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But Really, How Much Protein Should I Be Eating?
11.08.16
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Protein is legitimately found in every cell in the body, and we need it to build new cells and repair old ones. You could say it’s a non-negotiable. That said, as women, there’s a lot of confusion around how much protein we actually need. I think a lot of that ambiguity comes from the faulty — and very American — mindset that “if some of this important health-promoting thing is good for me, then a #$%&-ton must be incredible!” Not to mention all the protein shakes, bars and supplements we’re encouraged to buy on the regular, which reinforce the notion that we’re probably deficient if we’re not mega-dosing. The thing is, though, mega-dosing is almost never ideal, even when it comes to healthy stuff.

There’s no absolute number for how many grams of protein women should get each day because this depends on a number of factors, like weight, how active you are and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, among others things. The good news is, there’s a pretty easy way to calculate the amount of protein that’s right for you on the daily.

***MATH BREAK***

Cue up your calculator app, take your weight in pounds and divide that by 2.2 to determine your weight in kilograms. Then multiply that number by the below factors, depending on what your deal is.

Basic calculation: your weight in kilograms (pounds/2.2) x 0.8 to 1 = daily protein needs in grams

Pregnant and active women: your weight in kilograms (pounds/2.2) x 1.1  = daily protein needs in grams

Breastfeeding and super-active women: your weight in kilograms (pounds/2.2) x 1.3  = daily protein needs in grams

So, for a 130 pound woman in the first category, the calculation would look like this:

130 pounds (divided by 2.2) = 59 kilograms; 59 kilograms x [0.8 to 1] = 47 to 59 grams of protein per day

*If you’re not into weighing yourself, use the above calculations to guesstimate your needs. If you’re not into math, sorry about the above.

What does this even look like in terms of actual food? Since a lot of people I work with fall in the 60 gram range, below is meant to give you a feel for what 60 grams of protein looks like in terms of actual food.

2 eggs (14g)
1 oz. nuts (6g)
1/2 cup beans (7g)
1/2 cup quinoa (4g)
6 oz greek yogurt (18g)
1/4 cup goji berries = (4g)
1 Tbsp spirulina =  (4g)
1 oz. hemp seeds (5g)
= 62 grams

I chose these foods because they illustrate the extra-wide range of protein sources available. Animal sources like chicken, fish, meat, eggs, milk and yogurt provide high quality protein that contains all of the essential amino acids our body needs. Quinoa, spirulina, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast are examples of plant-based proteins that also contain all the essential amino acids. On the other hand, most plant-based sources like nuts, beans, most grains, greens and goji berries don’t contain all the essential ones. However, as long as you consume a variety of good sources within a 24-hour period, your body should do just fine pairing complete proteins together.

Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD is a Los Angeles based nutritionist and writer. She emphasizes self-compassion as a way to help people develop a healthier relationship with food. You can find Shira’s recipes and realness on Instagram @shira_RD, Twitter @Shira_RD and Facebook. Photo by Shira Lenchewski. 

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  • Abby

    Can someone tell me how to eat goji berries? Do you blend them in a smoothie or put them in your oatmeal? Can you eat it like a handful of raisins or would that be gross?

    • Julia Park

      I had a really nice goji berry smoothie at this kosher cafe called HK in New Orleans once. Their recipe was blueberries, mangosteen,
      goji berries, banana, agave, and cashew milk. Would definitely recommend that.

    • millalauren

      All of the above. Sometimes I eat a handful, they have an interesting crunchy texture that smooths out when hydrated. I throw them in smoothies or sometimes on top after blending for some texture, oatmeal is a good one, and I make chia seed pudding and let them soak in there too in order to get fat and berry-like with the hydration. The only limit is your taste and texture preferences like with all food.

  • Thank you for using non-meat examples! No one seems to believe us vegetarians when we say you can get protein elsewhere.

  • Aubrey Green

    I have terrible digestive issues. I eat relatively healthy, but still feel and have bloat, ALL the time. Went to a acupuncturist, who did the eating for your body type test, not blood type – I pretty much can’t eat anything. Wondering if anyone reading, is a nutritionist, etc. if you can advise on this and what else I could do to have better digestion, is there a vitamin or other type of supplement that can breakdown food better? I’ve already been to an Allergist and Gastroenterologist and there was nothing there causing the issue. Thanks for any help/advice.

    • Jen

      Have you looked into the FODMAP diet? It’s slowly gaining a lot of support in the medical community. Another possibility is lactose intolerance, it’s hard to diagnose because lactose is hidden in so much food as whey, condensed milk,etc. Also, sometimes it’s worth seeing two or three doctors till you get the right diagnosis. Good luck!

      • enC

        You may have SIBO. Bacterial imbalance in the intestines can cause all kinds of symptoms. A few weeks of Xifaxin combined with probiotics and low sugar/inflammatory diet may help. Have you done lots of antibiotics? Those can wreak havoc on your gut.

    • Amy Mills

      Hi Aubrey, I don’t really share the same issues as you but I’ve become mildly obsessed with the UK nutritionist Amelia Freer lately, and she seems to talk about that quite often. She has a specific post on bloat here: http://ameliafreer.com/how-to-beat-the-bloat

      But in general I think she found through blood work and experimentation that her digestive track functions best when she consumes zero dairy, gluten and sugar. She is also super heavy on emphasizing probiotics and prebiotics.

  • Nicole

    For ideas on which particular protein powders to use, take a look at my blog at http://www.ProteinGuide.com. I’ve tried a ton of these (including vegan options) and some definitely work better than others!