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Protein Intake Recommendations



Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) and Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA for Protein

Firstly, we must define what the AMDR and RDA actually are. The AMDR is a range of intakes for a particular energy source (carbohydrates, fats, or proteins) that is associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases while providing adequate intakes of essential nutrients.

The AMDR for protein is 10-30% of kilocalories per day.

The RDA, on the other hand, is the average daily dietary intake that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all healthy individuals.

The current RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.4 grams per pound).

The optimal amount that you should intake per meal really depends on your age and fitness goals and can range from 0.3 - 0.5 grams of protein per meal. Obviously, protein needs will differ between active and sedentary people, but some research is suggesting that both active and sedentary individuals would actually benefit from more than 0.8 grams per kilogram a day. It is also important to note that when considering protein needs, we must not forget about protein breakdown that occurs throughout the day. Research has shown that individuals who have higher intakes of protein, experience no plateau in net protein synthesis, meaning that muscle breakdown was reduced. Therefore, a higher protein intake may be suggested in order to prevent daily muscle breakdown.

How Much Protein Should We Eat?

As mentioned above, your protein intake will depend on your age and fitness goals. However, the current RDA recommendations have especially been shown to be too low for certain individuals and this is especially true for those who are older. For example, one study was conducted on participants aged 50-80 years old, who ate the current RDA for protein and lifted weights. In this study, researchers found that they were still losing about 0.2 kilograms of fat free mass after 12 weeks. It is recommended that older individuals may need more protein due to having a reduction in muscle protein synthesis as compared to younger individuals.

For those looking to lose weight, it is also recommended that protein intake be on the higher end of the spectrum as well. The reason for this is when you are cutting calorie intake, protein is converted into glucose in order to be used for energy. So, your protein stores are being used for energy instead of being used to build and repair your muscles. Some research suggests that eating protein at 2 times the RDA is best for preserving muscle mass during weight loss. However, keep in mind that you need to add resistance exercise to your protein intake to see even better results.

Although your fitness goals and age will determine how much protein you truly need, researchers are finding that protein intake above the RDA is beneficial. You will want your protein intake to range from about 1.6 - 2.2 grams or protein per kilogram of body weight a day.

It is important to note that trained individuals have been shown to have better muscle mass gain as compared to those who are untrained. You will also want to keep in mind that protein supplementation, on its own, is not as sufficient for increasing strength and fat free mass as is strength training. So, if you are looking to increase your strength and fat free mass, starting a strength training program should be your first priority.

So what about protein distribution?

How much protein should you eat at each meal?

Research has found that spreading out your protein throughout the day may be more advantageous than ingesting protein in large amounts at once. Although distributing protein throughout the day may provide minimal advantage, research has shown that an advantage still seems to be present.

Researchers have found that eating more than 20-25 grams of protein in a single meal is not more beneficial in promoting muscle protein synthesis. Our bodies can only use 20-25 grams of protein at one time. In order to achieve optimal results of muscle growth, it is suggested that you eat 20-25 grams of protein at each meal and snack so you have a continual supply of amino acids to help support muscle building.

Now you know how much protein you should be consuming, but what kind of protein is best to consume?

According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, our protein sources need to be varied. Currently, protein intake seems to be coming from meat, poultry and eggs mostly. The dietary guidelines recommend that we have a variety of protein sources and start eating more seafood, nuts, seeds, and legumes. By varying our protein sources, this will help ensure that we have a nutrient dense diet.

So, what are the key takeaways today??

  1. Eat 20-25 grams of protein at each meal and snack throughout the day.

  2. Aim for a total of about 1.6 - 2.2 grams of protein per kilograms of body weight a day, depending on your fitness goals and age.

  3. Vary your protein sources; eat more seafood, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

  4. Older individuals need more protein than younger individuals.

  5. Those looking to lose weight will benefit from a higher protein intake.

References:

1. Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook Fifth Edition

2. Protein Myths vs. Facts: What Active Individuals Need to Know About Protein Timing, Intake and More. Michael J. Ormsbee, PhD, FACSM, FISSN, CSCS*DAssociate Professor, Dept. of Nutrition, Food and Exercise SciencesAssociate Director, Institute of Sports Sciences & MedicineFlorida State University.

3. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 Eight Edition.

Disclaimer: Data is for healthy individuals without kidney disease.The information provided is not a substitute for medical care or advice. Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your doctor about making diet and lifestyle changes that are right for you.​

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*The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problems or for prescription of any medication or other treatment. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise program or dietary supplements. You should not stop taking any medications without first consulting your physician.