How Many Calories Should Come From Protein


How many calories should come from protein? ​Proteins are essential to life as they enable humans and animals to grow, repair tissues, build muscles and so on. Proteins are made up of amino acids that can be broken down in the intestine and used by the body for growth and repair.

The right amount of protein is an important part of a healthy diet. It is best to eat about 10 percent to 35 percent of your calories from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine. This page contains nutrition information on how many calories should come from protein.

How to get enough protein in your diet

The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, as they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs.

Some plants are fairly high in protein as well, such as quinoa, legumes, and nuts.

However, most people generally don’t need to track their protein intake.

If you’re healthy and trying to stay that way, simply eating quality protein sources with most of your meals, along with nutritious plant foods, should bring your intake to an optimal range.

What “grams of protein” really means

This is a very common area of misunderstanding.

In nutrition science, “grams of protein” refers to the number of grams of the macronutrient protein, not the number of grams of a protein-containing food like meat or eggs.

An 8-ounce serving of beef weighs 226 grams but only contains 61 grams of protein. Similarly, a large egg weighs 46 grams but only packs 6 grams of protein.

What about the average person?

If you’re at a healthy weight, don’t lift weights, and don’t exercise much, aiming for 0.36–0.6 grams per pound (0.8–1.3 gram per kg) is a reasonable estimate.

This amounts to:

  • 56–91 grams per day for the average male
  • 46–75 grams per day for the average female

Still, given that there’s no evidence of harm and significant evidence of benefit, it’s likely better for most people to err on the side of consuming more protein rather than less.

How much protein do you need?

Anywhere from 10% to 35% of your calories should come from protein. So if your needs are 2,000 calories, that’s 200–700 calories from protein, or 50–175 grams. The recommended dietary allowance to prevent deficiency for an average sedentary adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person who weighs 165 pounds, or 75 kilograms, should consume 60 grams of protein per day.

Once you reach ages 40–50, sarcopenia, or losing muscle mass as you age, begins to set in. To prevent this and to maintain independence and quality of life, your protein needs increase to about 1–1.2 grams per kilogram or 75–90 grams per day for a 75-kilogram person.

People who exercise regularly also have higher needs, about 1.1–1.5 grams per kilogram. People who regularly lift weights, or are training for a running or cycling event need 1.2–1.7 grams per kilogram. Excessive protein intake would be more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight each day.

If you are overweight, your weight is adjusted before calculating your protein needs to avoid overestimating. You can see a dietitian to help develop a personalized plan.

Where does protein come from?

The healthiest protein options are plant sources, such as soy, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils; lean meats, such as skinless, white-meat chicken or turkey; a variety of fish or seafood; egg whites; or low-fat dairy.

Meet your dietary protein needs with these whole foods versus supplements, which are no more effective than food as long as energy intake is adequate for building lean mass.

Manufactured foods don’t contain everything you need from food, and manufacturers do not know everything that should be in food.

When is the best time to consume protein?

Spread out protein consumption evenly throughout the day. On average, people tend to get most of their protein during evening meals and the least at breakfast. Some newer studies show moving some protein from supper to breakfast can help with weight management by decreasing hunger and cravings throughout the day. Of course, more research is needed before these claims can be verified.

General recommendations are to consume 15–30 grams of protein at each meal. Studies show higher intakes — those more than 40 grams — in one sitting are no more beneficial than the recommended 15–30 grams at one time. Don’t waste your money on excessive amounts.

What Percentage of Calories Should Come from Protein?

What Percentage of Calories Should Come from Protein

What percentage of what we’re shoving in our pie hole every day should be comprised primarily of protein?  A weighted question, there is no true correct answer.  Much like the number of calories you consume every day differs based on what your goals are and the physique you’re trying to maintain or achieve, the types of calories differ as well.  Dietary Guidelines are released by the food and drug administration and Significant Studies Have Been Performed To Help Us know exactly what we should be eating and subsequently, how much protein we should be getting.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the breakdown of calories per day should be as follows:

  • Calories from protein should be 10-35% of total calories
  • Calories from carbs should be 45-65% of total calories
  • Calories from fats should be 20-35% of total calories

To better understand what percentage of calories should come from protein versus overall caloric intake, we’ll look at the three main scenarios or reasons our site’s visitors would care about protein levels in their diet.

Optimize Fat Burn

If you’re trying to burn off excess visceral fat, there is a good chance you’re going to be increasing the percentage of protein in your diet far beyond the suggested 35% max as dictated by the government.  By increasing your protein consumption to about 65% of your diet, you’re going to be able to provide plenty of recovery fuel for your muscles so you can continue on with the frequent cardio workouts.  As we know, cardio is the best way to burn off excess fat.  When you increase the percentage of protein in your diet, you need to decrease one of the other categories that make up your caloric intake.  A drastic reduction in the amount of carbohydrates consumed is suggested to compliment the increase of protein.  Don’t worry, the protein will help you feel content for longer and assist in the fight against hunger pangs.

Boost Muscle Gains

So… you’re looking to get buff, eh?  Much like the optimize of fat burn, you need to increase your protein intake to about 65% of your entire diet.  Here’s where it differs: you don’t need to worry about the carbohydrate decrease quite as much.  Consider a 50/50 split in the reduction of carbohydrates and fats in your diet.  You still need to consume carbs so that you don’t accidentally deprive your body of energy, resulting in unintended weight loss.  You simply want to beef up your muscles without much thought or concern about visceral fat.

Maintain Physique

Oh, you’re happy with the way you look?  Well, that must be nice!  Let’s try to keep it that way.  If you’re not looking to lose more weight or gain much more muscle and you definitely want to make sure that you keep the same physique you worked so hard to achieve, try following the guidelines set by the government.  Between 45 and 65 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from protein and between 20 and 35 percent of calories from fat.  Remember to keep the total amount of calories between 2000 and 2500 each day and supplement with whatever you seem to be lacking!

How Many Calories are in One Gram of Protein?

The body uses calories for energy to operate. Three nutrients — carbohydrates, protein and fat — contain calories that your body needs. Minerals, vitamins and water are also nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy; however, they do not contain calories.

Per the Cleveland Clinic, a calorie is a measurement, just like a teaspoon or an inch. Calories are the amount of energy released when your body digests and absorbs food. The more calories a food has, the more energy it can provide to your body. If you eat more calories than you need, that’s when your body stores the extra calories as body fat. Depending on where you’re located, energy may also be measured in kilocalories (kcal);  however, calories and kcal are used interchangeably and refer to the same amount of energy in relation to food.

Just how many calories are in protein? How many calories are in carbohydrates and fat? 

Below, we’ll discuss the different amount of calories in macronutrients and the best ways to balance these nutrients and healthfully keep track of your calories.

How many calories are in one gram of protein?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), protein has 4 calories per gram. 

For the typical healthy diet, approximately 20-30% of your total daily calories should come from protein. Your body needs protein for growth, muscle maintenance and energy. 

Protein is stored mostly by the muscles, with the body changing about 60% of protein into glucose. If your goal is to lose weight or build muscle, it’s important that you’re getting the right amount of protein in your diet. Muscle protein synthesis is the naturally occurring process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by exercise, and it’s maximized when you consume doses of around 20–25 grams of protein.

Carbs vs. protein: Which has more calories per gram?

Carbs and protein have the same amount of calories per gram. The USDA notes that both carbohydrates and protein provide 4 calories per gram. 

Carbs and protein may have the same number of calories per gram, but a bigger percentage of your total daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Generally, about 50-60% of your caloric intake will be carbohydrates. This macronutrient contains the most glucose, giving the quickest source of energy. Your body changes every gram of carbohydrate into glucose.

While protein is stored mostly by the body’s muscles, the body can store carbohydrates in the liver. Your liver stores extra carbohydrates as glycogen and releases it when your body needs it; however, there is a limit to the amount of glycogen your liver can store. Once that limit has been reached, your body will turn the extra carbohydrates into fat.

How Much Protein Is Simply Too Much?

On a biological level, proteins are sort of like Legos for our bodies. They’re the building blocks that make up our organs, tendons, hormones and, of course, muscles. But it’s that last thing on the list that gets so much attention when it comes to protein intake and exercise. All over your local gym, you’ve probably seen your fair share of protein shakes. It’s synonymous with muscle gain and weight loss, but can you overdo it? Let’s take a look and find out.

How much protein should I be consuming?

According to the Dietary Reference Intake report for macronutrients, a sedentary adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. That means that the average sedentary man should eat about 56 grams of protein per day, and the average woman should eat about 46 grams.

Can I eat an all-protein diet?

Yes, technically you could. But it wouldn’t be good for you. (We’ll explore that more in a moment.) But basically, you should aim for anywhere between 10%-35% of your calories coming from protein. So if your body requires 2,000 calories per day, 200-700 calories should come from protein.

How do exercise and dieting affect protein intake?

The short answer is the more you exercise and burn calories, the more protein you can healthily eat. In fact, protein is great for weight loss because protein-rich foods leave you feeling much more full than fat and carbs. But all things in moderation — you can still gain weight when overeating protein, just like any other food. Remember to focus on calories in versus calories out — your body will only process or convert a certain percent of what you eat into energy.

Can eating too much protein cause health problems?

Maybe you’ve heard some scary things about how too much protein can damage your kidneys and liver. But before you toss out all your chicken legs and protein powder, we’re here to tell you not to worry! The biggest concern about overconsumption of protein applies to people who are predisposed to kidney disease.

The real health issue you should keep in mind about protein is that our bodies can’t store protein. So once its quota is reached, our bodies will convert extra protein into either energy or fat. That’s why it makes more sense to simply get your recommended amount of protein and then focus on carbohydrates and fats for the remainder of your daily calories.

OK, so where should I get my daily protein from?

The healthiest options for protein are generally from plant sources, but the right types of meat are also perfectly healthy when eaten in moderation. Here are a few good places to start sourcing your protein:

  • Soy
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beans and lentils
  • Skinless, white-meat chicken or turkey
  • Lean cuts of beef or pork
  • Fish
  • Egg whites
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Whey protein

Now that you’re a protein pro, you can go out and tell all your friends not to be afraid of this wonderful macronutrient! But be sure that, like all things, you find a balance. In other words, take your protein with a healthy side of moderation.

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