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How Much Protein Do I Really Need Each Day?


Already this new year I have evaluated many food diaries that clients bring in and often I see they are not consuming enough protein. As I tell them this easily explains why they are feeling hungry all the time and have endless cravings for sweets.

I am seeing many people from Alamo, Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Danville, Lafayette and Orinda that want to get started this New Year on a plan that will help them create a lifestyle change. The question I have been receiving from many new clients is, “How much protein do I really need to reach my weight loss goal, as well as build muscle and feel my best”.

First of all, I tell my client the food label is upside down. Protein is the last item listed on the label, where in fact it should be the first. It is the most important food group and is thus very easily overlooked. Protein is expressed in grams as if we are on the metric system, rather than in ounces or pounds which typically is how we purchase protein in our markets. So we need to know how many grams of protein is equal to an ounce. Let me use my favorite example with clients, the golden standard cereal Kashi Go Lean. Kashi Go Lean has 13 grams of protein for a 1 cup serving. If you learn that 1 oz. of protein is equal to 7 grams, then you will see that you are getting almost 2 oz. of protein from the cereal.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is established by The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences. It is based on your bodyweight. It is suggested that 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for a healthy adult,or roughly 54 grams daily for a 150 pound female or 71 grams daily for a 195 pound male. This calculation does not factor in exercise and I find it overestimates protein needs for overweight or obese people. For my active clients and those who workout often this amount of protein is far too low.

Then the board has also presented a distribution range for protein based on actual calorie intake saying that protein should make up 10-35% of daily calories for the healthy adult. That comes to about 38-131 grams daily for someone eating 1500 calories or 45-158 grams daily when eating 1800 calories per day. I will always suggest that my client veer on the higher side of protein intake.

I work with many clients from Alamo, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, and Orinda and create a plan for them based on their lifestyle, age, exercise and health concerns. I suggest that protein should be distributed mostly during the day as opposed to eating the large traditional protein meal. This eating style keeps you more satisfied, prevents blood sugar fluctuations and cravings for sweets. I educate my clients about the fact that protein takes several hours to digest and creates a fullness that you will not get from a carbohydrate based meal.

When I work with a new client I first set up a meal plan for them with specific amounts of protein at each meal and snack. I teach them how to make sure they are getting at least 2 ounces of protein at breakfast, such as the favorite Kashi Go Lean, 1 whole egg and egg whites with veggies and 100% whole wheat toast or even oatmeal and Greek yogurt.

I make it a point to create a list of 2oz. protein snacks that are portable and tasty such as beef jerky, portion sized almonds, 1 cup of cottage cheese, bean soup, or peanut butter with celery or apple.

We talk about making sure that lunch contains at least 4-6 oz. of protein along with a healthy grain and a cup of veggies. I take a lot of time to put together a yummy list of lunches that can be taken to work or eaten at clients favorite lunch spots. I encourage parents to make sure that their kids are eating protein based lunches that prevent them from coming home from school famished and snacking all afternoon.

I take time during my sessions to help clients feel more confident about ordering meals at their favorite spots in Alamo, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, and Orinda. We look on line together at the website of the various restaurants and come up with a meal they will truly enjoy.

Clients are always surprised that I tell them for dinner we do not need protein if we have had the amounts that I suggest in prior meals and snacks. The feedback I get is that when dinner comes around they are not as hungry as they use to be and are good with less protein at night.

This New Year I am meeting many clients from Alamo, Lafayette, San Ramon, Danville and Orinda at their favorite markets and showing them how to purchase protein that they can begin adding to their life on a more consistent basis.

I do want to mention that many of my clients say that trainers tell them that they need more protein and recommend protein shakes galore. I think protein shakes are great for pre or post workouts but often are not filling enough to last for several hours. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that consuming more protein than recommended does not lead to increase in muscle size or strength. There is a limit to the rate at which protein can be synthesized into muscle and muscle size is determined by genetic makeup and training program- not by how much protein one eats.

I am glad to inform you that insurance companies will cover nutritional counseling. Please visit for the list of companies, past articles, and more information about nutritional concerns. Call Linda at (925) 855-0150 or e-mail her at .