A client asked a very common question yesterday. She was wondering about her protein requirements. "How much do I really need?", she asked.
Blanket advice? It's in the numbers. If you like math:
1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kg
2. Weight in kg x 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm.
If you're not into math, I love the adorable little calculator at Kashi.com, actually. To take age into account, check out the table put out by the Food and Nutrition Board.
Once you have your number range, use the low end when you're sedentary, and the higher end when you're exerting a lot. Or if you're growing a baby, have been sick or are healing or have any other stressy stuff going on. If you're working on ridding yourself of some stored fat, drop that protein number down into the range you would be in at your healthy weight.
(Oh, and every day is different. It's not for the faint of heart, but eating for your activity level does make a slight change in the numbers overall. Stay focused on the big picture at first. Step up to being specific when you can take it to the next level and work on eating more intuitively.)
Now that you know what you need, and understand that it varies, you have to figure out what to eat! Knowledge is power, y'all. The more you know about the foods you consume, the better (duh) but in this case it comes down to knowing the saturation of macronutrients in the foods you eat.
Plainly: how much protein does your chicken breast have? Your serving of quinoa? Your fancy greek yogurt snack? (For your reference, 3 oz. of chicken holds about 27g of protein, 1 cup of quinoa has about 8g, and 1 cup of greek yogurt, about 20g.) When you know what you're eating and how much you're getting, you can know how to pair things, when you need more, and when you may be overdoing it.
And the body can process protein more efficiently if it is consumed throughout the day, rather than all at once. So, you'll get more bang out of 25g of protein over 4 meals than 100g. of protein at one meal. (Look here for a nice breakdown from The American Diabetes Association on our friends the macronutrients.) And you don't have to consume meat for protein, either. Legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains are the most popular sources of protein for vegans and vegetarians, but they often have to be combined to get the full range of amino acids (though not necessarily at the same sitting. More on this to come!)
When planning your meals, if you focus on consuming quality protein, leafy greens, an assortment of vegetables, and healthy fats, you're going to find that your nutritional and caloric needs are met, and you're satisfied and energetic. Now, go do some math and eat some protein, you crazy kids!
So, duh, but I have to say:
There is no one plan for every body, so get a consultation with a professional to discuss your individual needs. Use common sense, and do your own research before making decisions regarding your health. And feel free to contact me for a plan made just for you!