How to Calculate Your Protein Needs

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Protein-rich foods.

Do you know how much protein you should be eating? Here’s how you can calculate your protein needs, as well as a list of how much protein some common foods contain.

Your daily protein needs depend on many factors, like how much you weigh and how much muscle you have—not just whether you’re male or female. But you might not know that if you did a simple search on the Internet. You’d probably read that most people eat more than enough protein to meet their needs, or that the protein needs of the “average” woman is about 46g per day, and the average man needs about 56g. But keep this in mind: these guidelines that have been established by Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine are set at levels to simply meet the basic needs of most people.

Does a ‘one size fits all’ model for protein make sense? Calorie needs differ from person to person, so why not protein? After all, people come in all different sizes, and their body composition is highly variable. It stands to reason that protein needs could vary a lot, too. It doesn’t seem right that a 220lb (100kg) guy who works construction and is into bodybuilding would have the same protein needs as a 150lb (68kg) male bank teller who sits most of the day and spends his evenings on the couch.

How much protein is right for you?

The other guideline from the Institute of Medicine recommends that we eat 10-35% of our total daily calories from protein. This guideline helps a little—a least it attempts to tie protein needs to calorie needs. But the percent-of-calories range is pretty wide, and most people would be hard-pressed to figure it out anyway. So, how can you estimate out how much protein your own body needs?

Since protein is so important in maintaining your lean body mass (basically, everything in your body that isn’t fat), the suggested amount that you should eat every day depends, in part, on how much lean mass you have. Ideally, you’d get a body composition measurement done (some home bathroom scales even do this for you), which would tell you how much lean body mass you have. Then you could easily determine the amount of protein suggested for you. That would be 0.5-1.0 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass (or, about 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body mass).
Of course, not everyone has access to body composition analysis. And if you don’t, you can estimate your protein needs based on your current body weight. It’s not a perfect method. It doesn’t take into account how much muscle mass you have, but it does at least account for differences in body size.

Here’s how to calculate your protein needs:

– Pounds: Multiply your body weight by 0.7
– Kilograms: Multiply your body weight by 1.5

The number you get is a reasonable target for the amount of protein, in grams, that you should eat each day.
So, a woman who weighs 140lbs (64kg) should aim for about 100g of protein a day. A 220lb man (110kg) should shoot for at least 150g of protein.

Amount of protein in typical foods

Now that you’ve got a rough idea of how much protein you should be eating every day, you’ll want to estimate how much you’re actually eating. I find it easiest to estimate the amount of protein in a meal in 25g units, and the amount for snacks in about 10g units.

Here’s why. Common portions of many protein foods we eat at meals conveniently have about 25g of protein, and protein snacks tend to fall in the 10g range. So, it makes it easy to keep track. If you’re a woman aiming for about 100g of protein a day, you can easily do that by taking in 25g (one unit) at each meal, and have a couple protein snacks. If you’re a male aiming for about 150g a day, you can simply double up your protein units at a couple of meals in order to hit your target.

Amount of protein in meal items

Food ItemOne Unit

Grams of Protein 

Herbalife Formula 1 shake with Herbalife Personalized Protein Powder2 scoops Herbalife Formula 1 + 8fl oz (237ml) nonfat milk + 1 TBSP Herbalife Personalized Protein Powder

23g

Eggs1 whole + 4 whites OR 7 whites

23g

Nonfat cottage cheese1 cup (8oz/225g)

28g

Yogurt, Greek Style; plain or vanilla1 cup (8oz/225g)

20-25g

Turkey Breast3oz (85g), cooked weight

25g

Chicken Breast3oz (85g), cooked weight

25g

Lean Red Meat3oz (85g), cooked weight

25g

Ocean-Caught Fish4oz (100g), cooked weight

25-30g

Shrimp, crab, lobster4oz (100g), cooked weight

22-25g

Tuna4oz (100g), water pack

27g

Scallops4oz (100g), cooked weight

25g

Tofu, firm5oz (125g)

23g (varies)

Amount of protein in typical snacks

Food ItemOne UnitGrams of Protein 
Herbalife Roasted Soy Nuts1 packet

11g

Herbalife Protein Bar Deluxe1 bar

10g

Herbalife Beverage Mix1 serving

15g

Herbalife Creamy Chicken Soup1 packet

16g

Edamame (green soybeans)½ cup (85g)

11g

Yogurt, Greek Style, nonfat4oz (100g)

10g

Cottage cheese, nonfat½ cup (85g)

14g

Milk, skim8oz (250ml)

10g

Written by Susan Bowerman. Susan is Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a board-certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.

Find out more at: http://www.DiscoverHerbalife.com

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