How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

It seems that every few years or so, there’s one nutrient that society starts to avoid like the plague or places on such a high pedestal that we tend to overdo it just a bit. There’s the low fat phase that we all went through, good fats, low carbs, etc. These days, many people have an obsession with protein. Whether you’re trying to put on muscle or lose fat, protein seems to be the most popular answer. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, but do you need as much protein as your average armchair nutritionist is suggesting?

A diet that’s high in protein tends to go hand in hand with a low carb diet. Protein packed foods that first come to mind for people include most types of meat alongside eggs. If your goal is to try and shed fat and build muscle, it’s vital to get these types of foods into your diet, but there could be some negative long term effects. Those that suffer from gout or kidney stones are more apt to see severe symptoms due to an increase in uric acid. For anyone that’s had either of these ailments before, you know how painful that can be.

So how much protein is the right amount for the average person? Naturally, it all depends on your size, so it’s easier to break it down by percentage of your diet and your age. At the very low end, 10 percent of the calories you eat should come from protein. You don’t want to go higher than 35 percent, or else you’re putting yourself at risk for adverse side effects. In fact, too much protein on a daily basis could lead to chronic illness or even death via protein poisoning. This is when your body goes too long without taking in carbohydrates or fats.

For those under the age of 40, nutritionists suggest that you get about 0.4 grams of protein for every pound of body weight (or 0.8 grams per kilogram). If you’re a 200 pound person, this would come out to around 80 grams of protein per day. When you cross the 40 year old barrier, it’s important to increase your protein intake as your body loses muscle naturally as you get older. With that in mind, increasing to 1.2 grams per kilogram is suggested.

It shouldn’t be too hard to find foods that are high in protein, as seemingly every company is touting their protein content right on the label. Just be mindful to not obsess with getting a massive amount of protein on a daily basis, though. “High protein and low carbohydrate diet is one such fad diet that has been claimed by some to help reduce weight and maintain it at healthy levels,” says Dr. Ananya Mandal. “Like other fad diets, high protein diet failed to live up to its expectations.” In one major study, Dr. Mandal found that over the course of six months; those that followed a diet focused around high protein didn’t lead to more weight loss than some of the other controlled “fad” diets.

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