Protein is one of the four macronutrients that you need in your everyday diet to prevent infection and injury. The preferable protein intake varies from individual to individual and depends on different factors, including age and physical activity level. However, there is one aspect that remains consistent, and that is the amount of protein an average person should consume per meal. Experts say that no more than 30 grams of protein per meal is ideal because the excess of it will be excreted through urine.
By contrast, carbs and fat can be stored in the body for later use if eaten in excess. Have you ever heard of someone carbo-loading before a big race? The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is then stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. When you are engaging in intense physical activity, your body utilizes these glycogen stores so that you can withstand fatigue and finish the workout.
Protein works differently. Eating protein will not yield immediate energy like fat and carbs will, so the body redirects metabolic processes to create energy. The kidneys will then remove any excess protein in the blood. If an excess of protein is consumed regularly, the kidneys may become stressed.
So, eating a meal that contains more than 30 grams of protein is not only a waste, but it can also harm your kidneys long-term. Trying to eat a high protein diet could also put you at risk of weight gain as well, and not in muscle mass. There are four calories per gram of protein. It’s important to monitor how many calories are going in versus how much is burned through physical activity.
When it comes to fat gain, the human body will store any excess calories as fat. In other words, if eating a high protein diet increases your daily caloric intake to the point where it is higher than the daily caloric output, you will gain fat as a result. The same happens with carbohydrates and fats.
If you are trying to build muscle mass, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommended is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Depending on your goal and current lean body mass whilst trying to build more lean body mass, protein needs vary. Typically, 1.5 grams per kilograms of body weight is sufficient in combination with a balanced diet.
Keep in mind that the DRI is indicative of the minimum amount of protein you should aim to get in a day. So, 64-kilo person that doesn’t work out would need a minimum of about 50 grams of protein per day per this suggestion. If the same person was trying to build muscle mass, their intake would hover around 95 grams of protein per day.
Aside from building muscle mass and promoting fat loss, older individuals may benefit from higher protein intake if they are enduring illness or injury to speed up recovery. High physical activity levels could also require higher protein intake. Ultimately, the amount of protein you need each day varies from person to person and depends on several factors.
Experts agree that the best protein comes from whole foods. Some examples of healthy protein sources include:
- lean meat
- nuts and nut butters
- non-processed soy products
Health professionals also say that high-quality protein powders are a good way to supplement protein into your diet. The best protein powder is one that is plant-based and contains minimal preservatives and sweeteners. Plant-based protein powders can typically provide up to 20 grams of protein per serving. Blend one scoop of protein powder with oak milk, berries and a handful of spinach for a vitamin-packed, protein-rich smoothie. Although the use of protein powders is an effective way to help supplement your diet to ensure you are meeting your daily intake targets, you should aim to get the majority of your daily protein from whole food sources.
Remember that consuming more than 30 grams of protein is too much for just one meal because anything above that number will go straight to the kidneys. In other words, you’re basically throwing your hard-earned cash down the toilet if you’re trying to ingest more than that withing one hour because protein cannot be stored in the body later as carbs and fats can. So, instead of pairing a protein shake with a chicken breast at dinner, you can drink it after your workout or a few hours before. Spacing your protein consumption throughout the day is key to avoid having too much at one time!