24 Apr Ask Jenny: How Much Protein Should I Eat For Weight Loss?
“I’m a 36 year old female, I weigh 156 pounds, am relatively active, and I work out 5-6 times a week (a mixture of cardio and weights). Weight loss and toning up are my goals, and I would definitely like to lose some belly fat. How much protein do I need a day – I’m so confused by all the conflicting advice out there! Amanda, Boston
Hi Amanda, and thank you for your question. I receive questions about recommended protein intake every day, so you are not alone! Protein is the one macro nutrient we cannot live without, and the majority of Americans do not consume enough protein for optimal health. Over 20% of the human body is made of protein, and it’s not just our muscles that are made of protein, but essential structures such as hormones and neurotransmitters too.
The Dietary Reference Intake for protein is just 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound, so for you this would look like just over 56 grams of protein per day. However, the DRI is the amount of protein needed to prevent malnutrition, not ensure optimum health, body composition, muscle mass, hormonal balance, mental health and more. It also does not take into account any personal calculations such as your healthy goals, activity levels, or even how well you digest protein.
Many studies now show that the DRI values for protein intake are woefully low, and that for someone your age, weight and activity level you should be aiming for between 82g to 122g per day, with 82g the minimum needed for effective weight loss.
Further benefits of optimum protein intake include:
- increased resting metabolic rate (increased number of calories burnt at rest)
- reduced chance of metabolic disease
- improved lean muscle mass
- lean and toned physique
- reduced hunger levels throughout the day
What Is The Difference Between Animal Protein and Plant Protein?
Protein based foods can be divided into two categories:
- Animal based protein foods
- Plant based protein foods
Animal (include fish) proteins are optimal for human health as they contain all 20 essential amino acids (the amino acids your body cannot produce on it’s own). Whilst plant proteins are not complete proteins a balanced vegan or plant based diet can give you all the amino acids your body needs, it is just more challenging to do so. Also vegan diets are naturally higher in carbohydrates, making them less effective for weight loss.
As with any aspect of your diet quality is key, so choose organic, grass fed proteins and wild caught fish (such as those from Butcher Box), and organic, minimally processed plant proteins.
What Is A Protein Serving Size?
Although different foods provide different amounts of protein, a very easy rule of thumb (and something I recommend to those following my Lean and Clean weight loss program) is that you should be eating at least 3 servings of protein a day, and these should be around the size of your wrist to your fingertips. This is going to mean that each serving gives you somewhere around 20-35g of protein. Alternatively, you can choose 20-30g of protein powder (I recommend collagen peptides) as one of your servings. I also recommend one mini meal or bridge snack a day with around 15g of protein. Eating this way will provide you with somewhere between 75g and 120g of protein a day, which is perfect for females who wish to boost weight loss.
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I’m a Holistic Nutritionist working in Boston, New York and London, and every week I answer one of your most pressing questions on gut health, weight loss, hormone balance, better sleep and more! Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org to have them answered on the site.