The Dirt: Are protein products, like shakes, powders and bars, part of your daily routine? The global protein supplements market is projected to reach $21.5 billion by 2025. And while it’s true our bodies require protein, you may not need the supplements. How much protein do you really need?
Before buying protein products, ask yourself:
How much protein does my body need? What protein sources are best for my body? Do I even need additional protein supplements?
Protein is the building block of all muscle. It is part of our DNA, supports our digestive enzymes and hemoglobin levels, enhances muscle fibers, keeps our bones strong, and helps support our immune system. And while it is important to eat protein every day, you probably do not need to add protein supplements to your diet.
Most consumers, however, are not aware of this. According to Statista, 2017 protein and meal replacement supplement sales were projected to reach approximately $3.37 billion in the U.S. But, before buying into the supplement craze, it is important to determine how much protein your body needs. Not to mention, the essential proteins our bodies require are actually readily available in everyday foods!
How much protein does your body need?
A protein recommendation is very individualistic and depends on several key factors. Your weight, height, activity level, nutritional needs, and possible nutritional deficiencies will all influence the amount of protein your body requires. While we can provide an outline of what might be the correct recommendation based on body weight and activity level, it is important to consult a nutritionist or physician before determining how much protein your body uses and whether a supplement is needed to support your body health.
Your level of activity includes your workout routine as well as your occupation. Those with sedentary occupations, like a desk job, naturally use less energy throughout the day, while those with active occupations will expend more energy day to day and often require more protein.
The American College of Sports Medicine indicates that anywhere from 10-35% of the average American’s diet should contain proteins. In terms of bodyweight, this means that a sedentary person should consume at least 0.36 grams of protein per pound, per day. This is the absolute minimum you need without negatively affecting your health. For example, this translates to 54 grams of protein per day for a 150 lb. person. The USDA will help you calculate your daily nutrient recommendations based on your inputs.
Of course, if you exercise more, you can increase your protein consumption— but you don’t need to overdo it! If you are eating protein with the hopes of building muscle, the quality, quantity, and timing of consumption is actually more important than the overall amount you eat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating 20-30 grams of complete protein within 2 hours of exercise. It is a common misconception that in order to “bulk up” or “stay lean” you need to eat a large quantity of protein every day.
Where should my protein come from?
When eating protein, you want to make sure it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Eggs, milk, and beef are high-quality proteins that are easily digestible. And it is important to diversify your protein choices— you want to provide your body with a variety of protein throughout the day to keep your energy levels up and support your overall health.
Lean meats, like turkey, chicken, and fish are also a good source of protein. 3 oz. of chicken or fish contains anywhere from 19-24 grams of protein.
3 oz of cooked chicken is about the size of a deck of cards.
One large egg contains around 6 grams of protein.
Dairy is another great source of protein— a 5.3 oz container of plain Greek yogurt contains 15 grams of protein. A cup of milk has roughly 8 grams of protein and an ounce of cheese contains 7 grams of protein. Legumes have protein, too! A cup of lentils contains roughly 16 grams of protein.
If you fall into the category of a very highly active or professional athlete, it may be necessary for you to take in more protein throughout the day. And while protein supplements can be a good way to do this, it is important to find a high-quality protein powder that doesn’t have unnecessary additives, like artificial flavorings, artificial food dyes and coloring, and even metals! (D2D actually tested a few of the most popular protein powders to see what may have been hiding in them.) So, before purchasing a protein powder, consult with a nutritionist to see what might be best for your body.
Can you have too much protein?
You might not need your morning protein shake as much as you think. Research has indicated that protein overconsumption can be linked to cardiovascular disease and may have harmful effects on your kidneys, bones, and liver. A 2013 study entitled Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults concluded that “too much of a good thing” can be useless and even harmful to your body. And while more long-term human studies are needed to better determine the effects of excess protein in our bodies, preliminary research indicates we should follow the recommended amount.
Overall, the human body really does not need a ton of protein to stay healthy. Though protein supplements can help if you are in a bind, is not necessary as there often is sufficient protein supply in your everyday meals.
The Bottom Line: Protein is an integral component for overall body health, but you don’t need to rely on supplements. There is a wide variety of protein-rich foods that can easily help you achieve the overall daily recommended amount!
Decades of scientific research on nutrition and weight loss has uncovered a few key pieces of information on what helps people successfully win the battle of the bulge.
First, we know that while exercise is important, a person’s healthy eating habits likely matters more for weight loss than the hours they spend in the gym.
Second, when it comes to dieting, there is no single best one for losing weight; many diets can work quite well as long as total calorie balance is accounted for.
Third, dietary protein is one of the key “levers” in a diet that increases the likelihood of someone’s ability to lose weight.
This article is going to cut through a lot of the noise surrounding protein and tell you how much protein you should be eating to lose weight and some of the things you should consider when planning your diet.
This article, along with our nutrition certificate - will provide you with smart strategies for safe and effective weight loss.
In this article:
What is protein?
Protein is an important macronutrient that is involved in nearly all bodily functions and processes. It plays a key role in exercise recovery and is an essential dietary nutrient for healthy living. The elements carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen combine to form amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Protein and amino acids are primarily use to create bodily tissues, form enzymes and cellular transporters, maintain fluid balance, and more.
How much protein per day to lose weight?
If you want to lose weight, aim for a daily protein intake between 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (.73 and 1 grams per pound). Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram (1-1.5 grams per pound) if aiming for weight loss.
My practical recommendation to people is that if you carry a BMI of over 30 or a body fat percentage above 25-30% it makes more sense to base your protein recommendations off of your goal weight.
For the correct amount of protein to gain muscle, check this resource out.
What are the benefits of protein in weight loss?
Dietary protein can be an important part of a diet that is intended for weight loss.
While there are many benefits to dietary protein, there are four main areas that have direct effects on weight loss:
Satiety Lean mass Thermic effect of food Storage as body fat
Let us take a deeper dive into each of these topics.
Protein helps you feel full longer
One of the biggest things that impedes weight loss is hunger.
People are far less likely to stick with a nutrition or diet plan if they experience high levels of hunger.
Protein is the most satiating of all the macronutrients (1).
Several different lines of research have all pointed to the same thing: higher protein intakes tend to provide more satiety and less hunger.
For example, in one study, high protein snacks allowed people to go longer between eating and also caused them to eat less at subsequent meals (2).
Another study showed that including protein into a glass of water decreased hunger compared to water alone (3).
Depending on the source of protein, there does appear to be minor differences in the exact amount of satiety that protein provides, however these differences are minor and don’t really make a meaningful impact for most people (4).
Currently, there is no consensus on the optimal level of daily protein intake in one’s diet with regard to stay full. However, roughly 1.8 - 2.9 grams of protein per kilogram daily (or .82-1.32 grams of protein per pound) appears to provide substantial benefit on satiety (5).
Protein preserves lean body mass
In addition, protein has another benefit on weight loss: it helps preserve lean body mass during periods of caloric restriction.
One study compared the effect of low protein intake (1.0 grams per kilogram per day) to high protein intake (2.3 g/kg per day) on lean body mass over a short term caloric deficit. On average, the low protein group lost about 1.6 kilograms (3.5 pounds) of muscle mass while the high protein group only lost 0.3 kg (0.66 pounds) of muscle mass (6).
Another similar study compared 0.8 g/kg per day against 1.6 g/kg per day and 2.4 g/kg per day and found that the two higher intakes (1.6 and 2.4 g/kg per day) spared more lean body mass than the 0.8 g/kg per day diet. They also found that there was no real benefit to 2.4 g/kg per day over 1.6 g/kg per day (7).
Currently, most evidence suggests that ~1.6 grams of protein per kilogram, or .73 grams of protein per pound is a recommended daily target for protein intake to spare lean body mass loss during periods of weight loss.
Protein increases the thermic effect of food
The thermic effect of food is the “cost” of digesting your food.
Essentially, it takes some energy to break food down, digest it, and turn it into energy. Protein has the highest “cost” of all the three macronutrients.
While the total effect that the thermic effect of food has on daily energy expenditure and weight loss is small, it is not meaningless and is important to note.
In one study, a high protein diet increased the thermic effect of food by roughly 6-8 kcals per hour when compared to a low protein diet, which may translate to ~50-75 calories per day (8).
However, not all studies show this large of an effect, and the thermic effect of protein is not likely responsible for most of its benefit, but it may be the “cherry on top” of adequate dietary protein during weight loss.
You can track things like the thermic effect of food, total daily energy expenditure, and macros with the NASM Weight Loss Calculator.
Protein is hard to store as body fat
During periods of weight loss, there are often times where more energy is consumed than expended. As such, minimizing how much of that excess energy calories) is stored as fat is important.
The body processes the three different macronutrients proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) in very different ways.
Leaving out a lot of jargon and mumbo jumbo, in order for protein to be stored as fat, it goes through a much different biochemical process than either carbohydrates or protein.
This process makes it much harder for protein to store as body fat.
One study found that protein is stored as body fat with roughly 66% efficiency, while carbohydrates store with 80% efficiency and fats store at 96% efficiency (9).
During weight loss, overeating protein results in much less stored body fat than overeating on carbohydrates or fat. If you are looking for ways to lose weight fast, consuming protein is a great option!
Nutritional Guidelines suggest a daily intake of 1.6 and 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram, or .73 and 1 grams per pound to lose weight. Athletes and heavy exercisers should consume 2.2-3.4 grams of protein per kilogram (1-1.5 grams per pound) if aiming for weight loss.
While many different diets can be successful for weight loss, the protein content of a diet is one of the important factors to consider when planning a diet. Protein has been shown to promote satiety, help maintain lean body mass, increase the thermic effect of food slightly, and can reduce how efficient the body is at storing extra calories as body fat.
Check out these nutritional resources
Here are a couple additional resources to check out surrounding nutrition:
If you're interested in learning more about protein, watch the webinar "Protein Metabolism: How to Optimize Protein intake for Muscle Gain and Weight Loss" below and consider becoming a Certified Nutrition Coach. Find out more about the NASM Nutrition Certification here.
After a challenging workout, a protein shake almost always sounds like a good idea. It's tasty, fuels the muscles, and leaves your body feeling satisfied. But what if you work out every single day and find yourself enjoying protein shakes just as often? Is it even healthy to drink protein shakes every day?
While there are a lot of health benefits to consuming protein shakes, we spoke with two registered dietitians about the importance of protein and what will happen to your body if you drink protein shakes every day. Or even just consume protein powders or protein-enhanced products. Here's what they had to say, and for more healthy eating tips, check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
1 You can get a sufficient amount of protein for the day.
While protein is found in a variety of foods, for anyone with a dietary restriction (like veganism), getting the proper amount of protein for your body can be difficult. A protein shake can be an easy way to get those amino acids.
According to Rachel Paul, PhD, RD from our bodies produce amino acids, but others are consumed through our diet, which are called "essential amino acids." Animal protein sources provide essential amino acids, known as "complete" protein sources. However, plant-based foods don't provide some of the amino acids, known as "incomplete" protein sources.
"Adding in a protein supplement like a high quality collagen, protein powder or bar is an amazing way to get all 20 of your amino acids," says Tori Simeone, a trainer for Tone It Up. "It can be hard to get all of your [nine] essential amino acids in every day especially if you are plant-based, so adding in a high-quality protein supplement can be vital."
2 It will help the growth of muscles.
Your muscles need protein in order to grow and stay strong—which is important for your overall longevity.6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e
"Protein is essential for life," says Paul, "Protein builds our muscles and organs, and also builds our enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters."
"Protein (amino acids) is essential growth and development of muscle and other tissues, helps provide structure, helps maintain proper pH balance and fluid balance, act as chemical messengers that aid communication between your cells, tissues, and organs," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, and the recent author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook.
3 You could be consuming toxins and heavy metals.
While protein shakes do help with muscle growth and can be an easy source of protein for those who aren't getting all those amino acids, be careful: Most protein powders contain heavy toxins and metals, including lead. This is due to the way the protein is grown and manufactured, and if you consume too much, you can experience high levels of toxins in your system.
"Anyone who takes a protein powder, or any supplement, needs to do their research and choose a third-party tested supplement," says Goodson. She recommends the NSF Certified for Sport and Informed Choice. The Clean Label Project is also a great third-party source that does frequent testing of products.
"This can help minimize the risk that protein powders and supplements are laced with other ingredients than what is on the label," says Goodson. "While it may not be a 100% guarantee, it is very close and weeds out those supplements at higher risk."
4 It can help with post-workout recovery.
Not only is a protein shake good for your muscles, but it can aid you in post-workout recovery. Having protein at least 30 minutes after a workout helps to feed your muscles and repair muscle tissues.
"Foods like protein bars or smoothies/ready-to-drink-shakes can be great options for snacks, especially post-workout snacks to help ensure you get the protein you need to start post-workout recovery," Goodson.
"[It] is super important after a workout to fuel your muscles," says Simeone. "We always say it's best to feed your muscles within 30 minutes of your workout. Additionally, protein plays a key role in producing antibodies needed for immune function, important enzymes, and hormones that boost your mood and more!"
5 It will help curb hunger.
Having a proper amount of protein in your diet will help with overall satiety, which means having a protein shake will help you to feel full for hours after.
"Protein also slows down digestion, so it helps get you full faster, stay full longer and maintain stable blood sugar," says Goodson
"Protein does so much for your body like curbing hunger and maintaining healthy body composition," says Simeone.
Not sure if you're consuming too much protein? Here are 7 Ways Eating Too Much Protein Can Harm Your Health.