Protein – How much do you really need?

July 21, 2012

Jessica, Registered Dietitian

I often get asked about the necessity of using protein powder for weight loss, endurance training, weight lifting, or general exercise. Many fitness gyms and media sources highlight protein powder as something most of us should be including in our daily routine. But do we really need protein powder if we eat enough protein?

How much protein do we need every day?

Protein requirements are based on how much you weigh. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for protein, or the amount recommended for adults over 18 years irrespective of physical activity, is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This is about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

However, research suggests that both strength (weight-lifting) and endurance athletes may have increased protein needs.

So for a 150-lb endurance athlete, that means about 82.5-96 grams of protein per day.

For a 150-lb strength-trained athlete, he/she could require up to 109.5-115 grams of protein.

Can you meet these requirements through food alone?

Most people should not have a problem meeting protein requirements through food alone. It’s important to realize that endurance athletes and strength-trained athletes are those who are participating in their sports frequently and at a high level of training. Those of us who run a few miles a few times a week or lift weights a couple of days each week would not require higher protein amounts. The “menu” below lists foods for each meal that add up to about 80 grams of protein.

Breakfast (21 grams protein)
1 Greek yogurt (12 grams protein)
1 cup Cheerios (3 grams protein)
¾ cup non-fat milk (6 grams protein)

Lunch (31 grams protein)
Sandwich with 2 slices of bread, 1 slice mozzarella cheese, and 3-oz turkey (31 grams protein)

Dinner (28 grams protein)
3-oz chicken breast (26 grams protein)
½ cup brown rice (2 grams)

Total Protein: 80 grams

It really wasn’t difficult to reach 80 grams of protein with common foods, and that was without including snacks!! So unless you are a serious weight-lifter who requires very large amounts of protein, you should have no problem meeting your needs without protein supplements.