The Power of Protein: How much do YOU need?

Protein. It sounds like a simple nutrient that is part of a normal diet, when, in fact, it is one of the essential components of life, and critical for high-quality athletic performance!

Proteins are known as the building blocks of life, with every cell in the entire body constructed using these fundamental elements. Dietary proteins play a major role in the building of tissues and organs, and in the repair and development of strong muscles, which is especially important after intense exercise.

One of the biggest questions people have regarding protein intake is the amount that they should be consuming on a daily basis. Everybody has different requirements when it comes to protein intake. Luckily, there is a simple way to determine how much YOU need, and the best sources to get it from!

Whether you are sedentary and rarely engaged in exercise or highly active and exercising on a daily basis, you need The Power of Protein in your diet. The amount, however, varies based on a number of different factors. Take into consideration the following when calculating protein requirements:

  • Your weight (in kilograms)
  • Your activity levels (sedentary to vigorous activity)
  • Your objectives (muscle-building, strength, performance)

You can calculate your protein requirements by using the following formula:

Weight (in kg) x Activity Factor = # of grams of protein required per day

  • x 0.8 (for sedentary or no exercise at all)
  • x 1.0 (for moderate activity, such as brisk walking, light jogging or cycling)
  • x 1.2 (for intense activity, such as sprinting, swimming, or strength-training)
  • x 1.4 (for vigorous activity & muscle-building)
* To calculate your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 (Ex. 150 lb divided by 2.2 = 68 kilograms).

There are a variety of different foods that contain protein. Animal products, such as lean meat, fish, chicken and other poultry are great sources of protein, as are foods such as beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, peanut butter, and soy products such as tofu. Milk and milk products, including cheese and yogurt, are other high-quality sources. Grain products, such as brown rice, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta and oatmeal are also considerable sources. The key is to include a healthy balance of these foods and to strive for as much variety in your diet as you can.

You may have noticed that many unhealthy foods contain protein, such as frozen or fast food meals, but they may also be high in fat, sugar, and salt. Aim to limit these foods in your diet and stick to healthy sources of high-quality, performance boosting proteins. For example, one skinless chicken breast (3.5 oz /100 g), or the size of a deck of cards, contains over 20 grams of protein. For some people, that is a quarter of their daily protein requirements. Here is a sample of other excellent sources of protein and the amount they provide:

  • Poultry (3.5 oz/100 g) = 20–30 grams
  • Fish (3.5 oz/100 g) = 22 grams
  • Lean pork or beef (3.5 oz/100 g) = 20+ grams
  • Egg (1 large) = 6 grams
  • Skim milk (1 cup/250 mL) = 8 grams
  • Low-fat or Greek yogurt (1 cup/250 mL) = 10 grams
  • Cooked beans (½ cup/125 mL) = 7–10 grams
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons/30 mL) = 8 grams
  • Almonds (¼ cup/60 mL) = 8 grams
  • Quinoa (1 cup/250 mL) = 9 grams
  • Brown Rice (1 cup/250 mL) = 5–8 grams
  • Cooked oatmeal (1 cup/250 mL) = 6 grams
  • Tofu (½ cup/125 mL) = 8 grams

You can easily meet your protein needs by including these foods in your diet. Try to include a protein source with each meal (breakfast, lunch, and supper), as well as a small serving with your snacks. Always include a protein source after you have finished exercising to initiate and support the repair and recovery process.

By consuming your daily needs from the highest quality sources, you are ensuring that your body is getting enough protein to keep you strong and healthy, and performing at your best!

Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian

Adapted from www.chicken.ca