THE BLOG
05/12/2014 11:26 am ET Updated Jul 10, 2014

How Much Protein Do We Really Need?

Protein plays a large role in today's weight-loss diets, however, overloading your body with protein may cause more harm than good. How much protein do we really need and where do we get it?

To start off, let us get a better understanding about what protein is and why it is important for our bodies. Protein is a macronutrient comprised of amino acid that is necessary for the growth, development, immunity and function of the human body. When the body does not intake enough protein it leads to muscle atrophy and the body does not function properly when it is deficient in protein.

High-protein diets have been the choice for weight loss because research has shown that it helps control caloric intake and controls appetite due to the reduction of blood fats and maintenance of lean muscle tissue when following an exercise program. Lowering your intake of carbohydrates results in less insulin spikes and keeps your Glycemic index low and in turn less sugar cravings occur.

Diets that include a 50-percent protein intake are considered high-protein diets.

As an avid fitness and health buff, I have been always been on a high-protein diet. When I first started a high-protein diet and cut down on carbohydrates I literally shed off the pounds and de-bloated. However, everything in moderation. I didn't stop eating carbs, I just cut down and ate them early on in the day. I also chose to eat gluten-free carbs and I eat them with protein so I can balance my glycemic index.

Over the years I have watched people "protein up" full force and heard later on that they have developed some sort of health problems with their kidney or liver, so I started researching about the pros and cons and the magic question we all ask. How much protein does the body really need?

Although an important part of our diet, the truth is that the intake of extra protein will not help you build more muscle. The consumption of extra protein that your body does not need will in actuality increase your caloric intake of which can cause weight gain instead of weight loss and may actually even make your kidneys and liver work harder and may cause constipation due to decrees in fiber intake from carbohydrates.

Another important thing to note is that we should not fear carbohydrates because of the protein hype, good complex carbohydrates are an important source of where fiber and energy comes from, therefore eating the right carbohydrates especially before a workout or training is an important source to get you through your work out. Carbohydrates are also sometimes referred to as "brain food," as they are the source of energy for brain function, that's why students are known to eat chocolate before tests.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day.

0.8grams x 60 kilos (132 pounds) = 48 grams of protein a day; conversion: 1 pound = 2.2 kilos.

According to a sports dietitian on Medscape.com, Josephine Conolly-Schoonen, M.S., R.D. , if you are an athlete it is recommended to increase your protein intake 50 percent. The protein needs of the athletic population are determined by the length, frequency and intensity of their training.

There are many sources of protein and if you are a vegetarian, you can get everything you need from nature as long as you combine protein rich foods to get complete amino acid protein.
Check out the health calculator to help get an idea about how much protein you need!

Protein Sources:
Animal protein sources: offer complete amino acids
Meat
Milk
Cheese
Yogurt
Eggs

Vegetable Sources:
Need to be combined for complete amino acid protein sources:
Beans
Tofu
Nuts

Grains: Unrefined grains offer the most protein:
Oats
Rice
Quinoa
Amaranth
Spelt

Top 10 High-Protein Foods By Nutrient Density
Spirulina: 100 grams = 58 grams of protein; table spoon = 7 grams
Parmesan cheese: 100 grams= 42 grams of protein; table spoon = 5 grams
Dry-roasted soy beans: 100 grams = 40 grams of protein; one cup = 68 grams
Lean veal and beef: 100 grams= 37 grams of protein; 3 ounces = 31 grams
Lamb: 100 grams = 36 grams of protein; one chop = 20 grams of protein
Chicken and turkey: 100 grams = 33 grams of protein; one breast = 58 grams
Squash: 100 grams = 33 grams of protein; one ounce = 9 grams
Non-fat mozzarella: 100 gram = 30 grams of protein; 3 ounces = 26 grams

Source: healthaliciousness.com.

For more sources of protein see: choosemyplate.gov.

Protein shakes are a great snack. My favorite protein source for shakes is hemp, which is considered a complete protein.

Conclusion about protein: Get it from the best sources and as the ancient Greeks use to say "Nothing in excess." Stick with the right amount of protein that your body needs.