Your Protein Needs

To learn if you are meeting your protein needs in your current diet, follow two easy steps. First, using table 7.1, identify which category you belong to. For example, if you are a 140-pound (64 kg) bike racer, you would fit the category of an "endurance athlete, adult" and would need about 85 to 100 grams of protein per day:

140 lb X 0.6 g/lb = 84 g protein 140 lb X 0.7 g/lb = 98 g protein

Second, keep track of your protein intake by listing everything you eat and drink for one 24-hour period. The information on food labels provides protein information, and table 7.2 lists the amount of protein in some common foods. You can also use a variety of Web sites (see Dietary Analysis in appendix A) to analyze your diet and assess your protein intake. Note that you need to eat a generous portion (more calories) of beans and other forms of plant protein to equal the protein in animal foods. Most fruits and vegetables have only small amounts of protein, which may contribute a total of 5 to 10 grams of protein per day, depending on

Table 7.2 Protein in Common Foods

Grams of protein per Grams of protein per

Animal sources standard serving 100 cal (amount)

Table 7.2 Protein in Common Foods

Egg white

3.5 / 1 large egg

20 / 6 egg whites

Egg

6 / 1 large egg

8 / 1.3 eggs

Cheddar cheese

7 / 1 oz (30 g)

6 / 0.9 oz (27 g)

Milk, 1%

8 / 8 oz (240 ml)

8 / 8 oz (240 ml)

Yogurt

11 / 1 cup

8 / 6 oz (175 g)

Cottage cheese

15 / 1/2 cup

15 / 1/2 cup

Haddock

27 / 4 oz (125 g) cooked

21 / 3 oz (90 g)

Hamburger

30 / 4 oz (125 g) broiled

10 / 1.5 oz (45 g)

Pork loin

30 / 4 oz (125 g) roasted

10 / 1.5 oz (45 g)

Chicken breast

35 / 4 oz (125 g) roasted

18 / 2 oz (60 g)

Tuna

40 / 6 oz (175 g)

20 / 3 oz (90 g)

Grams of protein per

Grams of protein per

Plant sources

standard serving

100 cal (amount)

Almonds, dried

3 / 12 nuts

3.5 / 14 nuts

Peanut butter

4.5 / 1 tbsp

4.5 / 1 tbsp

Kidney beans

6 / 1/2 cup

6/ 1/2 cup

Hummus

6 / 1/2 cup

3 / 1/4 cup

Gardenburger (original)

6 / 2.5 oz (75 g) patty

6 / 2.5 oz (75 g) patty

Refried beans

7 / 1/2 cup

7 / 1/2 cup

Lentil soup

11 / 10.5 oz (315 ml)

6.5 / 6 oz (175 ml)

Tofu, extra firm

11 /3.5 oz (110 g)

12 / 4 oz (125 g)

Baked beans

14/ 1 cup

7 / 1/2 cup

Boca burger

13 / 2.5 oz (75 g) patty

13 / 2.5 oz (75 g) patty

Data from food labels and J. Pennington, 1998, Bowes & Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 17th ed. (Philadelphia: Lippincott) and food labels.

Data from food labels and J. Pennington, 1998, Bowes & Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, 17th ed. (Philadelphia: Lippincott) and food labels.

how much you eat. Butter, margarine, oil, sugar, soda, alcohol, and coffee contain no protein, and most desserts contain very little.

An easier way to assess whether you are getting adequate, but not excessive, protein in your daily diet is to use this rule of thumb: Consume daily 16 ounces (2 cups, or 480 ml) of milk or yogurt plus a moderate serving of protein-rich foods at two meals a day. This, along with the small amounts of protein in grains and vegetables, will likely fulfill your daily protein requirement. Here's a sample of one day's worth of protein-rich foods for an active 150-pound (68 kg) adult. Of course, you'll need to eat other foods to round out your calorie and nutrition requirements, and those foods will offer a little more protein, as well.

Breakfast 1 cup milk on cereal

Lunch 2 oz (60 g) sandwich filling (tuna, roast beef, turkey), 1 cup yogurt Dinner 4 oz (125 g) meat, fish, poultry, or the equivalent in lentils or other beans and legumes

Growing teenagers and novice bodybuilders with high protein needs can get additional protein and calcium by drinking another 2 cups of milk. If you think you need supplements that advertise better "protein digestibility" and "bioavailability," think again. In an overall well-balanced diet, engineered protein offers no advantages over standard protein-rich foods. As long as you are healthy and have a functioning digestive tract (as opposed to patients in the hospital with intestinal disease), you need not worry about your ability to digest or utilize protein. Digestibility and bioavailability are an issue in developing countries where protein and calorie intakes are inadequate and every amino acid counts—but not in the more developed countries, where protein and calorie excesses are more common than deficiencies. (Adequate calories are needed in order to spare protein from being burned for fuel.)

Note that you have a daily need for protein. Some people eat protein-rich foods only once or twice per week and live on salads and pasta for most of their meals. They cheat themselves of an optimal training diet.

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