How Much Protein Should I Eat Each Day? 

Believe it or not, protein is the least important of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) in your diet.

According to credible health organizations that aren’t selling a diet or fitness product or program (e.g., Mayo Clinic, Harvard School of Public Health, USDA), you should actually eat more fat than protein each day.

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Here’s the thinking: carbohydrates and fat are fuel sources, and protein is a building block. If you’re an adult, your body is already done growing, so why keep adding building blocks to it? Think of your body as being similar to a car. Your car is made of steel, and depending on your engine, you burn either diesel or gasoline. So if your car is made of steel and runs on diesel or gas, why try to shove steel down the gas tank?

For Muscle-Building

Even bodybuilders know that to bulk up, you need to eat more carbs. Your body fuels muscle-building exercise with glycogen, which is most easily converted from carbohydrates. This is why serious weight lifters eat more carbs than protein. Protein, however, is helpful for building muscle because of the amino acids it contains, which is why bodybuilders eat lean protein after workouts—but all overall, carbs are still number one when it comes to fueling your muscles and exercise workouts.

Daily Protein Target

Health organization’s such as the Mayo Clinic suggest you get 45% to 65% of your daily calories complex carbohydrates and whole grains, followed by 20% to 35% of your daily calories from healthy fats and oils and 10% to 35% from lean protein (with much of that coming from plant sources).

Yet, many years after the Atkins and other low-carb diets were found to be fads or hoaxes that didn’t deliver long-term weight loss better than a standard diet, and which led to concerns about urinary tract infections, kidney problems, lack of calcium, muscle wasting and dehydration, many uninformed personal trainers and TV celebrities are still talking about “cutting carbs.”

AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

As we stated in our article, Are Carbs Bad?

, eating 3,000 calories of refined carbs (white bread, potatoes, refined pasta) and sitting on the couch all day can lead to health problems. But do you really need to be told that?

Create a healthy diet plan following a healthy balance of carbs, fats and proteins and forget about giving up pasta, potatoes and other fun carbs. Just like eating unhealthy proteins and fats is not good for you, eating lots of unhealthy carbs is not a good idea.

A weight-loss diet is about total calories and exercise—not just carbs and protein! A heart-healthy diet is about the right mix of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals—not just carbs and protein!

Stick with the following food choices for health and weight maintenance:

Carbs and Grains

Whole grain breads*
Whole grain pasta
Fresh fruits
Sweet potatoes
Colorful vegetables
Oatmeal
Nuts and Seeds
Beans and legumes
Brown rice
Whole grain cereals

*avoid commercial baked good with trans fats

Fats

Cold water fish*
Olives and olive oil
Nuts and nut butters
Monounsaturated cooking oil 
Avocados
Polyunsaturated cooking oil 
Seeds

*(salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, sardines, anchovies, black cod) – as opposed to less-expensive Tilapia or Catfish, sold by restaurants as “healthy” fish, but which have more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.

Proteins

Cold water fish*
Chicken & turkey breast

Lower-fat beef**

Bison or other game
Lean pork
Egg whites
Nuts and nut butters
Skim milk
Low-fat yogurt
Quinoa
Tofu
Cheese

*(salmon, tuna, halibut, trout, sardines, anchovies, black cod) – as opposed to less-expensive Tilapia or Catfish, sold by restaurants as “healthy” fish, but which have more omega-6 than omega-3 fatty acids.

**If you’re going to eat beef, eat leaner cuts (which still have saturated fat and cholesterol), such as flank, butt, sirloin, skirt, lean hamburger.

IMPORTANT NOTEEggs are not as bad as once thought!

Additional Resources

Mayo Clinic: Pyramid or Plate?: Explore These Healthy Diet Options

Harvard School of Public Health: Food Pyramids: What Should You Really Eat?

Choosing Healthy Fats

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Sample Menus for a 2000 Calorie Food Pattern

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010

McKinley Health Center: Macro nutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat

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