Protein Needs


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In the last post, I talked about determining how many calories you need on a daily basis. The second step in determining the composition of your diet is to determine protein needs. The recommendations for protein for athletes needs vary widely. The recommendation for sedentary people is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. The recommendations for protein for athletes range from 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kg of body weight depending on the recommendation you use. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommends 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kg of body weight.

What does this mean in reality? Let’s go back to Sandy, our desk-bound marathoner from the last post. She is 5’5″ tall and weighs 140 pounds (140/2.2 = 63.6 kg). Based on the IOC recommendations, Sandy would need:

  • Low end of range: 1.2 g/kg x 63.6 = 76 grams
  • High end o range: 1.6 g/kg x 63.6 = 102 grams

To translate the grams into calories, multiply by 4 (there are 4 calories per gram of protein). This gives us between 304 and 408 calories from protein.  If Sandy is using a food tracking software or app, she can enter one of these (or the average) as her protein goal for the day. If her package asks for the recommendation in percent of calories, she would divide the protein in calories by her total daily calories and multiply by 100. For example, if she needs an average of 2000 calories per day, her range of calories from protein would be 15 – 20% ((304/2000)*100 and (408/2000)*100). The highest percentage of calories from protein is 35%.

Protein-containing foods include meats, fish, poultry, soy, dairy, beans, and nuts. Often, it is easiest to think of a “serving” of protein. If you think about a serving of chicken (3 – 4 ounces – about the size of a deck of cards) that would have between 21 and 28 grams of protein. Each ounce of meat (beef, fish, poultry) had 7 grams of protein per ounce. Two tablespoons of peanut butter has about 10 grams of protein. You should also spit your protein up through out all of your meals. Than can help maximize absorption and usage of the protein. For most people, if you are eating enough calories you should be meeting your protein needs.

Ideally,  you should have protein along with carbohydrates and fat each time you eat. Meals that contain protein, carbohydrates, and fat help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

If you have protein questions, let me know.

Next time: Fat Needs.

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2 Responses to "Protein Needs"
  1. That makes sense for you welter weight client. What would you recommend for the clydesdales endurance athletes I coach who need 125+ g protein according to the charts? If they can only absorb approx 25 g per sitting, that’s a lot of protein dense meals for some people who are only used to 3 meals a day.

    • Hi Coach! That is a good point. Some larger clients need to get in a lot of protein. Some larger clients go up to 40 – 45 grams per meal if they only want three meals. There is an art to translating the recommendations to reality.

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