How do I know if I am eating enough protein?

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How do I know if I am eating enough protein? Learn about your body's protein needs and how to make sure you're eating enough.
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"How do I know if I am eating enough protein? A member of Hyatt Training recently asked this question, and we think the answer is a great one to share with our community.

So, how do I know if I am eating enough protein? The short answer: start by educating yourself on a bit of nutritional science (nothing too complicated, just read on). Then, pay attention to what you"re eating.

But before I tell you how to do just that, let"s address a few basics: what is protein, and why is it important?

What is protein?
We"ve all heard of protein and know it"s in things like meat, poultry, and fish. But what really is protein and what does it do?

Protein is one of the three main macronutrients found in the foods we eat (the others being fat and carbohydrate). It"s made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for most of the tissues in our bodies.

Why is it important?
Unlike the other macronutrients, our bodies don"t store lots of extra amino acids. Protein is always being used, recycled, or excreted as waste. This means we need a steady supply of protein, replenished through our food intake.

If we don"t ingest enough protein, our bodies will start to steal amino acids from important tissues, like muscle. Without enough protein, people can become seriously malnourished, and even die.

Cell structures, hair, fingernails, muscle, bone, internal organs, and even many hormones are all made of protein.

Simply put, we need protein to survive, let alone do things like get stronger, build muscle, and heal body tissues.

Too little, too much?
There is a pretty large range of acceptable protein intake. Intake depends on many factors like age, body weight, biological sex, activity type and level, and overall energy (calorie) needs.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.8 grams/kg body weight). For a 150-pound person, this equates to 54 grams of protein per day. However, it"s important to note that the RDA was developed to avoid malnourishment.

Eating that amount of protein may provide basic nutritional adequacy to keep you alive, but you"d likely not be thriving, and almost certainly would have a harder time reaching many health and fitness goals.

Your protein intake should increase above the RDA for a number of reasons, including if you weight train, exercise regularly, are trying to lose fat or gain muscle, are young and growing, or are older and losing muscle due to aging.

On the flip side, there is currently no established upper tolerable limit (UL) for protein. Studies have shown people can safely consume 35% of their daily calories from protein without harming their bodies.

For a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet, that"s 175 grams of protein. To put that in food terms, a 1-cup/140 gram serving of chicken breast is about 40 grams of protein.

How much protein do I actually need?
A good rule of thumb I use for the most of my clients is to aim for eating 0.8 grams/lb of body weight each day. For a 150-pound person, that"s 120 grams of protein, or about three 1-cup/140 gram servings of chicken breast.

If you have been significantly under-eating protein, a great initial goal is to get your protein intake to 100 grams per day.

It can be challenging to eat enough protein if you aren"t used to it, as foods with high protein are highly satiating, keeping you feeling full for longer. You can increase your intake from there, depending on your goals and tolerance.

If you are actively trying to lose fat or build muscle, it"s even more important to eat at least 0.8 grams/lb of body weight, or even higher, up to 1 gram/lb of body weight daily."

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