Last night I started reviewing my food logs in My Fitness Pal and noticed that my diet breaks down as 10% carbs, 30% protein and 60% fat. I’m eating low-carb, so that means my fat intake goes up to compensate for my cut in carbohydrates. That got me wondering if I’m eating too much or too little protein.
My diet is low-carb, high fat (LCHF). I’m averaging about 115g of protein a day. That daily average dipped in March (83g/day) but that’s mostly due to illness. Strangely, now that I feel better, my protein intake hasn’t bounced back up to 115g. As a result, I’m feeling hungry late at night and tired in the afternoons. Suspecting lack of protein was the culprit, I deal with my hunger by whipping up some late night scrambled eggs with hot sauce — yum!
Clearly, eating 115g of protein a day helps with the hunger. But is 115g a day the right amount of protein?
What Does The RDA Say?
“Health experts” agree with the US Government’s Recommended Daily Amount (RDA) of 46g of protein a day for your average sedentary woman. Guys, your protein RDA is 56g. Clearly I’m exceeding the RDA…and that’s not a bad thing.
The dirty little secret of the RDA? It’s the bare minimum – not the optimal – daily amount for good health.
We’re made up of protein – organs, muscles, and skin. So 46g a day is the smallest amount you need to prevent deficiency, you know, like organ failure.
Since protein is so important to our health, a lot of factors actually increase your daily minimum protein needs, like your weight, height, age, gender, how active you are, body type, pregnancy, or if you’re trying to lose weight.
Of course, 46g/day is also based on a low-fat, high-carb mentality. Strike 2!
I’m No Longer Sedentary
To be fair, the RDA’s 46/56g is for sedentary people. When I was sedentary, I’m sure I was eating in the neighborhood of 80% carbs, 15% protein, and 5% fat – very much within the governments RDA. But my high-carb, low-fat diet was a recipe for packing on the pounds. Well now I’m LCHF and moderately active (and down 110 lbs.). I work out 1-2 hours a day and I’m on my feet a lot more than when I worked in an office.
With that activity, I’ve read that I should consume 1.4g of protein per kilogram of weight. So let’s do the math.
To convert my weight to kilograms, I need to divide my weight by 2.2.
215 lbs. / 2.2 = 97.7kg.
Since I’m moderately active, I need to multiply my weight in kilograms by 1.8 to get my daily protein needs in grams.
97.7kg x 1.8 = 175.9g
Wow, that’s a lot more than 46g.
But I Want To Lose Weight
I need to lose 75 more pounds to hit my goal weight. When losing weight, the name of the game is losing body fat but maintaining muscle. To do that you need to eat protein and not the smallest amount.
The amount of protein I eat influences my metabolic rate, which helps with weight loss. You can boost your metabolism by up to 80-100 calories a day if protein makes up 30% of your total calories. Sweet!
But the biggest reason to eat protein while on a diet is that if fills you up! Protein reduces your appetite and, in turn, causes you to eat less. It helps you feel more satisfied and greatly reduces the desire for extra snacking.
The question is how much protein for optimal weight loss?
Turns out, it’s a lot more than the government’s RDA (provided you also cut your carbs). For optimal weight loss, the minimum daily target is 75% of my ideal body weight. The maximum daily target is 75% of my current weight. Time for more math!
Ideal weight x 75%
140 lbs. x .75 = 105g
Current weight x 75%
215 lbs. x .75 = 161g
Dot’s New & Exciting Protein Target Range
105g – 161g
So, it’s about 30% of my daily calories from protein.
Wow, I did all this math to find out I’m pretty much eating the right amount of protein. Now that may seem anticlimactic to you, but it’s a relief to me. It’s nice to know I’m not causing potential health problems down the road by depriving myself of much-needed nutrients.
I do need to up my protein to where I was before I got sick. That should make my late night hunger pangs go away. And as usual, I’ll increase my protein on days where I do muscle workouts. It’s just nice to know I have a range to work within.
- Protein Intake – How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day? (Authority Nutrition)
- How Much Protein Helps Weight Loss (Wellness Resources)
- LCHF for Beginners (Diet Doctor)