How Much Protein Should You Eat in a Day?

Getting Daily Protein
18 Dec

Did you know that roughly 46% of people over the age of 51 do not consume enough protein in the United States? This is but a fraction of the one billion people on Earth who are protein deficient. So, how much do you need to consume in a day to stay healthy?

That depends on your weight, age, and the amount of physical activity you do in a day. This is especially true if you plan on doing some weight lifting at the gym.

How Much Protein is Enough?

According to the Recommended Dietary Allowance, or RDA, an ideal amount of protein to have in a single day is roughly 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.

So, if you weighed 220 pounds, you’d need about 79.2 grams per day. To put this into perspective, a single serving of beef (3 oz) has about 22g of protein.

Theoretically, if you count breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, you’d need about 19.8g of protein for each meal. And since there are a plethora of ways to get various proteins, it all comes down to what you have in the fridge.

Of course, this includes animal and plant-based proteins. It is possible to get all of the protein you need from one or the other. But there’s a bit of an asterisk when it comes to plant-based foods. I’ll explain a bit more about that in a moment.

If you’re unsure about how much protein is ideal for you, there are several protein calculators on the Internet that can help you crunch some numbers as to what a proper amount is for you.

Protein While Weight Training

Weight Training

Now, when it comes to weight training and bodybuilding, the suggested amount of protein to consume ranges between 0.45 and 0.91 grams per pound of body weight.

If you weigh 220 pounds, the ideal amount of protein to consume would range between 99 and 200 grams per day. Yet, this also depends on the amount of muscle mass you’re trying to develop and sculpt. Someone who isn’t trying to bulk up but wants a muscular physique would side more with the former.

For instance, my current diet plan focuses on physical activity while burning calories throughout the day. Since I am not trying for 20-inch biceps, something in the range of 120g per day is ideal for me.

But if you’re going for Hulking out, you’d want to consume more proteins according to your workout routine.

This also depends on the number of amino acids you’re consuming to build muscle. Not all foods are created equal, and you might need alternative sources if something you’re eating is lacking. This is a common occurrence with those who switch to plant-based diets to avoid animal products.

The bottom line is that people who intend to be more active should consume more protein in their diets. It’s essentially the base building block of developing a stronger and more defined physique.

What If You Don’t Get Enough Protein?

A protein deficiency is more common than a lot of people might realize. This is what happens when you’re just not consuming enough to sustain your level of activity. In reality, protein deficiency can lead to a variety of health issues both physical and mental.

Some of the side effects that come with protein deficiency include:

  • Fatigue or overall weakness: Not eating enough protein can result in constantly feeling tired or weak. A common result of this is muscle catabolism.
  • Mood changes: The neurotransmitters in your brain rely on amino acids. Without enough of them, you could feel depressed or aggressive. (similar to the “Hangry” commercials from Snickers)
  • Feeling hungry: Going beyond the mood change, foods higher in proteins can help you feel fuller for longer while fueling your activities.
  • Edema: This is swelling that becomes apparent in the abdomen, legs, feet, and hands. However, edema can be caused by a variety of other things as well.
  • Skin and nail issues: Without various proteins, your skin can become dry and flaky while developing ridges in your nails. This is why collagen supplements are so popular.
  • Hair problems: Like your skin and nails, your hair can become dry and brittle without various proteins. Coincidentally, collagen supplements help with hair as well.
  • Stunted growth: A lack of protein can lead to kwashiorkor disease, which can result in stunted growth and abnormal swelling in children.
  • Healing yourself: Protein deficiency often leads to people taking longer to heal from injuries. This can include everything from spraining an ankle to cuts and bruises.
  • Bone fragility: Proteins are involved in the structure of bones. Not just because higher muscle density requires the body to generate stronger bones, but in the actual makeup as well.
  • Immune system complications: Antibodies are partially derived from amino acids. Consuming more protein helps you stave off a variety of illnesses.
  • Cravings for protein: A lot of cravings people feel are often related to nutrients their bodies are lacking. A craving for protein can indicate a deficiency.

What is Muscle Catabolism?

Essentially, muscle catabolism is what happens when your body is forced to use muscle mass as a form of energy as opposed to fat and carbs during intense workouts. The proteins are broken down and dispersed throughout the body in order to keep you alive and moving.

When muscle catabolism begins, it can lead to weakness in the muscles, a loss of muscle mass, and a decrease in energy for aerobic or anaerobic exercise.

This is one of the reasons why many people will not see growth while weight training. Instead of growing muscle, they are catabolizing progress because of a poor diet plan.

In a nutshell, you want to make sure you’re eating an adequate diet to keep from losing muscle mass during intense workouts or weight training. Otherwise, you’ll be going in the opposite direction of your fitness goals.

Can Plant Protein Replace Animal Protein?

Plant Based Protein

While some people believe that animal-based proteins work the best for maintaining and developing muscle mass in the human body, it is possible to get a similar nutritional value from plant-based foods.

However, there is a bit of a caveat. Most notably, plant-based proteins are often incomplete when it comes to the amino acids needed for muscle development and sustainability.

The human body needs nine essential amino acids. While it’s possible to live just fine if you’re not getting all of them, it’ll be more difficult to put on mass or to properly develop muscle tissue. Foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy contain all nine of these essential amino acids. This is why a lot of people believe animal products to be superior.

Plants often do not have all nine amino acids.

In many instances, nuts and veggies are low in one or two of the amino acids, making for an “incomplete” dietary supplement. Luckily, this can be offset by eating plant-based foods together to make up the difference. For instance, a peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread can provide all nine amino acids. While peanut butter lacks some acids, wheat bread has what is missing in abundance.

Now, this isn’t to say that a plant-based diet is always going to lack a few amino acids. In fact, a lot of foods such as chia seeds and soy have all nine amino acids without requiring additional foods. Nonetheless, a vegetarian or vegan diet still needs supplements to offset the nutrients that are missing when compared to an animal-based diet.

Using Apps to Track Your Protein Intake

MyFitnessPal Food Goals
MyFitnessPal Daily Intake Goals

Apps like MyFitnessPal can show you how much protein, fat, and carbs you’re eating throughout the day. Simply record the food you eat and then take a look at your macros. In its free version, you get the basics of how much protein you have eaten throughout the day.

Tracking your macros is only one benefit of many of these styles of apps. You can use them to identify foods that are causing physical issues such as allergies, as part of a weight loss diet plan, or to see the nutritional impact of eating a Deluxe Cravings Box from Taco Bell.

I often try to determine what nightly snacks I have that inspire certain types of dreams. Spoiler alert, snacks heavy in sugar often result in an extremely overactive imagination at night in my case.

At the end of the day, there are all kinds of free methods you can use right now to track what kinds of foods you eat and how they affect your mental and physical states. You’d be amazed by some of the connections you’ll make between how you feel and what you eat.

How Much Protein Do You Eat in a Day?

I have seen a significant difference in my energy levels throughout the day if I include more protein in my diet. Then again, I also push myself pretty hard at the gym, mostly to burn fat. Still, without that additional protein, I feel wiped out throughout half of the day.

Do you get enough protein in your diet, and if so, what are your favorite sources? Personally, I’m very carnivorous but am not averse to having a lot of plant-based proteins, especially when it comes to peanuts and almonds.

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