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Protein Calculator

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How to Calculate Your Optimal Daily Protein Intake

Protein is one of the three macronutrients, along with fats and carbohydrates, that the body needs in larger quantities to be healthy. Protein is needed for tissue growth and repair, energy production, maintaining lean body mass, digesting food, hormone regulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, and more.

While most Americans consume plenty of carbohydrates and unhealthy fats (think fast food), they often lack protein. This protein calculator can help you determine your protein needs and optimal intake in grams per day.

Expert protein recommendations and ranges can vary widely. In fact, even the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) used by dietitians and other healthcare professionals has changed over the years. There have even been studies that postulated that you can eat too much protein.

What is The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is a set of reference values created by the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council in 1941. It’s intended to be sufficient for 97-98% of healthy individuals.

Since its founding, the RDA has changed several times to reflect updates in scientific research. At one point, the adult protein RDA was as low as 0.56 g/kg. But since 1989, it has been 0.8 g/kg per day. (To get your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.)

It’s important to note that the RDA doesn’t represent the ideal intake for optimal health. It represents the minimum protein intake needed to prevent malnutrition. You likely need a minimum of 1.2–1.8 g/kg daily to achieve your best health and fitness levels. That’s equivalent to 0.54–0.82 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily.

How Many Grams of Protein Do You Actually Need?

Your daily protein needs depend on various factors, such as your goal body weight, activity level, current body fat levels, and fitness goals. If you’re sedentary, a protein intake of 1.2–1.8 g/kg can maintain your weight and body composition. But ideally, you’re not sedentary, and your protein intake is higher for increased physical activity levels.

Activity Level

Here’s what we mean by the different activity levels given in the protein calculator:

  • Low (Average Person): This person spends most of their day sitting with minimal activity. They also do little to no structured exercise each week. The average person balances their time between sitting and standing and engages in light exercises, such as 30-minute brisk walks a few times a week.
  • Medium (Exercise Often): This is someone who’s most often on their feet throughout a given week. They participate in light exercise at least four times a week or intense exercise at least twice a week.
  • High (Athlete): An athlete engages in intense exercise three to four times a week, focusing on vigorous workouts that significantly elevate the heart rate.

You may need to change your activity level to achieve specific fitness goals, such as losing weight, toning up, or building muscle.

Fitness Goals

Fitness goals are specific outcomes achieved through diet (especially through optimal protein intake) and exercise.

  • Lose Weight: This means you’re aiming to shed unnecessary fat and are not as concerned with gaining muscle. For this reason, our protein recommendation tends to be a little more static.
  • Maintain: Maintaining means you’re happy with your current fitness level and don’t want to make any significant changes to your physical appearance or athletic capabilities. When in maintenance mode, you’re usually practicing a “eucaloric” or “equicaloric” diet, meaning you take in about as many calories as you burn.
  • Tone Up: Toning means you want to lose fat and gain muscle mass simultaneously, though you aren’t aiming to be a bodybuilder. The goal is to get leaner and fitter. To tone up, you usually don’t focus on weightlifting.
  • Build Muscle: Muscle growth involves getting larger and usually heavier. Your goal isn’t to lose weight, though it’s important to know that the more muscle you have, the more fat you will lose in general.

Protein provides the essential amino acids for tissue repair, recovery, and muscle growth. It also helps preserve lean muscle mass and body composition while promoting satiety. By aligning protein intake with specific fitness goals, you can optimize your diet to support your desired physical outcomes.

Protein Intake for Women Trying to Lose Weight or Gain Muscle

The protein RDA for the average adult woman is 46 grams per day (assuming an average weight of 58 kg or 128 lbs). However, this general guideline is designed to prevent nutrient deficiencies and help maintain a woman’s weight. It doesn’t account for specific fitness goals like weight loss or muscle gain.

Instead of settling for the 0.8 g/kg calculation, aim for 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein (or more!) per kilogram of body weight daily. For a woman weighing 70 kg (154 lbs), this translates to 84–154 grams of protein daily. A higher protein intake can increase satiety, reduce overall calorie intake, and preserve lean muscle mass during calorie deficits.

It’s also a good idea to distribute protein intake evenly across meals and snacks to enhance muscle protein synthesis and maintain energy levels. So, consider consuming protein-rich meals or snacks every 3–4 hours. This regular intake helps maintain a positive muscle protein balance throughout the day. Protein supplements like bars or powders can help you meet higher protein needs on the go.

How Can You Ensure You Reach Your Daily Protein Needs?

It’s good practice to track your daily protein intake to ensure you’re meeting your goals. Take a few seconds and think about what you ate yesterday. Were your meals full of high-protein foods like juicy steak or chicken breast? Perhaps you had eggs for breakfast—eggs are also an excellent source of protein.

But after you add up all the grams (10 grams here, 20 grams there), you’ll notice it can be challenging to get enough protein. Tracking your protein intake can help you reach your goals and keep you focused. Adjust your intake based on progress, as muscle gain or fat loss plateaus might require changes.

Many different foods can help you reach your goals. For vegetarian and plant-based options, you can also opt for plant-based protein powder, quinoa, hemp seeds, lentils, and other legumes. You can also routinely substitute more common forms of protein for ones that follow your food allergy allowances and restrictions. For example, you could substitute duck eggs for chicken eggs and goat or sheep’s milk yogurt and cheeses for cow’s milk dairy products.

The first step to tracking your protein intake is knowing the amount of protein in the food you buy. Quick searches of the amount of protein in each food can also give you a general idea. From there, the next step would be to keep track of the food and dietary protein you consume each day.

It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that records your eating habits and protein values. Many protein-tracking apps, both free and paid, are available. The Cronometer is one example. Find it at https://cronometer.com/. You may also be able to find other protein trackers online that can make tracking protein easier.

Track The Effects of a High-Protein Diet

In addition to tracking your actual protein intake, it’s a good idea to record how these dietary changes are affecting you.

  • Are you still feeling hungry after reaching your optimal protein requirements?
  • Does the time of day you start eating protein affect the rest of your day?
  • How has the increase in protein affected your sleep?
  • How do you look at the foods you were eating before you started tracking your protein? Do you still crave carbs or junk food?
  • Are you feeling stronger? Is it easier to climb stairs or open a jar?

Record your responses in a journal so you can track how increasing your protein intake is affecting your feelings and behaviors.

Food Portion Sizes

Protein is usually measured in grams, however many food items are commonly measured in ounces or pounds. Sometimes, more practical units such as “eggs” or “scoops” (in the case of powders) can be used to make it easier to visualize, for example, what 100 grams of protein might look like.

How does portion size relate to grams of protein?

There is not a direct 1:1 ratio as it pertains to food portion sizes for amount of grams of protein. You must know the ratio for the specific food item. Then you will need to do the calculations yourself, factoring in the units such as ounces, pounds, cups, and so on. That being said, knowing the ounces to grams conversion formula may still prove useful.

Maybe you want to know how many ounces equals 100 grams of protein? You can use the following tool to do a direct conversion from grams to ounces:

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Digestive Support

When suddenly increasing your protein intake, the digestive system can take a little time to adjust. A high-protein diet may require additional stomach acid, gallbladder support, digestive support, and enzymes to adequately break down and assimilate animal proteins and high-fiber plant proteins. We put together this Digestive Support Bundle with a higher dietary protein intake in mind.

  • Betaine HCl supports adequate stomach acid for denaturing the protein structure. It also activates pepsin, a key enzyme for breaking down proteins into smaller units.
  • The Gallbladder Complex supports healthy gallbladder function for binding toxins released from fat tissue.
  • The Digestion Glandular includes freeze-dried stomach, duodenum (small intestine), pancreas, and liver to support the functioning of those digestive organs.
  • The Well-Zyme Complex supports the breakdown of a wide range of proteins, peptides, fats, complex carbohydrates, sugars, and fibers.

Take these supplements during the Power of Protein Challenge to increase your body’s absorption and utilization of protein from your meals.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Protein FAQs

Here are some questions you may have about increasing your protein intake.

Q: Is eating protein bad for your kidneys?
A: No. Not unless you have chronic kidney disease or some other form of compromised kidney health. Healthy people will not usually have any ill effects from eating high amounts of protein.
Q: Can eating excess protein cause you to gain weight?
A: Not usually, unless you’re really eating calories beyond your daily calorie expenditure.
Q: Do you need protein if you’re mostly sedentary?
A: Yes! Everyone needs protein for healthy body composition and to provide the constituents needed to repair tissue.
Q: Can vegans and vegetarians get enough protein without meat?
A: Yes! As a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll just need to combine complementary plant-based protein sources to create complete proteins. Examples include beans + rice, pea protein + rice protein, pea protein + hemp protein.
Q: Do you need protein supplements to meet your daily requirements?
A: No, you don’t necessarily need any protein supplements—you can get all your protein needs from foods. However, protein shakes can make it easier to get enough protein when you’re on the go.
Q: Can cheeses and peanut butter work as good sources of protein?
A: No, those foods are better sources of fats than proteins.
Q: Can too much protein make you constipated?
A: Yes, it can for some people due to lack of fiber and potential changes in the balance of gut bacteria. Including protein sources that are also high in fiber (like beans and quinoa) may help.
Q: How much protein can the body absorb at once?
A: The body can effectively absorb and utilize around 20 to 25 grams of protein at one meal for muscle protein synthesis.
Q: What happens if you don’t eat enough protein?
A: Not eating enough protein can lead to many health issues, including fatigue and weakness, muscle breakdown, impaired immune function, poor wound healing, and hair, skin, and nail problems. Long-term protein deficiency can lead to serious conditions like kwashiorkor and marasmus.
Q: What are some of the best protein sources?
A: Some excellent sources of protein include tuna (30g per can), chicken (27g per serving), lean beef (23g per serving), salmon (19g per serving), and lentils (18g per cup).
Q: Which foods have the best protein-to-calorie ratio?
A: Some excellent high-protein, low-calorie foods include chicken breast, turkey, tuna, salmon, white fish, chicken eggs, duck eggs, and lentils.
Q: Should you eat more protein than carbs to lose weight?
A: Yes, protein has a higher thermic effect than carbs. Research shows a high-protein diet significantly boosts the metabolism, increasing the number of calories burned.
Q: Can you gain weight on a high-protein diet?
A: Yes, if you consume more calories than you burn, you could still gain weight on a high-protein diet.
Q: How long does it take to see results from eating more protein?
A: A 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when overweight women increased their protein intake from 15% of calories to 30% of calories, they lost about 11 pounds in 12 weeks.

Protein Calculator Disclaimer

The Protein Intake Calculator is designed to provide general guidance on protein needs based on specific inputs such as weight, activity level, and fitness goals. However, the information provided by this calculator should not be construed as medical advice. Individual protein needs can vary based on a range of factors, including but not limited to age, gender, activity level, and health status. For example, kidney disease, liver disorders, and other metabolic issues can be affected by high protein intake. Before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine, or if you have any specific health concerns or conditions, consult a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian.

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