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How Much Protein Do I Really Need?

Posted on in Nutrition, Weight Loss | | 17 Comments
Nutrition tips from a health & fitness personal trainer for vegan 40+ women

First a little information on what exactly protein is and how our bodies use this vital nutrient. Protein is an essential macro-nutrient our bodies cannot live without.  It contains nitrogen, which is responsible for the growth and repair of every cell in your body.  Protein is made up of twenty different amino acids, 9 of which our bodies cannot produce.   So we need to get these 9 essential amino acids from the food we eat.

Why is Protein so important?

It serves to build strong bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.  It makes up the compounds our bodies use to produce biochemical reactions, known as enzymes; which control our hormones.  It is found in our blood as hemoglobin, which transports oxygen all over our bodies.  Hemoglobin is a part of the immune system in the form of antibodies that help protect our bodies from bacteria, viruses, and toxic substances.

How much protein is good for me?

That depends; don’t you just hate that answer? But it’s true; everyone’s needs are different. How active you are, your body composition, how hard you workout, do you have a desk job or are you a construction worker? There are so many factors that go into determining you unique needs.

The problem is that most people believe if a little is good then more must be better. Not true! Our bodies can only utilize a certain amount of protein at one time. Too much protein in one serving and you will need to store the excess. Now, want to take a guess at how it’s stored? As body fat. Yes that’s right, the molecules are broken down and then re-built, so to speak, as fat molecules to be stored away.

If you have too little protein then your body will not have the nutrients it needs for repair and replacement of cells. Your cells, hair, skin, nails, bone, organs, etc are constantly regenerating. If we don’t feed our body the amino acids it needs to keep this process going, it will find a way to do it; our bodies want to survive. Since we don’t store protein, the fibers of our muscles (amino acids) are broken down and used for repair.

Now image this typical scenario; you don’t eat all day because you’re busy and have no time. When you get home at night after a long hard day (with maybe some quick carbs and coffee) you are famished! You eat a large serving of a lean protein and have some vegetables with it, thinking this is great! But, as you just learned, your body can’t handle all the protein at once and stores half of it away as fat.

The answer!

Get a little bit of protein at each meal, which could range from anywhere between 15 grams up to 30 grams.  Most women will do well with 15 – 20 grams per meal, and men a little more since they typically are bigger and have more muscle mass. This will help to keep you lean, your metabolism up, and also help stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the day. You’ll also find you are not quite as ravenous when you get home at the end of the day. You may even get home a bit earlier because you were able to think that much clearer, and finish up a major project in record time.

What are some good protein sources?  

Tofu, tempeh, high protein cereals, plant based protein powder, edamame, seitan, hemp seeds, nuts and seeds (also a fat serving!), beans and legumes also have high protein content but remember they are also a starch serving. Personally I prefer chickpeas and lentils.  I am vegan, and do not recommend any animal products; meats, fish, dairy or eggs as your protein sources.

Start tracking what you eat each day and you’ll soon be able to figure out how much is the right amount for you. If you need assistance with learning what’s right for your body, you can check out my programs here: Work With Lisa or give me a call 888-222-1273 

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17 Responses to "How Much Protein Do I Really Need?"
  1. Thanks for this info. I tend to eat more protein than anything else on my plate but do have veggie or salad , sometimes a grain with my protein. I must be doing it right cause I usually have energy from early to late. Been this way my entire life.

    • bodysoulcoaches says:

      Roslyn, I’d say you’ve nailed it! Isn’t it great to know your own body and what your own unique needs are!?

  2. Tamuria says:

    This is great information Lisa. I didn’t realize too much protein converted to body fat.

  3. There are so many different theories on which way to eat is best for you. I’ve discovered along the way on my health journey (and through acute health crises), that I do not do well at all with grains and do extremely well with animal protein. Organic of course. Most of what I am seeing and reading lately is that humans need high quality saturated fats and clean animal proteins offer that, along with high quality proteins.

    Whenever I attempt to eat grains and vegetables, with nuts and seeds , my health suffers. In the past whenever I wanted to lose weight, a high animal protein diet worked best for me. I do balance it with low glycemic carbs plus healthy fats and fibre though. That is a big complaint about animal protein…hard to digest and lack of fibre. Again, I have never had that experience with it personally. Reading Tim Ferriss, he recommends starting your day with 30 gms of protein within an hour of waking up. This is something I have read in many places, many times as well. I think we are all so highly individual, that finding what works best for us to be our most vibrant and healthy selves, is really the key! Thanks for your experience and expertise in this post, Lisa!

    • bodysoulcoaches says:

      Beverly, I am vegan and do not recommend any animal products at all. I too have read Tim Ferris and disagree with a lot of what he says. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and having ended severe gastro-intestinal problems and having helped 100’s of men and women lose weight and regain health, I would have to state I also disagree with the need for all the saturated fats; yes we do need some for the integrity of the walls of our cells, but we can get that from nuts and seeds. Study after study proves that saturated fats leads to heart disease. Just because we need a little, doesn’t mean more is better. I suppose we can agree to disagree.

  4. Lentils are an essential component of the Indian diet and provide a healthier source of protein than meat which takes longer to digest. Thank God for lentils and other vegetables that make sure we get the right energy boost in a healthy manner.

  5. Interesting to find out that too much protein can translate in body fat, I really did not know. I see that you don’t recommend any animal protein, but for those who do eat it, how much is it recommended per meal?

    • bodysoulcoaches says:

      Hi Delia, How much protein you need per meal is not dependent on whether you eat animal protein or plant based protein; it has more to do with your individual needs. If you are trying to build muscle and lose body and are active you will more than someone who is inactive, sitting at a desk all day. Other factors that add to this are body composition, age, sex, body type. It really takes tracking your food so you get to learn more about your own body. Women, in general could try starting with 15 – 20 grams per meal.

  6. I’m at about 42-45 grams a day. I don’t seem to be suffering as a result, so I’ll just keep plugging along!

  7. Carol Rundle says:

    I find I can’t eat protein at every meal; I’m better having it at breakfast and dinner. It works well for me.

  8. While we all hate that answer – it depends – it’s true… every body is different and our physical body and needs are different just like our internal make up and those needs. One person may need more because they work out more, etc… as you know. So I try… hard part for me, I am a picky eater, so I try to get it in with protein shakes with morning, chicken, beans or meat in the others.

    Of your list, won’t/can’t/don’t like – Tofu, tempeh, edamame, seitan, hemp seeds.

    But I can do…high protein cereals (not much of a cereal eater but put some in yogurt, plant based protein powder (Got this!), seeds and nuts are hard on teeth and let me tell you… I have enough problems with 2 bridges, 2nd one just finished and next one starts in Jan. I can deal with most beans so do chili or add lil to salads which are basically lettuce, egg, ham or chicken and dressing. heck I don’t even eat seafood! So, see why I do protein shakes? lol

  9. Lisa,
    I love how you remain honest and true to yourself as you attempt to help the rest of us non-vegans. 🙂 Thank you for your honesty and insight. When I work out and teach all day, I eat up to 81 grams of protein. If I am not active that day, I only consume about 65. My problem: I love bread, and it loves my waistline!

    • bodysoulcoaches says:

      Hey Liz, Everyone needs to do what is right for them. Believe it or not I grew up in a home where meat was consumed everyday; my father was a grocer and a butcher! I suffered terribly from IBS until I switched to a vegan diet & honestly it is also a political stance against the torcherous treatment of all animals. One suggestion, you may want to keep you protein intake stable each day and increase/decrease carbs depending on activity. I think you’ll like how your body respnonds to that.

  10. Sonya says:

    I increased my protein after learning more about it all a couple of years ago. In fact, I changed my eating habits and feel better for it all round.

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