How much protein do I need to live my best life?
Protein is a necessary macronutrient that aids in the maintenance of a healthy body. It is required for the formation and repair of tissues, the production of enzymes and hormones, and the maintenance of a healthy immune system. Many people have become obsessed with protein as the health and fitness industry has grown, often consuming excessive amounts in the form of powders, bars, and supplements. But how much protein do you really need to be healthy?
To find out, we set out on a journey to uncover the reality behind the protein obsession. We talked to dietary experts, read scientific research, and even tracked our own protein intake to see how it influenced our energy levels, emotions, and overall health.
The Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for protein is determined by the National Health and Medical Research Council as the average daily protein requirement for the generally healthy population. Your RDI is dependent on your life stage, age and sex and can be located HERE.
As a general indication, healthy males between the ages of 19 and 70 require 0.84 grams per kilogram of body weight, per day and healthy women aged 19-70 who are not pregnant or breastfeeding require 0.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day. This means that the average 70-kilogram, middle-aged adult male requires only 59 grams of protein per day.
Protein requirements by body weight for women who are pregnant or lactating as well as children and adolescents are higher than these general requirements and requirements may also increase among elite athletes. Consuming 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day for example, has been found in studies to assist muscle growth and repair in elite athletes.
Ingesting more protein than required may not result in better health outcomes such as greater muscle development because the body can only use so much protein at one time.
But what about the dangers of eating too much protein? Excess protein consumption could also contribute to kidney impairment, bone loss, and potentially increased cancer risk among some individuals.
We found that consuming protein at the RDI supports healthy and sustained energy levels and helps us feel more satiated throughout the day. However, eating too much protein made us feel bloated and lethargic, and because of consuming mainly high-protein foods, we failed to achieve our daily requirements for other critical macro and micronutrients including fibre.
The goal is to strike the proper balance and eat protein from a range of sources, such as lean meats, eggs, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and dairy products.
To summarise, the amount of protein you require to live your best life is determined by your unique physiology and may be less than you think. It's critical to have enough protein to sustain your body's activities and reach your fitness goals, but not at the expense of other essential nutrients. So, before reaching for that protein bar or shake, think about your entire nutritional needs and strive for balance. Your body will appreciate it.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). (2017). Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand. Retrieved from https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein
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