Friday, September 09, 2011

Powerful Protein

Protein is a nutrient needed by the human body for growth and maintenance.  Athletes need protein primarily to repair and rebuild muscle that is broken down during exercise and to help optimizes carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen.

According to Kristina Davis, holder of a Masters of Science in nutrition and wellness and a Master of Public Health from Benedictine University,  many athletes are concerned about their protein intake.

So how much protein do we really need? 

The average person should consume 0.8g of protein per 1kg (2.2 lb) of body weight per day.

If you start a weight training or muscle-strengthening regimen, you should increase protein intake to 1.2g per 1kg of body weight for one week.

For athletes who are not strength training, such as marathon runners or athletes that have been strength training for more than one week, the intake level should be 1g of protein for each 1kg body weight.

To determine the necessary protein, divide body weight in pounds by 2.2. Then multiply by 0.8, 1, or 1.5 depending on which category you fall into. That is the amount of protein you need each day.

So, to demonstrate that formula:

A) if you weigh 120 pounds and have been strength training on a regular basis...

120/2.2 X 1 = 54.5g protein needed per day

B) if you weigh 140 pounds and are running shorter distances and not strength training...
140/2.2 X .8 = 51g protein needed per day

Aside from water, protein is the most abundant molecule in the body.  Protein is found in all cells of the body and is the major structural component of all cells in the body, especially muscle.  This also includes body organs, hair and skin.

So, where do we get protein from?  What kinds of foods contain protein?

In the average North American diet, the majority of protein intake comes in the form of meat.  Meat has the highest amounts of protein of any foodstuff.

But if you are not a meat-eater, or if you choose to have meatless days or even meatless meals occasionally, where are you going to get the protein you need?

Here are some examples of protein amounts found in some foods.  These numbers came from FitDay and/or Calorie King and the 'average' serving size is quoted so that you can easily see how much you would be getting at a sitting.

You might be surprised at the amount of protein that is found in some foods that we don't normally think of as protein sources.

Food, serving size, number of Protein g in that serving:

Chicken breast, cooked 3 oz, 16g
Tuna, canned, 3 oz, 23g
Lean beef, eye of round cooked, 3 oz, 25g

Red kidney beans, canned, ½ cup, 8 g
Edemame, shelled, ½ cup, 11g

Egg, 1 large, 6g
Egg white, 1 large, 3g

Cheddar cheese, 1 oz 5g
Fat free cottage cheese, ½ cup, 13g
Fat free plain yogurt, ½ cup, 6g
Fat free Greek yogurt, ½ cup, 12g
Fat free cow's milk, 1 cup, 9g

Soy protein shake, 1 scoop, 14g

Tofu, medium firm, 3 oz, 8g

Quinoa, dry, ¼ cup, 5g
Oats, dry, ¼ cup, 3g
Brown rice, dry, ¼ cup, 4g
Farro, dry, ¼ cup, 7g

Banana, 1 medium, 1g
Peach, 1 medium, 1g
Broccoli, raw, ½ cup, 1g
Green peas, raw, ½ cup, 4g
Beets, raw, ½ cup, 1g
Carrots, 1 large, 1g
Avocado, 2 oz, 1g

Peanut butter, 2 Tbsp, 8g
Almond butter, 2 Tbs, 5g

Almonds, 1 oz, 6g
Sunflower seeds, 1 oz, 6g

Whole wheat bread, 1 slice, 4g


  1. This is very helpful! I eat a ton of cottage cheese and yogurt as well as nuts to try to get more protein. The other thing I eat a lot that you did not add in there is BEANS!!! I love beans and they are a great source of protein!

    I am getting enough, even though I barely eat meat. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Cottage cheese! Yes, that is a good source of protein.

    And beans, too.... I do have red kidney beans and also edamame on the list, but beans of all kinds have lots of protein.

  3. This is a great post! Very informative and I'm sure I'll be referencing it again in the future. My trainer is always at me to eat more protein and I understand why a little more now. Thank you.

    I found you from the Fitness Friday blog hop.

  4. Great post! At a calculated 47.3g of protein I may be getting too much. When I make my weekly menu I'll have to check the specific grams of protein.

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    Have a great weekend!

  5. This goes right along with my blogpost! Protein is very important in my program - very informative post!

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    April@Party of Five


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