How Much Protein do Women Need? Are You Getting Enough?

Protein is an essential part of any well-balanced nutrition plan.  However, there are vastly different opinions on how much protein women actually need.  Too little and you may suffer from weakness, fatigue, or muscle loss; too much and you may gain weight, have kidney issues, or suffer from irritability.  The appropriate amount of protein for any person depends on activity levels, age, muscle mass, body shape goals, and overall health.

What is protein?

Proteins are composed of amino acids and amino acids are the building blocks of life.  Amino acids help build cells, enzymes, antibodies, and muscles.  Proteins are important energy sources for humans and approximately one gram of protein provides four calories of energy.

Why do women need protein?

Consuming enough protein may decrease the risk of heart attacks and coronary disease in women.  According to one study, women who ate the most protein (about 110 grams per day) were 25% less likely to have had a heart attack or have passed away from heart disease than the women who ate the least protein (about 68 grams per day) over a 14 year period.

Women suffer from bone loss as they age and protein contributes to adequate bone strength and density.  Protein makes up about 50% of the volume of bone and about 33% of its mass.  Eating enough high-quality protein contributes to maintenance of sufficient muscle mass and function, which is critical for overall bone health.

Protein plays a role in weight management1 in 3 adults in the United States is obese and the prevalence of obesity among women in their 40s and 50s has increased 42% over the past decade.  Protein intake is critical for weight loss and weight maintenance, as protein increases the feeling of fullness and when combined with a reduced calorie diet and exercise, leads to body fat loss while muscle mass is maintained.

Nutrition is critical during pregnancy and while breastfeeding—particularly protein consumption.  Women who are breastfeeding require nearly two times as much protein as non-pregnant, non-nursing women.  Protein aids in maximizing breastmilk production and improves infant growth and development.

How much protein do women need?

According to a survey, 50% of women ages 18-50 don’t know if they get enough protein.  To determine your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, multiply your weight in pounds by 0.336 (or use this online calculator).  While this formula gives a general estimate of protein needed in your diet, there is some debate and confusion around the tool.  Studies have shown that most women need between 50 and 60 grams of protein per day, but this number may vary based on factors like activity level, muscle mass, and overall health.

How do I get protein in my diet?

Perhaps the easiest way to add protein to your diet is by eating “entrée proteins” such as tuna, steak, chicken, bison, tofu, or eggs.  There are many other foods that pack a surprising protein punch including nuts, cottage cheese, quinoa, lentils, potatoes, and Greek yogurt.  The quality of your protein is of the utmost importance, so be sure to look for lean cuts of meat and watch out for pre-made items, such as already marinated meats, as their sodium levels may be high.  You also want to be careful of the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat you consume, so be sure to vary your protein sources throughout the week.

Your complete nutritional picture

Protein is an essential part of our diet and is important for our health and well-being.  A variety of lower in fat and lean proteins are generally best to maintain optimal overall health.  Determining the ideal amount of protein for your diet is based on a variety of factors and may be confusing.  Let Northwest Primary Care assist you in developing a holistic nutritional plan that’s right for you.  We provide nutritional education and counseling to get you on the best path towards your nutritional and weight goals.

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