Protein and How Much Protein You Need Per Day
Most people who eat healthy often ask: How much protein do I need per day? How much protein should I eat? How many grams of protein per day do I need? Unfortunately, how much protein you need in a day is based on different factors including your gender, age, weight, muscle mass, medical history, dietary goals, activity level, pregnancy, and so many other health factors. Vanda’s Kitchen’s meals are built using varying amounts of plant and animal protein to cater for differing needs of customers.
What is Protein?
Proteins are one of the most important nutrients we need to maintain our health and body. They are the building blocks of our cells, and essentially, our entire body. They are used to make our organs, skin, muscles, as well as various other hormones, enzymes, and biological molecules that comprise our entire body system.
Proteins are made up of smaller molecules known as amino acids which link together to form a string of protein chains of varying complexities. Each protein chain is responsible for different functions in our body. Even though our body makes some of these amino acids naturally, there are still some essential amino acids that must be acquired from a healthy balanced meal with high quality protein.
A high protein diet or high protein foods can keep you fuller for longer compared to a high fat or high carb diet, thus reducing how much calories you take in, and subsequently helping with weight loss and reduction in body fat. Protein acts as an appetite suppressant while it boosts your metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories faster. A high protein diet, like most of our meals at Vanda’s Kitchen, helps you build and maintain muscle mass which also helps to burn calories even when you are not working out–something that is often important to athletes who want to perform at their best.
The body constantly breaks down muscle proteins and also rebuilds muscle mass; thus, protein is critical in gaining muscle mass and increasing overall strength. To build muscle or maintain muscle, the body must have more protein than it breaks down; hence, people, like athletes, who want to build muscle weight, or maintain muscles mass, need a diet rich in protein.
How much Protein do you Need?
So, knowing that we all need protein to keep us alive, how much protein do you really need per day? What is the optimal amount of protein that you should consume daily in order to thrive and stay healthy? What is the right amount of protein per meal? And if you’re like most healthy eaters, you probably have asked yourself “how much protein should I eat” and “how much protein do I need” and have mostly wondered which foods have a high protein content.
If you eat animal proteins like dairy, meat, fish, and eggs daily, you will most likely get all the protein your body needs from these high protein food sources. If you are vegan and follow a plant-based diet, you can still get most of the essential amino acids your body needs with a little creativity, as well as by eating meals created from plants high in protein.
The National Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians recommends a dietary reference intake (DRI) for protein of 0.8 grams per kg for an average individual. This is about 0.36 grams for every pound of body weight. To make it easier to remember how much protein is sufficient to maintain optimal health and wellness, it is recommended that about 10–35% of your daily intake of food should include protein.
Specific populations have different protein requirements, as follows:
Since not everyone is the same, some segments of the population have a different protein requirement than the recommended amount of 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. People who are active, pregnant, lactating, elderly, trying to build body mass, or recovering from injury, require a different amount of protein intake per day compared to the general public.
How much Protein do you need to Build Muscle Mass?
Muscle turnover is greatest when working out. People who are actively trying to gain muscle mass or retain muscle mass need to eat more protein than the recommended minimum. Weight lifters, or those training for intense competition like a marathon or cycling, need increased muscle strength for higher body efficiency, and in order to gain the right amount of muscle strength the recommendation is to increase their protein intake to around 1.6–2.2 grams of protein per kg (0.7–1 gram of protein per pound) of lean body weight.
How much Protein do you need when you are Active?
Physically active people expend more energy than sedentary people thus need more protein. An athlete swimmer or cyclist will naturally require more energy than someone who has a sedentary job.
Athletes who engage in high-intensity sports requires about 1.2–1.4 grams per kg (0.5–0.65 grams per pound) of protein per body weight compare to people who are moderately active.
How much Protein do you need during Pregnancy?
The body undergoes a lot of significant metabolic processes for both mother and baby during pregnancy and these changes require an increase in protein. Several scientific studies recommend several ranges of protein for pregnant women, but the average recommended range of protein required during pregnancy is 1.1–1.52 grams of protein per kg (0.55–0.69 grams per pound) of body weight.
How much Protein do you need while Breastfeeding?
Similar to pregnancy, the body also undergoes an increased need for energy and calories during lactation. The recommended daily allowance of protein to sustain milk production and general wellness during this lactation period is about 1.3 grams per kg (0.59 grams per pound) of body weight. Experts also recommend a supplemental 25 grams per day as long as there are no medical reasons to restrict protein intake.
How much Protein do you require when you are Older?
Older adults 50 years and above have a high protein turnover in their body and thus need a higher protein intake than the general population. In general, older adults need about 50% more protein than the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) to protect the body against several chronic diseases, as well as frailty, which can lead to many negative health consequences.
The recommended required protein intake for an older adult is about 1–1.3 grams per kg (0.45–0.6 grams) of body weight. When dietary protein is low, the body will take protein from the skeleton, which can lead to diseases like osteoporosis and muscle wasting in elderly patients.
How much Protein do you need when you are Recovering from an Injury?
People recovering from injuries need more protein than the daily recommended intake. This is because protein, which is the basic building block of the body, is an essential component of wound healing and wound repair. The recommendation for how much protein to ingest when recovering from injuries, especially traumatic injuries, will depend on a lot of factors, including type of injury, degree of injury, age, body type, site of injury, and treatment. The rate generally varies from 1.5gm to 2.0gm per kg of body weight but can be lower or higher as needed and as determined by your physician.
Vanda’s Kitchen and High Protein Meals
One of our missions at Vanda’s Kitchen is to provide nutritious and healthy foods rich in plant protein and animal protein. A typical meal with animal protein such as our slow cooked beef with rice has about 40gms of protein per serving while our plant-based vandas vegan curry has about 31gms of protein! Other high-protein meals include thai coconut salmon, sweet chicken curry, welsh lamb and mash, and super green pasta.
Our plant-based and animal-based meal plans have varying calories with different amounts of macros (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) specifically designed to cater to different nutritional needs. If you have any questions about our protein content, or a bespoke meal plan for you, please contact us for more information.