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How Much Protein Should I Eat?

Sara K. Larsen - Thursday, September 25, 2014

I get asked this question a lot. You need protein to build muscle, manage your metabolism, and support tissue repair, but how much and what type of protein? It's a subject that causes a lot of debate. What is clear is that protein is a significant and vital part of our diet - for health, fitness, and satisfaction. You might remember from grade school that proteins are the "building blocks of life" and it's true! Protein molecules are made up of thousands of smaller units called amino acids. Protein and amino acids are essential for producing adequate enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and antibodies. Basically, you need protein in your diet to help your body repair cells and make new ones. 


The amount of protein you need varies according to your body size and activity level. The USDA's recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 0.4 grams of protein per pound of weight per day for a sedentary adult. This works out to 60 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound person. Adults seeking to improve their endurance should aim for 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This works out to 75-90 grams of protein for a 150-pound person. And adults looking to build muscle and strength should aim for 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day and that works out to 90-135 grams of protein daily for a 150-pound adult. 

What type of protein should I be eating? This is another question I hear a lot. Below is a list of 15 foods proven to be good sources of protein, as indicated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Lean Meat, 1 ounce = 7 grams of protein
Lentils, ½ cup = 9 grams of protein
Nuts, 1 ounce = 7 grams of protein
Eggs, 1 large egg = 6 grams of protein
Milk, 1 ounce = 1 gram of protein
Tempeh, 4 ounces = 20 grams of protein
Quinoa, 1 cup = 8 grams of protein
Yogurt, 4 ounces = 6 grams of protein
Edamame, 1 cup = 17 grams of protein
Cheese, 1 ounce = 7 grams of protein
Kidney Beans, ½ cup = 7 grams of protein
Cottage Cheese, ½ cup = 14 grams of protein
Vegetables, ½ cup = 2 grams of protein
Peanut Butter, 2 tbsp. = 8 grams of protein
Nutritional Yeast, 2 tbsp. = 8 grams of protein

Still confused about how much and what type of protein you should be eating? Please email me at sara@coachsara.com.