What Percentage Of Protein Should I Eat


What Percentage Of Protein Should I Eat? Protein is one of the three key nutrients required by the body to build and repair tissue. It accounts for 15% of your total daily energy needs, and can be found in a wide range of foods as well as supplements such as shakes and powders. Eating the right amount of protein is important for anyone trying to build muscle or achieve their fitness goals. However, there is a lot of information out there about how much protein you should be eating – how much is optimal, and how much is too much? This article will one what percentage of protein you should be eating along with some tips on how to increase your intake. Are you ready to get started?.

What is protein?

A little girl drinks a glass of milk to increase her protein intake
Design: Medical News Today; Photo: skynesher/Getty Images

Protein is the main component of a person’s muscles, skin, bones, organs, hormones, enzymes, and many other body parts. It makes up a significant amount of the body.

Protein is a nutrient that the body needs to create and repair cells. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids, some of which the body can synthesize.

There are 9 amino acids, however, that the body cannot synthesize. They need to be consumed through a person’s diet.

Why is protein important?

Protein is important because if a person has too much or too little they risk developing health conditions.

Without protein, the body may not be able to heal properly or otherwise function normallyThis includes the growth and repair of cells and the production of hormones, red blood cells, and enzymes.

A person’s protein requirement will vary depending on a number of factors. For this reason, ensuring that people consume enough protein for their individual situation is very important.

How much protein do you need every day?


Protein is essential to good health. The very origin of the word — from the Greek protos, meaning “first” — reflects protein’s top-shelf status in human nutrition. You need it to put meat on your bones and to make hair, blood, connective tissue, antibodies, enzymes, and more. It’s common for athletes and bodybuilders to wolf down extra protein to bulk up. But the message the rest of us often get is that our daily protein intake is too high.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day.

To determine your daily protein intake, you can multiply your weight in pounds by 0.36, or use this online protein calculator. For a 50-year-old woman who weighs 140 pounds woman and who is sedentary (doesn’t exercise), that translates into 53 grams of protein a day.

Protein: Is more better?

For a relatively active adult, a daily protein intake to meet the RDA would supply as little as 10% of his or her total daily calories. In comparison, the average American consumes around 16% of his or her daily calories in the form of protein, from both plant and animal sources. But is that too much?

For some people, there may be potential benefits of higher daily protein intake to preserve muscle mass and strength. How and when you consume protein might also influence its effectiveness. Some studies described in the summit reports suggest that protein is more effective if you space it out over the day’s meals and snacks, rather than loading up at dinner like many Americans do.

However, over the last several years, the public health message has shifted away from desired percentages of protein, fats and carbohydrates. For example, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans emphasize the importance of eating healthier protein rich foods rather than concentrating on specific amounts of daily protein.

What should you do?

Research on how much protein is the optimal amount to eat for good health is ongoing, and is far from settled. The value of high-protein diets for weight loss or cardiovascular health, for example, remains controversial.

Before you start ramping up your daily protein intake, there are a few important things to consider. For one, don’t read “get more protein” as “eat more meat.” Beef, poultry, and pork (as well as milk, cheese, and eggs) can certainly provide high-quality protein, but so can many plant foods — including whole grains, beans and other legumes, nuts, and vegetables. The table below provides some healthier sources of protein.

It’s also important to consider the protein “package” — the fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that invariably come along with protein. Aim for protein sources low in saturated fat and processed carbohydrates and rich in many nutrients.

One more thing: If you increase protein, dietary arithmetic demands that you eat less of other things to keep your daily calorie intake steady. The switches you make can affect your nutrition, for better or for worse. For example, eating more protein instead of low-quality refined carbohydrates, like white bread and sweets, is a healthy choice — though how healthy the choice is also depends on the total protein package.

“If you are not eating much fish and you want to increase that — yes, that might improve the overall nutrient profile that would subsequently improve your health,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “But I think the data are pretty strong against significantly increasing red meat, and certainly processed meat, to get protein.”

If weight loss is your main concern, trying a higher-protein diet is reasonable, but don’t expect it to be a panacea. “Patients come to me all the time asking if more protein will help them in weight loss,” McManus says. “I tell them the verdict is still out. Some studies support it, some studies don’t.”

How to calculate your protein requirements

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of protein varies depending on a number of factors, including a person’s:

  • age
  • sex
  • activity levels
  • overall health
  • muscle mass
  • whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding

The general RDA for an average adult is 0.8g of protein per kg of body mass per day. However, this is a minimum level.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults should get 10–35% of their daily calories from protein.

The chart below shows the recommended minimum amount of protein people should consume, based on the average sedentary lifestyle, meaning a person doing little or no exercise.

Age and sexTotal RDA in grams (g) per day
Babies and children
0 – 6 months9.1
6 – 12 months11.0
1 – 3 years13.0
4 – 8 years19.0
9 – 13 years34.0
14 – 18 years52.0
19 – 70 years and older56.0
9 – 13 years34.0
14 – 70 years and older46.0
Pregnant or lactating people
Any age71.0

Experts recommend that a person undertaking any level of activity eat substantially more than 0.8g per kg of body weight.

How much protein do I need?

The amount of protein that the human body requires daily is dependent on many conditions, including overall energy intake, growth of the individual, and physical activity level. It is often estimated based on body weight, as a percentage of total caloric intake (10-35%), or based on age alone. 0.8g/kg of body weight is a commonly cited recommended dietary allowance (RDA). This value is the minimum recommended value to maintain basic nutritional requirements, but consuming more protein, up to a certain point, maybe beneficial, depending on the sources of the protein.

The recommended range of protein intake is between 0.8 g/kg and 1.8 g/kg of body weight, dependent on the many factors listed above. People who are highly active, or who wish to build more muscle should generally consume more protein. Some sources suggest consuming between 1.8 to 2 g/kg for those who are highly active. The amount of protein a person should consume, to date, is not an exact science, and each individual should consult a specialist, be it a dietitian, doctor, or personal trainer, to help determine their individual needs.


Infants and children require more protein proportional to their body weight than fully grown adults, as they use the protein as they grow.

Pregnant or lactating people

As shown in the chart above, the recommended protein amount that pregnant or lactating people should consume is much higher than that of non-pregnant or lactating people.


Another group that requires more protein than the average person is athletes.

Athletes can eat up to 3.5g of protein per kg of body weight daily, according to one 2016 research paper.

The same study recommends that the ideal amount of protein per kg of body weight is:

  • 1g for people with minimal activity
  • 1.3g for people completing moderate levels of exercise
  • 1.6g for people carrying out intense exercise

Increasing muscle mass

Someone trying to increase their overall muscle mass, such as when strength training, should aim to eat proportionally more protein than, for example, someone training for muscular endurance.

A person over the age of 50 who is beginning to lose muscle mass (a process known as sarcopenia), may want to consume more than the lowest recommended amount of protein to build or rebuild their muscle mass.

Recovering from injury

People who are recovering from an injury may need to consume more protein than normal to help their body heal.

Risks of too little protein

If a person consumes too little protein, they are at risk of developing a number of conditions. These conditions may include the following:

Muscle mass issues

If a person does not consume enough protein, they may find themselves losing muscle mass, because the muscles are mostly made up of protein.

When the body is not receiving enough protein from a person’s diet, it may tap into the reserves of protein stored in the muscle to help with more important bodily functions.

Increased appetite

When a person does not consume enough protein their appetite may increase. The body does this instinctively as a way to encourage a person to eat more protein.

Some people report feeling more hungry for savory foods rather than just in general.

Weight increase

Due to the increased appetite experienced as a result of insufficient protein in the diet, a person may find themselves reaching for ‘easy’ unhealthy foods over lean proteins. This may cause them to notice that their weight is increasing.


As well as the above issues, in some more rare instances, protein deficiency can also cause:

  • problems with the skin, hair and nails
  • fatty liver
  • stunted growth in children
  • edema (swelling)

Risks of too much protein

On the other hand, if a person consumes too much protein, they may develop conditions such as:

Bone loss

Too much protein may lead to a loss of calcium from the body. This can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis, or bone weakness.

Weight increase

Researchers have found a link between too much protein and an increase in weight, even from an early age.

One study of lactating women and their newborns suggesting that high protein in the early ages may contribute toward obesity in later life.


Too much protein consumed on a long-term basis also has been linked to:

  • dehydration
  • nausea
  • headache
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • cardiovascular disease
  • liver issues
  • seizures
  • death

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