How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

There are several factors that determine the protein requirement of an individual. The most common among them are weight, level of physical activity, medical history and need for essential amino acids and nitrogen.

The general chart suggests 19 grams for kids aged 4-9, 34 grams for kids aged 9-13, 52 grams and 46 grams respectively for boys and girls aged 14 and above.

Why Protein Matters?

In simple terms, proteins are the building blocks of the body.  Made of amino acids, they build and repair muscle and tissues, maintain hair, skin, nails and bones and produce hormones, enzymes and other vital chemicals essential for the smooth functioning of the body.

Not getting enough protein can lead to muscle wasting, bone fractures and susceptibility to injury and infection.

How Much Protein Do I Need in a Day?

Protein requirement differs from person to person.  A sportsperson or a fitness enthusiast requires more protein than his counterpart at a desk job.  An adult requires more protein than a child.  A sick or injured person requires more protein than a normal healthy person.

Society has become intently focused on protein needs, considering more protein in the daily diet.  In fact, it is the quality of protein consumed along with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats that matter. Consuming a good balance of macronutrients optimizes how much of the protein taken goes toward muscle mass versus how much is used for energy.  Protein intake of 0.75 – 0.80grams per kg body weight per day is recommended for general population.

Protein Requirement of Athletes

The latest recommendation from the International Society of Sports Nutrition is that athletes should get between 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kg body weight per day of protein. However, individual protein need depends on the type and intensity of training.

It is best to spread protein intake throughout the day for better digestion and utilization. It also helps to have protein within 30 minutes following a workout, to optimize its benefit for recovery, repair and growth of muscles.

Type of Athlete Daily protein requirement per kg body weight
Endurance athlete – moderate or heavy training 1.2 – 1.4 grams
Strength and power athlete 1.4 – 1.8 grams
Athlete on fat-loss programme 1.6 – 2.0 grams
Athlete on weight-gain programme 1.8 – 2.0 grams

Best Sources of Protein for Athletes:

It is important for athletes to calculate their daily protein intake from food and increase their intake of protein-rich food.

  • While the most often discussed sources of protein are animal-derived products, such as meat, poultry, eggs, fish and dairy, protein is also found in whole plant foods.
  • Good sources of plant protein include beans, peas, lentils, soy foods like tofu, tempeh, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Food item Approx. grams of protein
150 ml milk 5 g
150 grams yoghurt 7 g
1 cup cooked dal 6 g
1 cup brown rice 6 g
50 grams peanuts 10 g
50 grams paneer 10 g
1 egg 5 g
100 grams fish 20 g
100 grams chicken 30 g

Targeted primarily for sportspersons, fitness enthusiasts and persons on weight-loss/weight-gain, protein powders and bars are a convenient option to meet the gap between the required protein and the protein intake through food. Nevertheless, it is necessary to read the labels and guidelines that govern the usage of whey protein powders and plant-based protein powders as supplements for training.

If you have been wondering how much protein you need a day, we hope this gives you a place to start.

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