High Protein Foods Are Everywhere, But How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

By Chrissy Fink

Many women seem to be on a never-ending search for protein. They stock up before working out, load up again after exercising and, well, at almost every meal (or snack) check to see the grams of protein. Many women are absolutely obsessed. Even the health food store aisles are filled with a dozens of brands of shakes, smoothies, bars and snacks touting their protein content. Yet most of us have no idea how much we really need – or why.

And, well, considering that every once in a while we pick up a protein shake and start chugging before we even make it to the grocery store’s checkout line (and many of these bottles actually contain 2 servings – or up to 44 grams of protein!), we figured getting to the bottom of how much protein the average women really needs could be pretty useful, especially since consuming too much protein can actually be hard on the body.

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The holistic approach to nutrition suggests that our bodies know what they need and that if we listen to them we will know exactly what to eat and when. We completely agree. That being said, hearing that inner voice can be more difficult than we would like. (Our bodies can’t possibly really need chocolate hourly, right?!) So, we turned to the pros to learn more!

While many experts suggest that the average female adult should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (active women who regularly exercise 3-5 times per week should consume closer to 1.5 g of protein per kg. of body weight), not all protein sources are created equal.

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As Dasha Libin, a Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist (NASM-PES) with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a Certified Speed and Explosion Specialist (NASE-SES) whose Masters in Exercise Science informs her nutrition and conditioning guidelines for the women she trains, explains, “getting the right kind of protein is just as important as getting protein in your system. Stick to ‘clean’ protein choices like grilled fish, poultry and lean meat. Yogurt, soy and eggs are another great option. Keep in mind that protein can be incorporated into every meal, and even snacks – so there is no reason that you would have a problem not getting enough!” Bottom line: there’s no need to be obsessing over protein shakes and bars.

Sure, protein is essential for post-workout recovery, allowing for muscle growth and development in a training body, but too much can actually lead to kidney strain and can even end up being stored as fat (which no one wants!).  So, instead of worrying about protein, focus on maintaining balance and listening to what your body is telling you and remember that we all come in different shapes and sizes, not to mention activity levels, so one formula will not work for everyone. So, work to eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

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