Protein power: How much, how often, and what's the best kind?

Protein is one of the most important macronutrients in our diet.  It's precursors, amino acids, are used in cellular repair, DNA replication, and many of our metabolic processes.  An important component of any meal, there are many different opinions on who should eat what and how much.  Included are tips on getting the most out of your diet with regards to protein, finding your optimal quantity, and some of my favorite protein sources. 

By the way, I had a great article that covered nutrition basics for performance in the Climbing magazine, that you should definitely check out.  You can go to my website and find the link in the Meet The Doctor section.  

So, how much protein should someone have per day? 

As always, the answer will differ based on your activity level and individual constitution as some people do better with higher or lower levels of protein, but there is a general formula for figuring out how much protein you should aim for.  

The basic recommended dietary allowance or RDA is .8 g of protein per kg of body weight OR .36 g of protein per lb of body weight--which ever measurement is easier for you to track.  Now, this recommendation is the bare minimum, and for someone who is not active, which is also a good baseline to have.

Of course this number changes when we start increasing exercise or training.  If you are exercising 4-5 times a week and are including strength or resistance training 2-3 times per week, the recommendation is to have 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kg of body weight or .5 to .9 grams of protein per lb of body weight. 

In some cases, doubling the RDA minimum protein amount is enough to enhance recovery, improve strength, and have an adequate nutrition profile.  

Can you have too much protein? The answer is, yes! 

One of the reasons I caution clients to not go above the 2 grams per kg of body weight is because of potential damage to kidneys as they filter the breakdown of protein and too much can stress them out.  

Base your protein intake on how active you are and calculate your personal recommended daily allowance.  For example, I weigh 115 lbs and exercise mostly daily with a combination of cardio, strength, and endurance.  I usually feel better with a higher protein diet, so I usually aim for around 70-80 grams of protein per day.  

The best way to get the optimal amount of protein is to include protein with every major meal and also with your snacks if you have them during the day.  I recommend diversifying your protein sources between meat and also vegetarian sources of protein as both contain different amino acid profiles and other essential nutrients. 

If you are vegan or vegetarian, no worries, just make sure that you are getting all of the essential and non-essential amino acids by eating a diverse diet.  

If there's a meal during the day that you have a hard time getting protein in, you are traveling or you need something on the go, I highly recommend having a shaker bottle and your favorite protein ready to go.  

What are some of my favorite sources of protein?

The list includes:

-Grilled chicken

-Eggs

-Fish, salmon or sardines (I sometimes use canned if I am eating on the go)

-Whole milk greek yogurt (for those who are not dairy sensitive)

-Greek style almond milk yogurt 

-Roasted turkey breast

-Red meat (I recommend to limit it to no more than 2 servings per week as most people tend to over do it)

-Hemp seeds

-Pea protein

-Brown rice protein

-Fermented tofu or Tempeh

-Collagen protein

-Garbanzo beans, so hummus makes for a great snack! 

Let's sum up the key points:

#1 Get the right amount of protein for you based on your body metrics and activity level

#2 Diversify your protein sources to get the most out of your diet

#3 Include your favorite protein powder into your daily routine for easy on the go solutions

Getting adequate amounts of protein is important for recovery, lean muscles mass, balanced mood, cell repair, and of course, weight maintenance.  

In Health,

Dr. Elena

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Dr. Elena specializes in gut health, women’s health, weight loss, nutrient injectables, and offers unique chronic pain treatments at Proactive Health, A Naturopathic Clinic. She's the founder of Crave Reset: Ultimate Craving Control, nutritional support for food cravings, mood, weight management, and hormone balance.  Got a question? Post in comments or contact directly at info@proactivehealthnd.com