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Protein and Protein Supplements – When is it Too Much of a Good Thing?

There is no denying the fact that protein is an essential nutrient. But the exact amount of protein the average person needs is disputed. There are some who say we need more – that it plays such a vital role in all aspects of good health that the main focus of our daily diet should be protein-based. There are others who say that protein, regardless of its source, should be limited to about 35% or less of total daily calories. There are still others who say that not only should the total amount of protein be limited, but also the type of protein. The simplest answer to the question of how much protein you really need is this: it depends.

Factors That Affect How Much Protein You Need

The amount of protein you should actually consume will vary from person to person based on:

– Body weight

– Gender and age

– Level of exercise and activity

– General state of health

Everyone knows that how much you weigh will change your overall nutritional needs. Obviously, a 250 pound man will generally need more food to maintain his current weight than a 150 pound man, or a 150 pound woman for that matter. To determine how many calories you really need to consume to stay healthy, maintain your current weight, or lose weight, you need to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and your activity rate. The formulas for doing this are very general and can be different in many ways, so if you can define them professionally, do so.

To get your estimated BMR:

– Multiply your desired weight in pounds by 8, then add 200. For example, if a woman wanted to weigh 140 pounds her formula would be 140 x 8=1120 +200= 1320.

To find out how many calories you burn from typical, physical activity:

– Multiply the number of minutes you spent walking by 4

– Multiply the number of cardio and strength exercises by 8

Finally, to find out the amount of calories you should eat each day:

– Add the number you got with the BMR formula to the number you got from your activity level. To lose a pound of weight per week, a healthy and achievable rate, reduce the total by 500. However, if this target number is less than 1000, consult a doctor for advice.

(All types Source: You On a Diet, The Owner’s Guide for Waist Management. Roizen, MD and Oz, MD)

The average person typically needs about 30-35% of their daily calories to come from healthy sources of protein, which again, will vary depending on how many calories you actually need. Healthy sources of protein include low-fat animal proteins such as chicken, turkey, some cuts of beef, low-fat milk and cheeses. Plus, plant-based protein sources are usually healthier and lower in calories. Another option is to include liquid protein supplements or other supplemental sources in your diet so that you get the right amount of protein without adding unnecessary, extra calories each day.

Gender and age for protein requirements

Men tend to need more protein than women, however, this may be related to the fact that they are older and tend to weigh more than their normal need for more protein. However, some protein needs can change with age, especially when the metabolism changes and the body starts to slow down a bit. The type of protein older adults need can also change, with many needing a source that is easier to digest and metabolize. If meat sources are difficult to manage, then plant-based proteins can be a good substitute. Additionally, the older adult is a perfect candidate for liquid protein shots.

Exercise and activity level

The actual amount of exercise you do each day can greatly affect the amount of protein you actually need. We’ve all seen the huge jars of whey protein powder in health food stores and other places. Some people may think this means protein, as they may not realize that there are many sources of protein, including vegetarian sources. Protein is used by the body in a number of ways, including building, repairing and maintaining lean muscle mass, however, not all protein consumed becomes muscle.

The fallacy that the more protein you eat, the more muscle you’ll build is a common one, but it’s simply a fallacy. If you eat more of any type of nutrient, no matter what it is, you will not build lean muscle, but instead gain weight, period. We increase the amount of food and nutrients we need by burning what is consumed. We lose weight by burning more than we take in. We do this by increasing the amount we move. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate exercise into any weight loss plans or efforts.

A sedentary person will have a minimal amount of protein needed, perhaps as little as 4 grams per kilogram of body weight. Those who do light to moderate exercise may increase their need to 5-.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Vigorous exercisers may need up to a full gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, with vigorous exercise defined as moderate to vigorous exercise for 30-60 minutes at least four days or more per week.

Body builders, especially those who have overloaded their bodies almost twice their normal size, need even more protein per pound of body weight, but they don’t need to exceed 1.5 grams per pound. It bears repeating that body builders do not get huge from excess protein. They do this because of their genetics and intense training efforts, combined with a good, balanced diet.

General state of health

For the normal healthy person, the amount of protein needed will vary between 4 grams per kilogram of body weight and 1 gram. Once you know how much protein you need per day, you can begin to work out the right eating plan that provides you with good nutrition and sufficient, healthy protein for your body’s needs. However, there are some conditions that may require additional protein on a temporary basis. These conditions include:

– Illness, especially with fever

– Injury or accident

– Burns

– Those recovering from any type of surgery

The conclusion

Protein is a vital nutrient, used for a variety of body functions. Protein not only plays a role in building lean muscle mass, but is vital for every cell in the body. The protein is converted into enzymes which are then used to promote biochemical reactions. These reactions are used to transport compounds across membranes and through the blood to every part of the body.

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