How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

Nutrition // Lisa Donaldson

Protein is a pretty incredible macronutrient. It is part of every single cell in our body. It’s used in our hair, nails, muscles, ligaments, skin… even blood!

Protein is commonly referred to as the building blocks inside our body, and rightfully so – it is protein that helps our body repair and rebuild every day.

What concerns me as a dietician is the large number of people who consume far more than their body needs, which is easily done with protein shakes and bars.

Excessive consumption can lead to some pretty serious problems, like gout and kidney strain.

How much we actually need

Depending on your physical size, a person typically needs about 0.8-1.2g of protein per kilogram every day. To put that into some sort of perspective if you weigh:

  • 120kg: you’d need approximately 120g protein per day
  • 100kg: you’d need approximately 100g protein per day
  • 60kg: you’d need approximately 60g protein per day
  • 50kg: you’d need approximately 50g protein per day

The body can synthesise about 30g of protein effectively at any one time, so if you are aiming to ‘build’ up muscle, spreading your protein serves across the day is better than eating a large amount of protein in a single sitting.

A ‘day on a plate’

Let’s look at a day on the plate, using a range of protein sources, to see how easy it is for the protein to add up across the course of the day.

1. Breakfast

  • 2-egg omelette with tomato, feta, baby spinach, with;
  • 1 slice of wholegrain toast with avocado as spread, with;
  • 1 cup of tea with milk.

= 26 grams of protein

2. Snack #1

  • Banana and 100g natural yoghurt

= 10 grams of protein

3. Lunch

  • Chicken salad (100g chicken) with non-starchy salad veggies, a sprinkling of cashews and some chickpeas

= 31 grams of protein

4. Snack #2

  • 30g vintage cheese with 1 apple

= 8 grams of protein

5. Dinner

  • Steak (100g) with mashed sweet potato and greens

= 25 grams of protein

TOTAL = 100g protein

Our day on the plate shows how you can effectively spread the protein content across the course of the day. Lean meat, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy products are all wonderful sources of protein to help your body be strong.

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