Protein is a rich source of amino acids and is the body's primary fuel for growth, repair and function of nearly everything: muscles, hair, fingernails, organs, skin and cells. So getting enough in your diet is important to your health. Recommended amounts depend on your weight, activity level and desired results. The FDA recommends that 10 to 15 percent of your daily calories come from protein. Each gram of protein has four calories, meaning that in a 2,000-calorie daily diet, 200 to 300 calories should come from protein, about 50 to 75 grams of protein. Other sources say this isn't enough.
If you are active less than 30 minutes, four days per week, putting forth less than 55 percent of your maximum effort, the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recommends .36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. People at this activity level are considered sedentary or recreationally active. Their limited activity doesn't require much fuel, so they shouldn't consuming much protein.
If your are moderately active -- doing 40 to 60 minutes of exercise four to five times per week -- the University of Arizona suggests you aim for .54 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Your daily protein needs are higher than an inactive person's.
Very active women should consume .53 to .63 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Elite male athletes should consume .72 grams, according to the University of Arizona. If you train at the level of an athlete, you are extremely active six or seven days per week for hours at a time. With this taxing activity, your body needs much protein for repair, regrowth, and rebuilding anything over-utilized during training.
Recommendations for bodybuilders vary drastically from source to source. Numbers range from .86 grams (recommended by the University of Arizona), to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, suggested by other sources. The sources recommending higher protein intakes are often selling protein supplements and have a monetary incentive to encourage high protein consumption. A 200-pound man would have to take in 400 grams of protein per day to meet this level, or 1,600 calories. If all of the calories from protein and other foods aren't used as fuel, he risks gaining body fat rather than bulking up his muscles.
Your individual protein intake requirement will vary, so trial periods may be necessary to determine what works best for you. The more you weigh and the harder you exercise, the more protein you will need, but it is rare for an individual to need 2 grams per pound of body weight. Typically, 1 to 1.5 grams is ideal for serious bodybuilders.
According to Wellnessresources.com, diets encouraging severe cuts in food intake break down your lean muscle mass. A diet high in protein helps maintain muscle mass, which fuels your metabolism, the rate at which you burn calories. Protein can also make you feel full longer than other nutrients, and when you balance your diet with carbohydrates from whole grains, you will feel full even longer. When you get your calories from protein and carbohydrates rather than fat, you can typically eat more because fat has 9 calories per gram and protein and carbohydrates only have 4.
Lean meats such as white chicken meat, turkey and lean cuts of beef and pork have high amounts of protein and are low in fat. Eggs, nuts and dairy are also good sources. If you aren't able to get enough protein from food sources, you can also get powdered protein supplements to mix into smoothies, shakes, baked goods or even use as coffee creamer. They come in a variety of flavors. Be sure to read nutrition labels and avoid brands with fats and sugars. Protein bars are another option, but these tend to have high levels of saturated fat and sugars and are overly processed.
Talk to your doctor before starting a new diet, exercise or supplement program.
Consuming too much protein can put a strain on your liver, which is primarily responsible for processing the protein you consume.