Protein is for everyone, not just athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. It’s one of three vital macronutrients and is primarily responsible for building, repairing, and maintaining virtually all cells in the body. Protein is also an important structural component of muscle, bone, skin, blood, and other bodily tissues and organs. When the body’s supply of other macronutrients (carbohydrates and dietary fat) is insufficient, protein is used as a source of energy (or calories).
In and of itself, protein is comprised of different combinations of about 20 common amino acids. Of these amino acids, nine are classified as “essential” and must be supplied through the diet. These include histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. The other 11 amino acids are produced by the body and are termed “nonessential”.
Food sources of all essential amino acids are classified as “complete” or “high-quality” proteins and include meats, poultry, fish and seafood, whole soy foods (tofu and tempeh), eggs, and dairy foods.
Those foods containing some (but not all) essential amino acids are termed “incomplete” proteins. These include plant-based foods like grains, cereals, nuts, beans and dried peas. Although generally classified as incomplete, you can get an adequate supply of high-quality protein from these foods by strategically combining them to make complete proteins.
The food and drug administration recommends that 10-15% of your daily calories come from protein.
This is a general recommendation that serves as a guideline for an average sized person weighing about 150 pounds. Fifteen percent of 2,000 calories is equal to 300. Since every gram of protein yields approximately four calories, this equates to a maximum of 75 grams of protein per day (300 divided by 4 calories per gram equals 75 grams).
Simply put, for general health and fitness you should make it a practice to consume about 0.40-0.50 grams of protein per one pound of your body weight every day.
Now, if you’re an endurance athlete or someone who does a lot of running, cycling, or swimming, you should consume 0.50-0.65 grams of protein per pound of your body weight. If you perform strenuous resistance (weight) training regularly, it is a good rule of thumb to consume 0.65-0.80 grams of protein per pound of your body weight.
A section denoted “protein” can be found near the bottom of the “Nutrition Facts” food label located on the backs of product packages. The amount of protein per serving of a food is always listed in grams.
It is important to ensure that you are getting adequate amounts of protein in your diet by regularly tracking your intake. Also important is that you don‘t consume more protein than your body requires. Like anything else, unhealthy weight gain and other health problems arise when too much protein is consumed too often.