Protein Needs

I need a lot of protein since I work out a lot.

The real question is how much protein the average (healthy) person needs?  (All the info I provide will be based on adult needs.  Interestingly, protein deficiency is unlikely in the United States, but might be an issue for the elderly with health complications or, of course, the pregnant/breastfeeding mom).

Protein is essential because of the amino acids it uses for a variety of body functions.  Protein makes up over half of the solid content in all cells.   It is used for enzymes, hormones, immunity, and structure of amino acids, which will help with muscle building.

Generally, 10-30% of your calories can come from protein.  More precisely the appropriate intake is 0.8 grams/kilogram of body weight per day.  Just so you know, 2.2 lbs = 1 kg of body weight.  Let’s do the math:

30-year old male at 190 lbs

190lbs / (2.2lbs/kg) =  86.4 kg, round to 86kg body weight

86kg x 0.8g/kg = 69 grams of protein per day

What does 69g of protein consist of?  I’ve included a brief list of common foods with their protein content:



Protein   (grams)

Chicken breast , boneless, skinless 3 ounces


Steak, sirloin, lean, broiled 3 ounces


Salmon, cooked, dry-heat 3 ounces


Egg, hard-boiled 1 large


Beans, black, boiled ½ cup


Lentils, boiled ½ cup


Tofu 3 ounces



Now keep in mind that 3 ounces is about the size and thickness of a deck of cards.  Most folks eat more than that at a meal!  So, getting your protein shouldn’t be difficult.  Now, if you are an endurance and strength-trained athlete recommendations range from 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight per day.   Additional servings of protein may be needed to help with recovery and decreased energy(calorie) intake.

Please keep in mind that other foods, including dairy products, vegetables, and some carbohydrates also contain protein.  Protein is everywhere.  For most of us, getting enough in our diet shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

About Sharon M., MS RD

As a registered dietitian and a master gardener, I know the healing power of food. Nothing has given me more satisfaction than growing my own food. I have experience working in the public health field, including school districts. I have worked with pregnant moms, children, diabetics, and bariatric patients. I emphasis a plant-based, whole food diet. Yet, I appreciate the movement of eating sustainably, while hoping folks appreciate the bean as a source of protein. "To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld "Feeding is going well if both you and yor child are having a good time." -Ellyn Satter
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