We all know that protein is an important part of a healthy diet, but do you know if you’re eating enough of it? Different sources say different things, and the amount ultimately depends on your body and your physical activity level, but it might be time for an information tune-up to make sure you’re doing the most you can to stay on track with your fitness and nutrition goals!
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Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They make up our muscles, tendons, organs, and skin. They are also used to make enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and several other tiny molecules that serve important functions. Proteins are essential to not only growing our bodies or muscles, but also in maintaining them.
An important thing to remember about protein that it’s nott just about quantity. It’s also about quality.
Generally speaking, animal protein provides all the essential amino acids in the correct ratio for our bodies to make the best use of them. If you’re eating animal products (like meat, fish, eggs, or dairy) every day, then you’re probably already doing pretty well, protein-wise. If you don’t eat animal foods, then it can be slightly more challenging (and requires a bit of research and planning) to get the protein and essential amino acids that your body requires.
So how much should you be consuming?
Adults in the U.S. are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day’s calories from protein foods. That’s about 46 grams of protein for women, and 56 grams of protein for men. It’s not hard to get this amount if you eat two to three servings of protein-rich foods a day, according to the CDC.
- A 3-ounce cut of meat has around 21 grams of protein. A normal 8-ounce cut of meat could have over 50 grams of protein.
- One 8-ounce yogurt container has around 11 grams of protein.
- One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein.
- One cup of dry beans has around 16 grams of protein.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, specifically for women.
Pregnant women are encouraged to get around 10 grams of protein extra while pregnant, and it’s recommended that 20-30 grams of their entire protein intake for the day come from low-fat dairy products, as the calcium and Vitamin D are good for the bone health and development of both the mother and the baby.
Nursing mothers are recommended a 20 gram increase in their protein intake per day. Both of these recommended increases are small and don’t have to mean a lot of extra calories or food. An additional serving per day of greek yogurt or beans will often be enough to help meet these increases.
Making sure you’re meeting your body’s protein requirements is a great way to maintain and build lean muscle, which will help your body to burn more calories by simply maintaining it. You just have to watch it because some forms of protein also come with high amounts of fat and other not-so-great additional ingredients. Try monitoring your protein intake every day for a month, with the goal to reach your maximum daily requirement, and see if you don’t see a difference in your muscle definition, energy, and even in your skin and hair!
What’s your favorite way to add more protein into your meals?
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