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Protein - How Much Do We Need?

Learn about how much protein do we need and its benefits

Protein - How Much Do We Need?

Why Are Amino Acids and Complete Protein Important?

Protein is a key part of any diet, it’s used by the body to repair tissues, build and maintain bones, skin and muscles and is present in every single cell in the human body. However not all protein sources are created equal. This is partially because not all protein sources are comparable when it comes to their respective essential amino acid composition (amino acids are the building blocks of proteins). In nutrition science, some regularly used words actually have very specific meaning, one example is the word “essential.” When talking about specific nutrients, the term essential means that humans require that specific nutrient in adequate quantities in order for humans to survive. These nutrients cannot be made in sufficient amounts by the body, and absolutely must be obtained through our diet. Certain amino acids are considered essential, they cannot be made by the body, but are required for life. Only protein sources containing all of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities are considered complete proteins.

But how much protein is enough protein? Well, the answer to that question is another question – what is your goal?

If one is simply looking to fulfill basic survival requirements, the research indicates that humans need about 0.4 grams of high-quality protein per pound of body weight. Again, high-quality protein being another one of those nutritional science terms with a very specific meaning – indicating a protein’s digestibility and absorption rate and that it provides all the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities. If you’re already a fan of Quest, you may already be familiar with this term, as dairy proteins are considered quality proteins.

However, fulfilling basic survival requirements isn’t always our goal, a lot of us are athletes, have demanding jobs, and in general want to look and feel our best. And this is where the protein requirement story gets more interesting. In fact, studies have found that eating higher amounts of protein can be metabolically advantageous – helping promote lean muscle creation and body composition in physically active individuals and military personal. Many of these studies have looked at how high protein diets (consuming about twice the recommended amount or about 0.8 grams of high-quality protein per pound of body weight) keep the body from breaking down muscle tissue for extra energy during periods of brief energy-deficit (think, post-workout).

Benefits of More Protein

But the benefits of eating more protein go beyond just helping to create (and keep) muscles. Protein is also a major structural component of bone, and data clearly shows that the current protein recommendations are inadequate for maintaining bone health, especially as people age. Furthermore, data suggests that higher protein intake can also improve intestinal calcium absorption, further supporting healthy bone mineral density.

When it comes to protein intake, distributing your protein intake equally between meals when compared to a more traditional, skewed intake of dietary protein (where people tend to eat a large protein meal at night) appears to optimize 24-hour muscle protein synthesis. In other words, make sure to get some protein at every meal and snack / in regular intervals throughout the day.