We often hear people who workout and go to the gym regularly talk about protein, talking about their protein shakes and counting how much protein they get in each meal. It’s all just protein, protein, protein. But have you ever wondered why this obsession with protein? It makes you think if you are getting enough protein in your diet even if you don’t work out? Not to scare you but the answer is probably no. A recent study shows that almost 80% of our Indian population don't meet their daily protein requirements and 90% of the Indian population aren't even aware of their daily protein requirements! But don’t worry, here’s your guide to understand how much protein is needed per day by our bodies.
Let’s first understand what is protein and why is it importantProteins are one of the three macronutrients, alongside carbohydrates and fats, essential for the human body and are vital for the structure, function, and regulation of cells and tissues.
Proteins are incredibly important molecules that are found in every living thing, including you and me. They are like the building blocks of life. Imagine you're building a house with Lego blocks. Each Lego block represents a small unit of a protein called an amino acid.
Now, just like you can use different Lego blocks to build different things like a car or a house, your body can use different combinations of amino acids to build different types of proteins. These proteins have specific functions and jobs to do in your body.
Protein is extremely important for your body for multiple reasons
1. Growth and Repair
Proteins are essential for the growth, maintenance, and repair of tissues. They aid in building muscles, organs, skin, hair, nails, and other body tissues. When you engage in physical activities, proteins play a crucial role in repairing and strengthening your muscles.
2. Immune System Function
Antibodies, which are specialised proteins, help recognize and fight foreign substances like bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Playing a key role in keeping you and your immune system strong and healthy.
3. Energy Source
While carbohydrates and fats are the primary sources of energy, proteins can also be used as an energy source when needed. During times of insufficient carbohydrate or fat intake, the body breaks down proteins to produce energy.
4. Structure and Support
Proteins provide structural support to cells and tissues. Collagen, for instance, is a protein that forms the framework of your skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments, giving them strength and elasticity.
Along with the above protein also helps regulate hormones, blood sugar levels as well as acting as enzymes that help carry out several chemical reactions in the body and help transport nutrients, hormones and wastes within the body.
Now that you know what protein actually is and how crucial it is for our bodies let’s look at some factors that influence protein requirement to better understand how much protein is needed per day by our bodies.
1. Body Weight and Composition
An individual's protein requirements are significantly influenced by lean body mass and body weight. Protein is crucial for muscle development, maintenance, and repair, and the majority of lean body mass is made up of muscular tissue. According to general guidelines, those with higher body weights or more lean body mass typically need more protein.
2. Physical Activity and Exercise
Because of the increased demands put on muscles during physical activity and exercise, protein requirements are significantly impacted. Muscle protein breakdown takes place during exercise, particularly resistance or endurance training. A sufficient protein intake is essential to maintain muscle growth and repair.
Protein requirements are influenced by physical activity type, duration, and intensity. A higher protein intake may be necessary for endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners or cyclists, in order to assist muscle recovery. Protein requirements are often higher for strength and resistance training athletes than for endurance athletes because their goals are to increase muscle mass and strength.
It is recommended that individuals engaging in regular physical activity consume protein within the range of 1.2 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This range allows for optimal muscle protein synthesis and assists in muscle recovery.
3. Health Status and Goals
Protein needs might be impacted by medical problems, accidents, diseases, or surgical recuperating. The body's requirement for protein may rise during times of illness, injury, or post-surgery recovery to support immune system and tissue repair.
For instance, those who are recovering from surgery or suffering from a serious injury would need to consume more protein to promote collagen production, tissue regeneration, and wound healing. In these circumstances, protein intake should range from 1.2 to 2.5 grams per kilogramme of body weight per day, which may go above and above the standard requirements.
Additionally, based on medical advice, protein consumption may need to be modified for some health issues, such as kidney disease.
How to Tell How Much Protein You Need?
To figure out how much protein you should be consuming daily, you need to consider factors such as your age, sex, body weight, activity level, and overall health goals.
Here are some general guidelines to help you estimate your protein requirement per day:
1. Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
The RDA for protein intake is set by various health organisations. According to some research the RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, this value may vary based on individual circumstances.
2. Activity Level
If you are physically active, your protein needs may be higher due to increased muscle repair and growth. Athletes or individuals engaging in intense workouts might require 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
3. Health Goals
If you are trying to build muscle, lose weight, or recover from an injury, you may benefit from a higher protein intake. In such cases, protein requirements may range from 1.2 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
4. Age and Health Conditions
As one ages their protein protein needs increase due to age-related muscle loss
5. Individual Variations
Everyone and their bodily needs are unique, and individual variations can affect protein requirements. Factors like metabolism, body composition, and genetic factors may influence your optimal protein intake.
Now if you are wondering how to calculate your estimated protein needs, here's a simple example:
- Multiply your weight in kilograms by the recommended protein intake per kilogram based on your circumstances (e.g., sedentary lifestyle: 0.8 g/kg, active lifestyle: 1.2-2.0 g/kg)
- Adjust the estimate based on your personal goals and preferences
These guidelines are general recommendations, and the exact protein requirement may vary for each individual. For more accurate and personalised advice, it's best to consult a registered dietitian or healthcare professional who can consider your specific needs and circumstances.
How Much Protein is Needed Per Day During Pregnancy?
Protein is a key nutrient during pregnancy since it supports the mother's tissues and is essential for the foetus' growth and development. To support the changes taking place in the mother's body and to satisfy the increased needs of the growing baby, the protein requirement during pregnancy is slightly higher than it is for non-pregnant women.
Depending on the source, a range of 25 extra grams of protein per day over pre-pregnancy levels is typically recommended for protein intake during pregnancy. This brings the total daily recommended protein intake for pregnant women to roughly 70 grams.
It's crucial to remember that each person's needs for protein may differ depending on things like pre-pregnancy weight, degree of exercise, and general health. For specific situations, such as multiple pregnancies or if the mother has certain medical conditions, healthcare professionals may advise a slightly increased protein consumption.
The increased need for protein during pregnancy can be met by including a range of protein-rich foods in the diet. Lean meats, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes (including beans and lentils), tofu, tempeh, and quinoa are all excellent sources of protein. To ensure a well-rounded nutritional intake, it is also advantageous to have a balanced diet that contains lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats.
If you have specific dietary concerns or questions about your protein intake during pregnancy, it's always best to consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian who can provide personalised advice based on your individual needs
Situations Where You Should Increase Your Protein Requirement Per Day
Apart from the above discussed, some more situations one may need to increase their protein requirement per day are lactation, breastfeeding mothers also have increased protein needs to support milk production and provide adequate nutrition for their infants. For growth and development in children and adolescents, protein is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting bone health, and maintaining overall growth. Recovery from illness or injury, during periods of illness, injury, or recovery from surgery, the body's protein needs may increase to support tissue repair, wound healing, and immune function. In these cases, higher protein intake may be recommended to aid the healing process.
If you are someone who is looking for a Protein supplement to meet your daily protein needs because of dietary restrictions (vegetarian and vegan diets usually tend to have a lower amount of protein) or are someone who works out or is an athlete or has been recommended by their healthcare provider to increase their protein intake then a great plant protein powder is Panchamrit’s Plant Protein powder. This vegan protein powder gives you 22g of protein and 4g of BCAA per serving/scoop. The best part about this vegan supplement is that it has the added benefits of Ayurvedic ingredients like Ashwagandha, Gokhru, Turmeric, and safed Musli which help in stamina, increased recovery and acts as diuretic to help flush excess protein from the body. Unlike other plant protein powders, this Plant Protein contains an enzyme blend making it easy on the digestive system hence making it easy to digest and causing no bloating.
So whether you are an athlete looking to up your protein intake or just someone who is not able to meet their daily protein requirement through their diet due to restrictions, including a vegan supplement such as plant based protein in your daily routine is necessary to maintain a great physical health and improve your overall wellbeing.
Also Read: Whey Protein vs. Plant Protein