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Protein and Protein Supplements – When is it Too Much of a Good Thing?

It is indisputable that protein is a necessary substance. However, the exact amount of protein needed by the average person is controversial. There are those who say that we need more – that it plays such an important role in all aspects of good health that the main focus of our daily diet should be based on protein. There are others who say that protein, regardless of its source, should be limited to around 35% or less of total daily calories. Still others say that not only should the total amount of protein be limited, but the type of protein should be limited as well. The simplest answer to the question of how much protein you really need is: it depends.

Factors that affect the amount of protein you need

The amount of protein you actually need to consume will vary from person to person depending on:

– Body weight

– Gender and age

– Level of exercise and activity

– General health condition

Everyone knows that the amount you weigh will change your overall nutritional needs. Obviously, a 250-pound man will generally need more food to maintain his current weight than a 150-pound man or a 150-pound woman. To determine how many calories you actually need to eat to stay healthy, maintain your current weight or lose weight, you need to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and activity level. The formulas for doing this are very general and can be broken down by a few points, so if you can define these professionally, do so.

To get your estimated BMR:

– Multiply your desired weight in pounds by 8 and then add 200. For example, if a woman wants to weigh 140 pounds, the formula will be 140 x 8=1120 +200=1320.

To find out how many calories you burn from typical physical activity:

– Multiply the number of minutes spent walking by 4

– Increase the number of cardiovascular and strength exercises by 8

Finally, to find out how many calories you need to eat each day:

– Add the number you got from the BMR formula to the number you got from your activity level. To lose 1 pound per week, a healthy and achievable rate, you lose a total of 500. However, if that target number is less than 1000, consult a doctor for advice.

(Source of all formulas: You’re on a Diet, The Owner’s Guide to Weight Management. Roizen, MD and Oz, MD)

The average person generally needs around 30-35% of their daily calories to come from healthy protein sources, which again, will vary depending on how many calories you actually need. Healthy protein sources include low-fat animal proteins, such as chicken, turkey, certain cuts of beef, low-fat milk, and cheese. Additionally, plant-based protein sources are generally healthier and lower in calories. Another option is to include liquid protein supplements or other supplemental sources in your diet so you get the right amount of protein each day without adding unnecessary calories.

Gender and Age for Protein Requirements

Men need more protein than women, however, this may be due to the fact that they are larger and tend to weigh more than their physiological need for protein. Some protein needs may change with age, especially when metabolism changes and the body begins to slow down a bit. The type of protein needed by older adults may also vary, with many needing a source that is more easily absorbed and metabolized. If meat sources have become difficult to manage, then plant proteins may be a good substitute. Additionally, the older adult is a perfect candidate for liquid protein shots.

Exercise and Activity Level

The actual amount of exercise you get each day can greatly affect how much protein you actually need. We’ve all seen the giant jars of whey protein powder in health food stores and elsewhere. Some people may think that this is what protein means, because they do not realize that there are many sources of protein, including vegetarian sources. Protein is used by the body in a number of ways, including building, repairing and maintaining lean muscle mass, however, not all protein consumed will turn into muscle.

It’s a common misconception that the more protein you eat, the more muscle mass you’ll build, but that’s simply a mistake. If you eat more of any type of food, regardless of what it is, you won’t build lean muscle mass, but instead you’ll gain weight, period. By burning what we consume, we increase the amount of food and nutrients we need. We lose weight by burning more than we take in. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate exercise into any weight loss plan or effort.

A sedentary person will need a minimal amount of protein, perhaps about 4 grams per kilogram of body weight. People who do light to moderate exercise may increase their requirement by 5-.8 grams per kg of body weight. Strenuous exercise may require up to one gram of protein per kg of body weight, with vigorous exercise defined as moderate to intense exercise for 30-60 minutes at least four or more days per week.

Bodybuilders, especially those who have bulked up to twice their normal size, need even more protein per kg of body weight, but no more than 1.5 grams per kg. It needs to be reiterated that body builders do not get big because of excess protein. They do it because of their genetics and hard work efforts, combined with good, balanced nutrition.

Public Health Status

For a normal healthy person, the amount of protein they need will vary between 4 grams and 1 gram per kg of body weight. Once you know how much protein you need per day, you can start working on a proper meal plan that provides you with good nutrition and adequate and healthy protein for your body’s needs. However, there are some conditions that may require additional protein on a temporary basis. These conditions include:

– Illness, especially fever

– Trauma or accident

– It burns

– Those who are recovering from any type of surgery


Protein is an important nutrient, used for a variety of body functions. Protein not only plays a role in building lean muscle mass, it is important for every cell in the body. Proteins are converted into enzymes that are then used to carry out biochemical reactions. These reactions are used to transport substances across membranes and blood to every part of the body.

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