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Most People Are Getting Their Fill of Protein

Resistance training boosts protein requirements, scientists say.

For all the hype about protein, the common advice that most people should put a lot more of it on their plates is likely off-base.

After analyzing protein intake trends between 2001 and 2014, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine concluded that the absolute protein intake in the typical adult American’s diet is about 88 grams per day, or up to 16% of total daily energy. Relative intake (g of protein per kilogram of ideal body weight per day) ranged from 1.18 g to 1.32 g for most adults, with seniors taking in less, at 1.10 g, according to the study. Findings were published in 2018 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for protein is 0.8 g per kg of body weight, or 56 g and 46 g per day for the average sedentary man and woman, respectively.

However, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine encourage active people to consume 1.2–2.0 g of protein per kg of body weight, with those focused on strength training requiring closer to the high end of this range than endurance athletes. Clients should be educated about the importance of eating enough protein to support bodily processes such as muscular development, but individual diets need to be scrutinized before broad protein recommendations are made.

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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