How Much Protein is Enough?

When people think about cutting back on meat or even going vegetarian they are often concerned about getting enough protein.   Recently I decided to look into the question—to find out what protein amounts are recommended for adults and whether I get enough from what I eat.

Peoples’ protein needs vary based on factors such as size, age, activity, gender, pregnancy and health, so if any circumstances, such as being young, pregnant, sick, or athletic, apply, this information will just be a starting point.

Basic answers are conveniently laid out in an article by Dr. Joey Shulman called “How much protein do we need?” published on the Canadian Living website.

How much protein do adults need?

For a rough idea, one can look at an average guideline which applies if you are of average weight, activity, health etc.  For adults from age 19 and up the daily recommended grams of protein for males is 56 and for females, 46.  (Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010)

To get closer to a personal figure, try a calculation based on body weight:

.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, OR

.8g grams of protein per kilogram of weight

How does this calculation work?

Take me for example—I’m roughly 135 pounds so that gives me 135 x .36 grams of protein per day (based on the basic guideline for adults).  So that means I  need about  48.6 grams of protein daily—close to the  46 gram average for females.

 Testing my meatless Monday menu

How I calculated my protein consumption–Counting the amount of protein I consumed today was a little more complicated than I expected because I had to estimate the size of each helping and then find out the grams of protein.  Since I used recipes, I was able to estimate from the nutritional information provided with them.  For other items, such as milk and tahini, I looked at the packaging for nutritional content.  Another useful resource is the article by Dr Shulman, as he provides a list of common types of protein foods, average serving sizes, and protein content—he covers meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, beans, nuts and seeds.

My Meatless Monday menu (today)

Toast with 2 tablespoons of tahini—5 grams of protein

Cereal with one cup of milk, with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts—9 grams plus 3 grams= 12 grams

Bean spread on crackers, 1.5 cup of steamed kale— 4 plus 4 grams= 8 grams

Serving of minestrone soup (including northern white beans)—6 grams

Serving of Dijon scalloped potatoes with 30 g of melted cheese—4 grams plus 7 grams= 11 grams

 Tea and coffee with milk (about ½ cup)—4 grams

TOTAL:    46 grams

Voila!  I roughly got the average requirement for women. 


 “How much protein do we need?” by Dr. Joey Shulman, published on the Canadian Living website.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, Appendix 5, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Center for Nutrition, Policy and Promotion

Dietary Reference Intakes, Macronutrients, US National Academy of Science, Institute of Medicine (“An independent, non-profit organization that works outside of government to provide unbiased and authoritative advice to decision makers and the public”)

One thought on “How Much Protein is Enough?

  1. It really is such a huge myth that vegetarians and vegans are starving. Thanks for publishing such a thoughtful post!


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