Protein: How Much Do You Really Need?

Health Alert 222

Dear Subscriber:

High protein diets may be a passing fad as critics say. But the truth is the late Dr. Atkins was onto something.

To maintain a healthier, stronger and more youthful looking body, protein is the key. But how much do you need? And what does a real balanced diet look like? More important, what would it feel like?

Today, I’m going to reveal protein’s health improving secret. I’ll also give you an easy way to measure your current protein intake and get it to levels that are anti-aging and health-promoting.

* Why Protein? *

The importance of protein can be summed up in one word-nitrogen. Nitrogen is responsible for creating every single muscle in your body and fueling cellular regeneration. And the only source of nitrogen you’ve got is protein.

For instance, for every 50 grams of protein you’ll get 8 grams of nitrogen. To put it in perspective, your heart alone requires 8 grams of nitrogen a day to function normally.1 So imagine eating only 40-60 grams of protein a day like many diets recommend? It’s no wonder your muscles grow weak over time and you age.

That’s why I urge eating 60% protein, 30% carbs and 10% fat.

In short, quality protein should be the focal point of every meal. Try to eat one gram of protein for every pound of lean body tissue a day. So if you’re a 180 lb man with 15% body fat you have 153 pounds of lean muscle mass so you should eat 153 grams of protein each day. (You can determine your lean muscle mass by determining your body composition with a hydrostatic test at your local health club.)

* The Protein Counter *

To improve your protein intake you should be eating steak, eggs, chicken, turkey, soy and lots of fish. The very best protein comes from fish. It has a complete mixture of all essential amino acids in a bio-available, rapidly absorbable protein. It is low in unhealthy fats and high in omega-3 fatty acids, which keep your heart healthy. (And when it comes to beef, choose grass-fed beef if you can. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s just as high in healthy omega-3’s as fish!)

Counting your protein grams is easy too. Here are the grams in the most common foods:2

Beef steak, lean — 3oz — 26 grams
Ground beef, lean — 3oz — 24 grams
Poultry — 3oz — 21 grams
Fish (salmon, trout, etc) — 3oz — 21 grams
Pork chop, lean — 3oz — 20 grams
Cottage cheese — 1/2cup — 14 grams
Yogurt — 1 cup — 12 grams
Milk — 1 cup — 9 grams
Hard cheeses (cheddar, etc.) — 1oz — 7 grams
Egg — large — 7 grams

And contrary to popular belief, there are plant sources of protein too:3

Nuts (cashews) — 1 cup — 21 grams
Tofu — 4oz — 9 grams
Legumes, cooked — ½ cup — 8 grams
Cereals — 1 cup — 2-6 grams
Peanut Butter — 1 tbsp — 4 grams
Rice — ½ cup — 3 grams
Pasta — ½ cup — 3 grams
Seeds — 2tbsp — 3 grams
Vegetables — ½ cup — 2 grams
Tortilla — 1 — 2 grams
Bread — 1 slice — 2 grams

Start keeping track of your protein intake on a daily basis. You’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel when you begin to eat enough of the healthiest proteins. And don’t be surprised if you drop a few pounds. It’s a common result of eating the diet nature intended.

To Your Health,

Al Sears, M.D.


1. Frank, Bill. Forever Young: 100 Age-Erasing Techniques, New York, NY: HarperCollins, 2003, p. 30-31.

2. Personal Nutrition, 4th Ed, Wadsworth, 2001.

3. Personal Nutrition, 4th Ed, Wadsworth, 2001.