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Are You Eating Enough Protein?

by Jenna Braddock
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Are You Eating Enough Protein?

When you hear the term “protein intake,” you might think just about building muscle, but it’s really much bigger than that. Protein is essential for our bodies to work properly from head to toe, as we are literally made of protein.

You can think of protein as the worker bees of your body. Each protein has a job and is doing that job pretty much all the time. Protein rarely just sits around idle in your body, nor is muscle simply “stored” protein. In fact, the body actually doesn’t store protein at all. The proteins of your body — made up of individual components called amino acids — are acting as the manpower of movement, the hard-working immune system and carriers of oxygen in your blood, just to name a few roles.

When it does come to muscle, dietary protein is essential for ensuring your body has the necessary building blocks (amino acids) to maintain and build lean body mass. Without a surplus of amino acids available to the muscles, they will not grow in strength or size. Of course, the existence of protein in the body is not enough to build muscle; adding resistance exercise to your daily routine will get you on the fast track to muscle growth.

Pick up Johnsonville Flame Grilled Chicken for an excellent source of lean protein in a convenient package. We season and grill the chicken for you, so you get fresh-off-the-grill flavor in about a minute — with nothing artificial.


Nine out of the 20 possible amino acids are essential, meaning the body cannot make them on its own and they must be ingested. Animal proteins are “complete” proteins because they contain all nine essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins (such a legumes) are not all complete proteins but can be paired together to easily meet your amino acid needs.


Protein has a Recommended Dietary Allowance level of 0.8 g/kg of body weight. However, this is technically the minimum daily average intake level to meet the requirements of 97–98% of Americans. So while this is a good starting place, there is certainly a lot of wiggle room based on individual lifestyle and personal goals.

Many eating styles suggest using a percentage of your total calories to determine your protein needs is sufficient. While this is a decent guideline, it doesn’t really account for your unique body and personal goals. Therefore, determining your general protein needs is best defined by using your weight.

Most formulas will use kilograms as the body weight measurement. You can easily convert your weight in pounds to kilograms with this formula:

Weight in pounds / 2.2 = weight in kilograms

For example:  150 lbs / 2.2 = 68.2 kg


The range of recommended protein varies for different populations. You should consider protein intake a range to experiment with, not a set in stone, never-miss number. Working with a range gives you flexibility based on activity levels that day, hunger, the way your body feels and desired outcomes.

These guidelines are based on several sources of expert associations in fitness and nutrition. While this is a good guide, it’s best to consult a physician or registered dietitian nutritionist to determine your ideal protein range.

Recommended Dietary Allowance by the Dietary Guidelines0.8 g/kg of body weight
Average healthy adults1.0–1.5 g/kg of body weight
Active adults who exercise regularly1.1–1.6 g/kg of body weight
Active adults trying to lose weight1.6–2.0 g/kg body weight
Weightlifters looking to gain muscle1.2–2.0 g/kg of body weight
Older adults over 501.0–1.5 g/kg of body weight
Endurance athletes1.3–1.6 g/kg of body weight


Newer research is beginning to look not just at how much protein is needed daily but also how and when it is consumed throughout the day. It seems to make a difference on body composition, satiety and even athletic performance when protein is spread throughout the day instead of eaten more heavily at one time of the day (e.g., dinnertime). Research has shown interesting results that spreading total protein needs over the day evenly (about 20–30 grams per meal) is more effective at stimulating muscle synthesis and may translate to an overall healthier body long term.

Written by Jenna Braddock, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified specialist in sports nutrition. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.


  • Bri

    I’m appalled at this article. Having “Johnsonville farms” sponsor a protein article is just absolutely ludacris, especially when most of their meats are processed. Did you forget that processed meats are labelled as a level 1 carcinogen? Let’s not forget the outdated information that all plant proteins are incomplete and must be paired. That’s been debunked a long time ago. I’m disappointed in my fitness pal. We aren’t eating too little protein (especially when 4oz of chicken has over 30g). Quit spreading misinformation to make a few bucks

    • Adolfo C. Rios

      I dont know but i was eating horribly and trying to eat low meat. I was always feeling bad. Upped my protein intake and reintroduced grassfed meats 2 months ago and gained a ton of muscle, and lost 10 lbs and 2 sizes on my waist. 2g/kg seems like its working for me. Also the meat is filling me up although my vegitarian partner doesnt like it, she likes that i look better.

      I wonder if protein intake is a different formula for men than women.

      • Hailey

        lol, eat the meat. Everyone just wants their opinions heard without actual facts.

        sincerely, the biggest meat eater around.

    • Thorn

      Probably shouldn’t spell “ludicrous” like a rapper’s name if you want to be taken seriously.

    • David Faraci

      Plant proteins still have to be paired, that has never been debunked. There is nothing to be debunked, they just are complete.

  • jimbob Jc

    Know anyone with a protein deficiency? Everybody is already eating MORE THAN ENOUGH protein, stop pushing it. Plant proteins are complete, please do more research! How are you a registered dietitian if you don’t know this? Very poor article altogether.

    • Debbie

      Sorry, but you’re wrong and she’s right. Not everyone is eating enough protein and no, plants do not have all 9 essential amino acids. She’s not pushing meat and she’s not saying not to go vegan or not to go vegetarian.

      • Tt

        Yes, all plants have the 9 essential amino acids. The idea of food combining has been outdated for the past 2 decades!

        What matters is that plants have different ratios of 9 essential amino acids, not completely devoid of certain amino acids.

        Plants tend to be lower in the essential amino acid lysine, but this can be easily remedied by consuming at least 3 servings of lysine rich foods daily.

        If you’re vegetarian/vegan and getring enough lysine, you are likely getting enough protein.

    • Jennifer Barlow

      You’re absolutely right. Protein deficiency only exists in poor famine countries, like Somalia back in the ’90s. Shame on them for letting Johnsonville buy article space.

    • Sue

      I’m not eating enough proteins and thanks to getting.this app its made me realise so now Adding protein rich foods to reach my daily target,just like I’m making sure my saturated fats, sodium and sugars dont go over

    • Ikoy

      Not everyone gets MORE THAN ENOUGH protein, some may, but not everyone thats for sure. To me this serves as a reminder because I dont always meet my protein intake. If you don’t like the article then move on and read something else instead of criticizing him and his post.

  • Debbie

    i was pre-diabetic and completely reversed it in 7 months. Only 30% of people diagnosed actually reverse it. 70% of people diagnosed as pre-diabetic become diabetic. How did I do it? One of the main things is I always eat a protein at every meal or snack. That is essential. There are a lot more rules to follow, but I will be doing that for the rest of my life.

    • James Hancocks

      Type 2 diabetes? Please clarify as type 1’s like myself do not have the privilege to eat healthily enough to reverse it.

  • Ryan Allen

    I am also very disappointed with this blog post. Encouraging people to consume animal based protein in a world where heart disease is the number one killer is completely inappropriate. Shame on myfitnesspal for allowing industry to plug this. Nobody is protein deficient, not even vegans. But almost everyone is deficient in fiber. If you’re diabetic the last thing you should be consuming is animal proteins. Look at the Blue Zones, the Okinawan’s, the Seventh Day Adventists! They’re plant based!

    • Aubrey

      While it is true that the average American consumes more than enough protein, there are some rare cases where one needs more than the minimum protein requirement. For me, I am a competitive powerlifter and an endurance runner. Running has a tendency to make your body want to break down it’s own muscle for fuel. I know because I have had it happen to me before. It caused me to lose a lot of strength in my lifting. I made some changes to my diet including increasing my protein intake, and I have regained all of the strength I lost and more. I am a vegetarian and the majority of my protein comes from plants. I get about 1 gram of protein per pound. I also exceed my daily recommendation of fiber every day. I think the point of the article is to say that certain lifestyles may warrant a different amounts of protein. Not necessarily from animals.

    • Bloodlet

      Found the militant vegan who couldn’t wait to let everyone know that they’re vegan.

      • Ryan Allen

        Where? I’d like to meet him or her.

  • Nm

    I don’t fully understand the chart. What’s the difference between the “recommended dietary allowance by the dietary guidelines”, and “average healthy adults” listed directly beneath that?