How Much Protein Do I Need?
Each person’s nutrient needs are a little different, and you actually have some leeway with how much of each to have. However, when it comes to macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat), it’s not the same rule. We want to get enough, without too much. There are varying suggestions on what the correct ratio is for macronutrient intake, but they typically fall within the following range:
- 45-65% of calories from carbs
- 20-35% of calories from fat (I’ve seen some studies show Mediterranean diets that have up to 40%)
- 10-35% of calories from protein
NOTE that these are not percentages of food on the plate, they are percentages of CALORIES from each food group. What makes this extra confusing is that carbs and protein are 4 calories per gram where fat is 9 calories per gram. Fat is very calorie dense, which is why you aim to eat less of it by volume, than the other sources of calories. Less is more!
Also, FYI – alcohol is 7 calories per gram. That’s still more calories per gram than carbs and protein. It can add up fast, hence the ‘beer belly’ that some people can accumulate even when it seems that they don’t “eat” that much.
Given this information, what is the optimal amount of protein that you should aim for? Consuming more protein than your body needs is not helpful. The average American eats twice as much protein as they need (they fill 1/2 their plate with meat!)
Protein Sources & Amounts
Julie Lanford MPH, RD, CSO, LDN, is the Wellness Director for Cancer Services, a non-profit in Winston-Salem, NC. She is a registered dietitian, licensed nutritionist and board-certified specialist in oncology nutrition with over 10 years experience working in oncology.
Lanford developed www.CancerDietitian.com a healthy living web site for Cancer Services that translates evidence-based nutrition guidelines into consumer-friendly messages for everyday life. The site reaches thousands of people across the country who are interested in cancer nutrition and the most current topics on healthy lifestyle in our culture.