From the high-protein, low-carb diet to boosting protein intake for muscle recovery, protein has been a big topic for women. Just as women’s bodies are different, so are their protein needs. The grams of protein needed typically vary based on activity level, because the body uses protein to repair muscle tissue post-workout. Consult your physician if you are uncertain of your protein needs or are concerned about getting enough protein in your diet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most women ages 19 to 70 take in about 46 grams of protein each day. This number is about 10 grams less than the recommendation for men; that's because men tend to weigh more than women and therefore need more protein to rebuild and repair muscle and bone tissues. The amount of protein you eat each day should be 10 to 35 percent of your recommended daily caloric intake.
Your overall activity level affects the grams of protein you need each day. Very active women need more protein to repair and maintain muscle tissue, especially if they regularly lift weights. For example, a woman who is a light body-builder can multiply her weight in pounds by 0.85 to determine the number of grams of protein she needs each day. A competitive athlete needs about 0.75 grams of protein per pound. Active women need about 0.6 grams of protein per pound, while sedentary women need 0.4 grams per pound.
Certain foods are complete proteins, meaning they contain the nine essential amino acids your body needs to perform its daily functions. Examples include a 4-ounce serving of yellowfish tuna, which has 33 protein grams, and the same serving size of lean flank steak, with 31 grams, according to “Health” magazine. Other complete protein sources include salmon, turkey, lamb and soybeans. Vegetable protein sources, with the exception of soybeans, may not have a complete amino acid profile but are still valuable to your health. These include lentils, with 17 grams of protein per 1-cup serving. If you have trouble fitting enough protein into your daily diet, mix a protein shake or eat a protein bar to provide the needed boost.
Too Much Protein?
Just as too little protein can be harmful to your health -- think dull hair and skin and lost muscle tone -- too much protein can be a bad thing, notes Katherine Zeratsky, a dietitian for MayoClinic.com. Dramatically exceeding your daily protein requirements over time can lead to nutritional deficiencies if you are eating too much protein and not enough other nutrients, such as carbohydrates. Also, animal proteins can be high in saturated fats, which raise your heart disease risk. By staying with your protein recommendations, you can meet your body’s needs without adverse health effects.
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