How to get enough protein: advice from nutritionists

Protein is the main component of every cell in your body, so it’s really important that you get enough of it. As recent studies have shown, our body may need even more protein to function effectively than we used to think.

The recommended allowance for an adult is 0,37 grams of protein per pound (0,45 kg) of body weight, or about 15% of your daily calories. However, more protein may be required for people who are actively involved in sports, as well as older people.

In a study of 855 older men and women, those who consumed only the recommended amount of protein showed a worrying trend in bone loss compared to those who consumed more than the daily allowance. Those who consumed the least amount of protein lost the most bone mass – 4% in four years. And those participants who consumed the most protein (about 20% of daily calories) had the smallest losses, less than 1,5% over four years. Although this study was conducted among older people, the results should be taken into account by all those who monitor their health.

“When you are young, you need protein to build strong bones. After age 30, you need it to avoid bone loss. Keeping strong bones is a life’s work,” says Kathleen Tucker, assistant professor of nutritional epidemiology at Tufts University in the US.

“There is no doubt that older people require more protein. Older vegetarians should pay attention to high-protein foods like legumes and soy,” agrees dietitian Reed Mangels, nutrition advisor at the Vegetarian Resource Group and co-author of The Vegetarian Diet Guide.

The amount of protein consumed is worth paying attention to for those who want to get rid of excess weight. Eating enough protein helps maximize fat loss while minimizing muscle loss, a new study has found. “This is important because the loss of muscle mass slows down your metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories. This makes it difficult to maintain a healthy weight and slows down the fat loss process,” says William Evans, director of the Nutrition, Metabolism and Exercise Laboratory at the University of Arkansas Health Sciences.

Many people don’t get their daily protein requirement. According to USDA statistics, approximately 25% of people over 20 and 40% of people over 70 consume less than the recommended amount of protein – that is, not enough to keep muscles and bones in good condition. However, dieters, thin women, and older women—who are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of bone and muscle loss—are most often observed to be low in protein intake.

Thus, according to research, active people and older people are advised to increase the amount of protein in their diet to about 20% of total calories, or up to 0,45-0,54 grams per pound of body weight.

Calculate the amount of protein

You can calculate the amount of protein you need yourself. Just grab a calculator and multiply your weight in pounds by 0,37 grams of protein.

Let’s say your weight is 150 pounds (about 68 kg). Then we get:

150 x 0,37 g = 56 g of protein per day

But for active people and seniors, it’s worth using 0,45-0,54 grams of protein per pound of body weight in the formula. Then, if your weight is 150 pounds, it turns out:

150 x 0,45 g = 68 g protein

150 x 0,54 g = 81 g protein

This means that you need to consume 68-81 grams of protein per day.

So, it remains to figure out from which foods to get the required amount of protein. Since vegetables are low in protein, you need to be aware of other protein sources. By eating the foods listed below on a regular basis, you should be getting just the right amount of protein. Try combining several products in one recipe – this will make it easier to achieve the amount you need.

½ cup cooked or 1 cup raw vegetables = 2 grams

½ cup tofu = 8 grams

1 cup tempeh = 31 grams

1 cup cooked beans = 16 grams

2 tbsp peanut butter = 8 grams

1 handful of nuts = 6 grams

1 cup dried fruit = 21 grams

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