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How Much Protein Do We Need?

I feel like I'm always reading or hearing about the benefits of protein. Every trip to the grocery store reveals a new kind of protein bar. Only the biggest of bodybuilders used to worry about getting enough in their diets, and now nearly every smoothie offered at my gym contains a scoop of protein powder--and it's not the male bodybuilders who are buying the "low-fat cran-razz pink delight". So what's the big idea? Do I eat enough daily or do I need to supplement with something? I decided to put together some information about protein and also determine how much I need daily.

Why Do We Need Protein?
-Perhaps most importantly, your body uses protein to build new muscles and repair existing ones
-The majority of your hair and nails are made up of protein
-Without it, children can develop kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition found in undeveloped countries
-You need protein to make blood cells
-Aside from water, protein is the most common molecule in the body

So far, so good. I know protein is important for my body, and I want to include it into my diet. So how much do I need? This is where the controversy comes in. Low-fat, high carb, South Beach, Atkin's, Paleo....need I go on?
The United States Recommended Daily Allowance says and adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of weight. So for me, that's around 43 grams. And if you're active? This study says you need closer to 1.37 grams per kilogram of body weight. Alright, then that's 73 grams instead! Different studies and diets may tell you your body requires more or less, but this is a good formula to go by. 
Sedentary: KG (weight) x 0.8 grams
Active: KH (weight) x 1.37 grams

Where Do We Get Protein From?

When you talk about protein many people think of a big hunk of meat, myself included. That's far from the only place to get it though. Here is a list of some foods that are a good source of protein:

-Eggs and Dairy products (milk, greek yogurt)
-Poultry, Fish, Beef, Lamb, Pork
-Nuts and Nut Butters
-Soy based foods (Tofu, Tempeh, Miso, Soy Milk)
-Many grains
-Protein Powders, Bars, and Drinks
-Fortified Products: Oatmeals, Bread, Cereals, etc. 

From what food sources do you get most of your protein?
I eat a small amount of meat and seafood, but I avoid dairy most of the time. Except for Greek Yogurts--I eat one a day! I also eat eggs often and lots of nuts. However, I still supplement occasionally with protein powders or bars. 

Have you ever been on a high-protein diet? Why? What changes did you notice in your body and fitness?
I've been on a "low-carb" diet before, which nearly always ends up as a high protein diet by default. I wouldn't attempt this now, however, because running has become such a big part of my life and I can really tell when I'm eating fewer carbohydrates. 


  1. Great information! I drink a smoothie with whey protein post-run... but otherwise get all of mine from my regular diet. I eat a lot of grilled chicken, almond butter, almond milk, black beans... but I do track my protein and shoot for at least 60g per day.

  2. I was researching all the same things yesterday, haha. I get most of mine from chickpeas, black beans, veggie burgers, soymilk, almond milk and almond butter (of course!)

    It's a pretty short list and that's something I'm really trying to work on right now...

  3. I actually went to a nutritionist when I started running seriously because I wanted to make sure I was getting enough of everything. I'm a vegetarian, so, obviously that eliminates a huge source of protein right there. She told me that on days when I run I should be adding a protein supplement to my diet even though I was eating well (beans, pb, eggs, etc.) because my mileage was so high that I wasn't getting everything covered.

  4. Great post! I get my protein from meats and seafood, eggs, protein powder, cottage cheese and greek yogurt. I also eat beans and nuts and some soy products.

  5. I think it's funny when people freak out over someone who is vegetarian/vegan, because they automatically assume that there is no way they get enough protein.
    But I was vegan for over 4 years and never had any issue getting enough of anything. It really just comes down to learning what your options are and finding the ones you like. Oh! and being open to trying new things helps too. :)

  6. my meat choices are normally chicken or tuna. & then there is my egg addication. i love black beans & chickpeas, so i tend to incorporate those a lot! and i'm with you on greek yogurt! i use it on practically everything now :)

    i'm a fan of protein mix ~ but i don't use it regularly. same thing with protein bars.

    good post!!!

  7. I don't eat a lot of meat, dairy, or eggs. Most of my protein comes from beans, lentils, nuts, and whole grains. My husband is middle eastern so by default our diet follows the "mediterranean" diet. We eat fish at least once a week and go vegetarian a couple times a week. I could probably stand to get more protein but I'm a carb girl all the way.
    I've tried protein powders and such but I'm just not a fan and protein bars are pretty gross. I love your blog it's so informative!

  8. Great Post! Very informative and helpful. I'm new to the runner's scene and I know I need the protein, but never knew how much. I eat a lot of eggs and I eat some chicken and meat. I'm jumping more into the nuts and nut butters also. I try to eat the protein bars before a longer run which helps me a lot.

  9. This is something I've been thinking about a lot too! I do eat meat and a lot of yogurt and cheese but I have a feeling I'm not getting enough protein either.
    Do you have any ideas on the different/benefits of whey protein vs. soy protein? Last time I tried to buy a supplement the whole thing was very confusing!

  10. this is so interesting! i love how you always include formulas for things as well so that we can figure them out on our own :)

    my protein typically comes from power bars, protein smoothies, chicken, PB, oatmeal and I LOVE milk!!

  11. Great topic. I had no idea how little protein I was getting until I actually sat down and added it up one day. I was terrifying because it was well below 40 grams. eeek!

    Since then I have added a lot of eggs, cottage cheese, and protein supplements. I'm not sure I have noticed a direct effect but I have been able to recover quickly from running high mileage.

  12. I would say that I get most of my protein from low fat cottage cheese. I used to not like the stuff until I found a brand that I loved. It is called friendship 1% cottage cheese. I can buy it here in NYC but I havent found it in MN.

    But ever since I started eating it, I noticed I was not snacking as much. I also felt like I was becoming more lean. Now I am not 100% sure it is from the protein but I would like to think it is a factor.

  13. Um, how did you read my mind and know that I needed this post today? I have seriously been trying to find more protein and the right amount for me. LOVE THIS!!! My fave source of protein is EGGS!!! I tried the low carb diet too and I was a witch!!

  14. I eat as close to a vegan diet as possible, so no meat, dairy, seafood, etc... And I also try to avoid soy products when possible, so I'm pretty limited. I'll eat tempeh maybe once a week and then get the rest from nut butters, nuts, beans, grains, and shakes made with hemp protein.

    I've never been on a high protein diet. I think it would be way too hard for me! I would be eating bags of nuts and then consuming like 1000 grams of fat per day!

  15. mmm i love protein... especially from nonmeat sources! like beans and legumes. the only thing I ever crave is protein!

  16. Before I started getting into running I was in to weight lifting so I have never let go of a high protein diet. I love my protien shakes, cookies and pancakes! Sometimes though I think I need to opt for real food over the protein bars and shakes. They can just be so yummy. If I am not getting protein from supplements, I love egg whites, tuna, chicken, turkey bacon, cottage cheese...I could go on and on!

  17. I made a turkey wrap for my boyfriend for lunch today and I noticed that there were 22 grams of protein in the serving, which was only 50 calories. I was so surprised about how protein dense turkey is. (I am not a big meat eater at all.)

  18. There is a chance I will one day steal that cartoon for my blog. LOVE IT. My protein comes from 1) Greek Yogurt, 2) Beans, and 3) Eggs. Oh, and tofurkey :)

  19. I love that cartoon! As a vegetarian, I can't tell you how many times people ask me where or how I get enough protein.

    I get my protein from eggs, soy milk, tofu, beans, nuts and nut butters, whole grains, even some vegetables (mushrooms are pretty high themselves)! I find that as long as I'm eating a balanced diet, it's ridiculously easy to get enough protein, even as a vegetarian.

  20. Nice topic!! I get my protein from meat, eggs, and peanut butter!! Also tofu, beans and stuff like that at times.

  21. I've been so bad on getting enough protein lately, because I'm lazier ever since my half marathon, and also because I am so busy moving (why do foods with more protein always seem to take longer to prepare, while the quickest options usually seem to be carbs???)

    I did have some greek yogurt for bfast this morning though! Yum!

  22. Great questions. I get protein from: cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, chicken/fish, the occasional protein bar or smoothie, and nuts.

    I try to avoid eating too many carbs because, for me, I find that most of my carbs are empty calories. If I focus on making sure I get enough protein,fruits, & vegetables, I'm in good shape.

  23. I'm vegetarian so most of my protein comes from nuts, beans and some tofu (not much I don't like the texture) but I love hummus & garbanzo beans are high in protein!

  24. Great post,maybe i need to start adding protein into my diet....

  25. it is tough to know exactly what we need since different sources tell us different things. i'll admit that most of the time i don't pay much attention to it, but when i'm training hard for something (like marathons) i do make an effort to add extra protein - and always have something high in protein after a tough workout. i eat lots of Greek yogurt, egg whites, oatmeal, chia seeds, tofu, and nuts (so i probably do get enough every day). i don't eat much meat but i think my tofu consumption makes up for it!

  26. Great post!
    I don't care much for cheese and milk but I love plain Greek yogurt. I also get a lot of protein from chicken, fish, shrimp and legumes. :)

    Thanks for commenting on my post.

  27. Hi, just found your blog. What an informative post. Thanks! I have never been on a high protein or low carb diet. I try to go for the all things in moderation approach. I eat a lot of lkean beef, and chicken. I also do a protein smoothie a couple of times a week. myt best approach is to go low sugar diet :)

  28. Very informative post especially for a pescetarian like I! (;

    Vanessa @ Project Zen

  29. HEY! Did you re-post this or did it come back on it's own? My protein post from yesterday disappeared :(

  30. NEVER MIND!!! It just re-appeared! WHOOO!

  31. I'm a vegetarian so I sometimes feel its a bit of a struggle to get all the protein in. I used to be anti - powder but my husband started using it to make smoothies and its surprisingly good. That comic sums up my life, I LOVE IT!!!!!

  32. New Diet Taps into Innovative Plan to Help Dieters LOSE 20 Pounds in Only 21 Days!


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