Before supplementing your diet with protein, determine if you are already getting enough from the foods you eat.
Our body changes every day as cells grow, divide and die—these processes depend on protein to supply vital building blocks to our cells. Because of this, you need to eat enough protein to maintain lean muscle mass and support other important body functions, which you can read more about in Nutrition 101: Protein.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) predicts how much protein you should eat daily to guard against lean muscle loss. The RDA for protein is 0.8 gram/kilogram of body weight, but this is a minimum for the average sedentary adult, a.k.a. “weekend warrior.” MyFitnessPal calculates protein intake to be 20% of your daily calories, which is likely more than enough to maintain muscle mass. If you want to check, here’s how to calculate the minimum amount of protein you should be eating:
Step 1: Divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms.
Step 2: Multiply your weight in kilograms X 0.8 to get the amount (in grams) of protein you should be eating to maintain muscle mass.
Does this match your protein goal in the app?
If you exercise regularly—particularly if you log 1 hour or more of moderate to vigorous exercise several days per week—the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends more protein. Their recommendation for an active person is to eat 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight on the days that you exercise. You can use the same steps above to calculate the amount of protein (in grams) you’d need on the days when you exercise.
For endurance activities (think swimming, biking, running), stick to 1.2 to 1.4 gram/kilogram.
For strength activities (think weight lifting), go with 1.4 to 2 grams/kilogram.
GETTING PROTEIN FROM WHOLE FOODS
If you’d rather reach for real food to meet your protein needs, we’re right there with you! Getting all your protein from food is super realistic. A sedentary woman weighing 127 pounds only needs a daily dose of about 46 grams of protein, which she can meet by eating 3 ounces of chicken breast, one large egg, a handful of almonds and a stick of string cheese.