Protein: How much is too much? What is just right? And what is not enough?

How much protein do I need?

The British Nutrition Foundation suggests that the average adult (19-50 years of age) needs to eat a minimum of 0.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, however in the UK the suggested intake is set at 0.75g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This equates to around 56g for the average man and 45g for the average woman. The average intake of British men is estimated to be 88g of protein and that of a British woman is estimated to be around 64g. This means that 16% of the average Brit’s energy comes from protein. National guidelines also say that there is an extra requirement of protein for infants and children as well as for pregnant/ breastfeeding women.

How much protein to build muscle?

These requirements are very low compared to what many of the bodybuilding community use as a rule of thumb when trying to build muscle (2.2g of protein per kg of bodyweight or 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight).

How much is too much?

Protein should not be your body’s main source of energy. The bulk of your body’s energy should come from low GI carbohydrates (such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and certain whole grains) as well as healthy fats (such as avocados, healthful oils, nuts, seeds and fatty fish). There are side effects from eating too much protein such as gastrointestinal issues, dehydration and if you have compromised kidney function then having too much protein can be extremely dangerous.

Also if you are on ‘the ketogenic diet’ then a high protein intake can take you out of ketosis (a metabolic state where someone’s body is using ketones, which are made in the liver from fats, for energy as a posed to carbohydrates).

If you eat too much protein then you won’t get enough of the nutrients from other food groups and beware that calories from protein are still calories so if you eat too many of them you will gain weight.

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