Losing weight and keeping fit is a two-part equation: regular exercise and a good clean diet sheds the pounds and keeps them off. Many body-builders and people in the fitness profession may advocate extra protein in the form of shakes and bars to help lose weight but for us normal Joes, just eating a balanced diet should provide our bodies with the protein it needs to function well. So how much protein should we be eating?
Regardless of exercise, approximately 15-20% of your daily caloric intake should be protein. According to FoodNetwork.com HealthyEats, protein from food regulates metabolism and contributes to your immune system. However, unlike it's carbohydrate or fat counterparts, which may be stored for energy later, protein is not an efficient source of energy. Eating extra protein won't help because the body takes what it needs and the excess protein is flushed out as waste.
While it is true that protein is essential to building muscle mass, growth and hormone production, active adults need only about 75-100 grams of protein per day, depending on how many total calories per day are consumed and body weight. Body builders who are trying to build up more muscle may consume more protein but an average person who exercises moderately can get their protein quota with just a balanced diet.
According to The Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine (PCRM.com), there are also dangers to consuming too much protein. With the rising popularity of high protein/low carb diets such as Atkins or the Dukan diets, Americans are consuming more protein than ever, in some cases more than double what they should be having. PRCM.com states that short term, diets that are high in protein may help with weight loss but high protein diets have also been linked to the following health risks: kidney disease, calcium stones, osteoporosis and even a few cancers.
So how to determine the right and healthy amount of protein? FoodNetwork.com HealthyEats recommends a calculation of 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Also take into consideration the type of protein you're consuming: good sources of protein which are also low in fat are ideal. Health.com lists roast chicken, tuna, flank steak, soybeans and non-fat Greek yogurt as great sources of low fat/high protein sources.
If you're on the go and can't have a balanced meal, there are plenty of protein bars available but be sure to not make a habit of replacing meals. Check the ingredients to make the best protein bar decision as most commercial protein bars contain saturated fats, corn syrup, and sugar along with protein to make them more palatable.