affecting everything from muscles and tendons to vital organs, protein is a vital dietary component and one that’s well worth a second look. Find out why protein is so important to bodily health and what you can do to ensure you’re getting enough.
Composed of molecules called amino acids, proteins are key to life as we know it. Not only do proteins make up every cell in the body, but they also stabilize blood sugar, boost energy levels, and support nutrient absorption. With that in mind, individuals who fail to consume enough protein are at risk for a wide array of conditions ranging from muscle weakness to immune system problems, pain, and brain fog.
So, how much protein is enough to support a healthy lifestyle? According to the National Institutes of Health, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. You can determine your specific RDA by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36 or using an online protein calculator like the one here.
It’s important to note that the 0.8 grams figure refers to the minimum protein amount needed to avoid getting sick. Your lifestyle habits, age, and level of exercise will impact the actual amount needed to support healthy muscles and maintain quality of life.
In general, older individuals require more protein than those who are younger. As a person approaches middle age, he or she will require increased protein to maintain muscle mass and prevent osteoporosis. In fact, one study from 2015 showed that when adults over 50 doubled their protein intake, they were able to rebuild muscle faster than the control groups.
Additionally, an individual’s activity level affects his or her protein requirements. Individuals who are considered very active—meaning they exercise 35 minutes four to five days a week—require 1.2 to 2 grams of dietary protein per kilogram to rebuild muscle tissue.
Individuals looking to lose weight may also have different protein requirements than those who are already at a healthy weight. Because digesting protein takes more time than digesting carbs, dieters can often reduce hunger pangs by upping their protein levels.
Additionally, research shows that protein may be able to reduce appetite and limit cravings. According to a study published in the journal Obesity, consuming a diet with 25% of the calories from protein reduced late-night snacking along with obsessive thoughts related to food. And another study revealed that increasing protein levels from 15% to 18% reduced the amount of fat people regained after a weight loss.
Of course, boosting your protein levels alone won’t guarantee an improvement in health. You also have to ensure you’re consuming the right proteins. While you might be tempted to reach for meats like beef and pork, the truth is you can increase protein levels with milk, eggs, cheese, whole grains, and even vegetables, as well. Make the right choices to ensure your long-term health.