How Much Protein Do I Need?
Are you getting enough protein? What does ‘enough’ mean for YOU?
From a medical perspective, it’s clear that most of us are getting plenty of protein. Protein deficiencies are rare in wealthier countries, thanks to our love affair with protein-rich foods. (Note: Protein malnutrition remains an important health issue in the developing world, where it often coincides with too few total calories and/or a narrow, unbalanced diet.)
Globally, we consume about one third more protein than the official recommended intake of 50 grams per day (based on 0.8 g/kg), with North Americans topping the charts at over 100 grams per day and Europeans coming in not far behind. If more protein is always better, then this is great news for North America and Europe. But, what if “enough” protein truly is enough, and more isn’t necessarily better?
As a scientist (PhD in genetics), I have a deep respect for the importance of providing our bodies with enough of this critical building block of life. I also appreciate that human biology is both highly complex and individual, and that simple rules of thumb like “more of a good thing must be better” rarely pan out.
To help you — and me — determine our optimal protein intakes, this article looks under the hood of the official guidelines and shares the potential pros and cons of boosting your intake beyond your basic needs.
Why Do We Need Protein?
Proteins are the workhorses and building blocks of life. We need a steady supply of them in order to repair old tissues, build new ones, and keep our cells humming. The bigger we are, the faster we are growing, the more tissue we have to repair and rebuild, the more protein we need.
When we look closely at proteins, we see chains of amino acids, averaging several hundred in length. All proteins are made from the same twenty amino acids, linked together in unique combinations. When you eat foods containing protein, your body breaks down the chains, and then reassembles the amino acids into whichever…