written by: Dr. Filza Swalah, ND
We all know the importance of protein: it’s necessary for building muscle, supporting bone health, improving metabolism and so much more. But what most people don’t know is how much protein they need.
Behold, the answer to all your protein needs:
Let’s break it down by age, life stage, and activity level:
Children (9-13 years old): As this stage of development, protein is essential to growth and development. Protein is made up of amino acids, which are important for building muscle, skin, nails and hair.1
Adolescents & Adults (14 – 64 years old): Health Canada recommends that most adults consume 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight, per day 2. This is the minimum amount you need to keep you from getting sick. Many health experts argue that this is the bare minimum, and other individuals may require more for optimal protein intake.
Older Adults (65 and older): There is a slightly higher recommendation for this life stage, ,as aging causes a loss of muscle mass, which results in a reduction of strength and overall function. To counteract these changes, it’s important to eat more protein and participate in both endurance and resistance training, as long as safe and tolerable. Individuals who do exercise also require a higher protein intake to best support optimal muscle growth.3
Pregnant Women: Protein plays an important role for the mother and baby during pregnancy. For mothers, protein is essential in growing the placenta and ensuring there are enough resources for the growing baby. On average, pregnant women should aim to get 1.2 g (during early pregnancy ~ 16 weeks) to 1.52 g (late-stage pregnancy ~ 36 weeks) of protein per kg of body weight, respectively. As a cautionary measure, always speak to your doctor to determine your individual needs.4
Active individuals, who participate in endurance and strength-training: During exercise, small muscle fibres are damaged, and protein plays an important role in repairing it. For that reason, active individuals require more protein to support muscle building goals, as well as to help repair muscles after exercise. Getting enough protein, especially through supplementation, can help enhance muscle mass as well as performance 5 .
Not sure where you can get plant-based protein from? This handy chart has you covered!
- Protein for kids. Middlesex-London Health Unit. (n.d.). Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.healthunit.com/protein-for-kids#:~:text=Protein%20is%20an%20important%20nutrient,and%20a%20healthy%20immune%20system.
- Health Canada. (Nov 2010) Dietary Reference Intakes Reference Values for Macronutrients. Retrieved on Feb 15, 2018 from: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf
- Bauer, J., Biolo, G., Cederholm, T., Cesari, M., Cruz-Jentoft, A. J., Morley, J. E., Phillips, S., Sieber, C., Stehle, P., Teta, D., Visvanathan, R., Volpi, E., & Boirie, Y. (2013). Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: A position paper from the Prot-Age Study Group. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 14(8), 542–559. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2013.05.021
- Elango, R., & Ball, R. O. (2016). Protein and Amino Acid Requirements during Pregnancy. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 7(4), 839S–44S. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.011817
- Pasiakos, S. M., McLellan, T. M., & Lieberman, H. R. (2015). The effects of protein supplements on muscle mass, strength, and aerobic and anaerobic power in healthy adults: a systematic review. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 45(1), 111–131. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0242-2.
- Chertoff, J. (2019, August 20). 19 high-protein vegetables and how to eat more of them. Healthline. Retrieved February 13, 2023, from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/19-high-protein-vegetables#1.-Edamame