What is the right amount of protein to eat for optimum health ?
It seems like a simple question but it is very complex to arrive at a right number.
Before we get into the actual numbers, let us understand the concept of protein intake.
The minimum intake of protein is 0.8 gms per kilogram of Reference body weight (RBW)per day.
Please find the chart below describing the RBW.
This is the reference point given to prevent deficiency. So for a person weighing 62-67kgs, the protein intake should be 0.8 gms/kg of rbw.
Protein contributes to lean body mass and muscle mass. It is important for glucose utilization and insulin sensitivity. As we age, deficiency in protein leads to muscle wasting which leads to risk of falling due to frailty. If unchecked also leads to poor quality of life and risk of death.
When we talk about optimal health, we are talking about optimal blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, reducing cardio vascular risk, neuro degenerative diseases and also talking about physical strength and physical health. That is where protein plays an important role.
So now let us look at different protein diet measurements:
- Low protein diet - 0..8 - 1.0/ Kgm/day
- Moderate protein diet - 1.2 - 1.7/kgm/day
- High protein diet : > 2.0/kgm/day
How much protein you actually need depends on who you ask and who you are. Generally speaking, the more you move, the more protein you need. "The less wear and tear you put on your body, the less repair work there is to do," says Sass. Your age plays a role, too. Some research suggests that as you age, your body performs better with higher amounts of protein.
If you're working out hard on a regular basis (think: both cardio and strength training on the reg), the ideal amount of protein per day for muscle building and maintenance is about 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight — ideally spread out evenly throughout the day, notes Sass. So, if you're working your butt off, aim for 0.75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of healthy body weight. But keep in mind, that means whatever your weight was when you've felt your strongest and healthiest. The distinction is important to consider if you're severely underweight or overweight — you don't want to just use the numbers on the scale as a reference for your protein intake.
Your absolute minimum, if you're not active or only slightly active, should be about 0.5 grams of protein per pound of healthy body weight, notes Kimball. For an active 130-pound woman (59 kg), a ballpark protein breakdown would be roughly 24 grams of protein per meal including snacks or about 97 grams of protein per day (more or less, depending on your activity level). But if you're still concerned about protein needs (vegans and vegetarians can sometimes require more attention) a registered dietitian can help you ID the ideal amount of protein for you.
Health Benefits of Protein
Protein helps to maintain body tissues, including muscles, organs, the nervous system, blood, skin, and hair. It also serves as a transport mechanism for oxygen, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
In addition, eating protein can help you manage your weight because it takes longer to digest a protein-rich meal. After consuming a meal with protein, you're likely to feel full and satisfied longer.
Some protein foods have additional health benefits. Legumes are high in protein and fiber and contain phytochemicals that may have health benefits. Fish, such as salmon, tuna, herring, and trout, are high in protein and also omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for health.
Unlike fat and glucose, our body has little capacity to store protein. If you were to stop eating protein, your body would start to break down muscle. Protein deficiency is rare in developed countries. However, it can happen if you're not eating enough food every day.
On the flip side, it is possible to overeat protein. Some people believe that excess protein is excreted in the urine. However, only part of the protein is excreted. Another part of the protein is converted to glucose for energy or stored as fat.
So if you eat too much protein—and too many calories as a result—you risk gaining weight from excess calories. If you eat more protein than you need but still have your calories balanced, then you will not gain weight, even with the additional protein.
If your calorie goal stays on track, but you get more protein than you need, you are may not be getting enough carbohydrates or fat for your body to function correctly. In addition, excessive protein intake can be strenuous on the kidneys. People with certain types of kidney diseases need to manage how much protein they eat.
The key to proper nutrition is achieving the appropriate balance of macronutrients. Eating large amounts of protein can lead to dehydration, even in elite athletes. So if you follow a high protein diet, it’s important to drink extra water.
It is also important to consult a doctor or dietitian to determine your ideal daily protein goal.
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