Protein: How much do you need?

Salmon has 23 grams of protein per 3oz

Protein: How much do you need?

by Cat Senet for The Press Democrat


If you are spending time each week biking, hiking, swimming, climbing or weight training, but wonder why your muscles aren’t growing like spring daisies, it could be from an inadequate protein intake. The other side to building muscle takes place in the kitchen.

Diet is extremely important when trying to improve your body composition. Without proper nutrients, you won’t get the results you’re looking for no matter how much time you spend weight training.

While people generally understand that protein is important to support muscle growth and maintain lean mass, the tricky part is determining how much to consume. Here are some credible numbers to consider:

— The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.

—The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends a higher intake for active people engaged in endurance and strength training, about 0.4-0.6 grams per pound of body weight.

And the more active you are, the more protein your body requires. A study from the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism concluded that the average person looking to build muscle can benefit from .6-1.1 grams of protein per pound. For example, a relatively fit 140-pound woman should aim for between 84 grams and 154 grams of protein each day if she wants to gain muscle.

What protein sources are the best? Those that have a higher biological value, which means your body uses them more readily for cellular repair and muscle growth. To set a standard, eggs are given a BV of 100%, chicken 79% and beans less than 50%. The higher the quality of protein you consume, the more efficiently your body will utilize it.

Sometimes it is difficult to take in the amount of protein your body needs, which is why protein supplements can be handy. Most of the protein supplements now available are sourced from whey protein, with a BV value of 90% to 104%, depending on the quality of processing. There are, just to name a few, shakes, bars, cereal, chips and even iced tea that contains whey protein.

Don’t rely on protein supplements as your main source, however, because natural proteins have other nutrients and higher fat content, which makes them more satisfying.

Some great sources of protein include:

— Greek yogurt, 23 grams per 8-ounce serving

— Cottage cheese, 14 grams per 1/2 cup serving

— Swiss cheese, 8 grams per 1-ounce serving

— Eggs, 5 grams per large egg

— Steak (top or bottom round), 23 grams per 3-ounce serving

— Chicken Breast, 24 grams per 3-ounce serving

— Yellowtail, 25 grams per 3-ounce serving

— Salmon, 23 grams per 3-ounce serving

— Navy beans, 20 grams per 1-cup serving

— Dried lentils, 13 grams per 1/4-cup serving

— Peanut butter, 8 grams per 2-tablespoon serving

— Edamame, 8 grams per 1/2-cup serving

— Quinoa, 8 grams per 1-cup serving

These foods also are packed with other nutrients that will improve your workouts, immune system, internal organs, complexion, brain function, sleep and mood. Eating these nutritious foods will help you maintain a healthy and sustainable weight, and make you less likely to binge or snack on processed foods that interfere with your strength progress.

As a final note, make sure to drink about 2-3 liters of water each day. Skeletal muscle is about 70% water, and all muscle contractions and muscle protein synthesis operations take place underwater, so to speak. The digestive system also requires more energy to break down proteins, so hydrating is important for healthy kidneys and intestines.