Protein is necessary to help the body make new cells and to repair cell damage. While protein need increases during times of growth and development (youth and pregnancy), protein is also important during other times of physical change such as weight loss and increased exercise. Consuming adequate protein will ensure that you maintain and build muscle mass as your body sheds fat.
Protein Needs for Adults
According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended protein intake for healthy adult men and women is 10 to 35 percent of total daily calorie intake. The recommendation can be met with about two to three servings of protein-rich foods each day. This range allows you to experiment with different levels of protein to find the right amount that fits into your healthy eating style while still meeting your body’s protein needs.
Protein Needs of Athletes
The harder your body works, the greater your protein need and the more specific your protein recommendation. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) estimates that endurance and strength trained athletes need 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The ACSM also states that this recommendation can be met through dietary choices without the use of protein or amino acid supplementation. If you begin training for an athletic event and move from an average exerciser to an athlete, it’s important to pay close attention to protein intake and to add more protein-rich foods to your eating plan.
Quality Protein Sources
Research shows that the average adult has little trouble getting the recommended amount of protein each day. But getting enough protein doesn’t always mean that you are getting quality protein. Burgers and deep fried chicken fingers provide plenty of protein, but they also contain unhealthy amounts of saturated fat and sodium. Protein-rich foods with heart-healthy fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals will benefit your health while providing the protein that your body needs. Healthier protein options include beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains, low-fat dairy, grass-fed beef, bison, poultry, and fish.