How Much Protein Does a Person Need? A HealthCentral Explainer

CRegal Editor
  • It's good for your health to eat well.  It's good for your health to go to the gym and exercise.  It's beneficial to your workout if you consume protein after a workout.  Eating a high-protein diet can help promote muscle growth and lean protein can provide a filling, healthy meal that won't undo your results.


    The FDA recommends that, as part of a balanced, 2,000 calorie diet, an "average" person should consume about 50 grams of protein per day.  (The British Department of Health recommends 55.5g per day for men and 45g per day for women).  This information can easily be extrapolated from a nutrition facts label, which will list the amount of protein in a food and its percentage in a 2,000 calorie diet.  Beyond that, though, you must adjust these figures based on how many calories are actually consumed in a day (many Americans consume significantly over 2,000 calories) and account for any desired goals – weight loss, muscle growth, etc. 

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    Other recommendations, including those from HealthCentral writer and personal trainer Kenn Kihiu, suggest a more complicated formula: translate your body weight from pounds to kilograms, then multiply it by 0.8.  This is how many grams of protein you need in a day.  (For example: if you weigh 152 pounds, this equated to 69 kilograms x 0.8 = 55 grams of protein a day). 


    If you're consuming protein powder of supplements, measuring grams isn’t that difficult.  Most protein powders range from around 16g per "scoop" to about 25g per scoop.  Check the label to make sure, but a standard post-workout protein shake will supply a pretty healthy amount of the nutrient.  But before you run out to buy an oil drum of whey protein, consider where you can get protein in common foods.


    An gram of protein can be be difficult to measure; using conversions to the system of measurment used in the United States, 28.3495 grams is equivalent to one ounce.  With that in mind, the FDA has created a simple chart to help explain what an ounce looks like.  For example, one egg is roughly one ounce of protein, as is one sandwich-sized slice of turkey.  One can of tuna fish is about three to four ounces of protein; one hamburger is about three ounces of protein.  Other protein-heavy foods include: 


    • Lean meats (beef, ham, lamb, pork, veal)
    • Poultry (chicken, duck, turkey)
    • Eggs  (chicken, duck)
    • Beans and peas (black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, split peas)
    • Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, walnuts)
    • Seafood (catfish, halibut, salmon, tuna)
    • Shellfish (clams, crab, lobster, mussels)
    • Processed soy products (tofu, veggie burgers)


    At some point, though, too much of a good thing can be a problem.  According to the British Dietetic Association, consuming too much protein can cause nausea or kidney and liver damage.  Nutritionists suggest consuming no more than twice the daily recommendation – or roughly 110 grams for an average man and 90 grams for an average female – before your body will begin to push back.  According to a letter published in the New York Times, a high-protein diet is linked to calcium loss, which can contribute to osteoporosis. 


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    As always: don't overdo it.  Eating lean protein is good, but eating in moderation is still the most appropriate course of action.




    U.S. Food and Drug Administration.  (23 May 2011).  "Appendix F: Calculate the percent daily Value for Appropriate Nutrients."  Retrieved from


    Kelsey, Rick. (3 September 2012).  "Dieticians say extra protein can do more harm than good."  BBC Radio: Newsbeat.  Retrieved from  


    Messina, Virginia.  (26 December 1990).  "Protein Overdose."  The New York Times.  Retrieved from


Published On: September 10, 2012

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