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September 2016

How Much Protein Do You Really Need?

Research continues to grow regarding protein needs and healthy aging.  Some studies suggest that additional protein may aid in weight loss, promote higher HDL levels and possibly reduce the risk of stroke.  Most importantly protein may reduce muscle loss which occurs with aging.  Loss of muscle leads to a decrease in strength, a decline in mobility and independence along with an increased risk of falls.

Protein Basics

  • Amino acids are the building blocks of protein.  A protein that has all the essential amino acids is complete and a high quality protein.
  • Quality counts, especially as we age. It impacts protein digestion, absorption and metabolic function.
  • Daily dietary guidelines for protein are 46 grams (g) for women and 56 grams for men. However, your requirements may be different. Protein needs depend on your body weight, medical conditions including kidney disease and age.
  • Combining adequate protein with exercise can help prevent muscle loss with aging.  In fact, muscle strengthening exercises without adequate protein intake will actually decrease muscle mass.

The general rule of thumb is .8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds.  If you weigh 150 pounds, your protein needs are approximately 55 grams daily.

Healthy adults 65+recommendations are 1.0-1.2 grams per 2.2 pounds.  If you weigh 150 pounds, you would need 68-82 grams of protein daily.

The Right Protein Balance

  • Have your protein throughout the day. This may maximize the body’s ability to build muscle.
  • To boost protein at breakfast, try plain non-fat Greek yogurt with berries instead of cereal and milk.
  • Healthy snacks include low-fat string cheese or yogurt with fresh fruit to enhance protein during the day.
  • If you are vegetarian, soy is considered a high quality protein.

Protein Rich Foods
Focus on fish, poultry, lean meat, eggs, legumes and reduced fat dairy products.  Use the “Nutrition Facts” panel on packaged foods for protein content– be sure to check the portion size.


26 g

Tuna/Sardines 3oz

21 g

Almonds 1/4 c

8 g

Lean Beef

23 g


8 g

Nut Butter 2 T

4-8 g


21 g

Greek Yogurt 1c

22 g


4 g

Egg [1]

6 g

Yogurt 1 c

8-11 g

Egg Whites [2]

8 g

Portion size is 1/2c OR 3 oz. cooked for meat, fish or poultry, unless otherwise noted.  Nuts and nut butter are high in calories due to the higher fat content. Protein content listed as grams (g) and values are approximate.


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