How Much Protein for an Active Lifestyle?

If you walk more than 3 miles per day, you lead an active lifestyle.

If you walk more than 3 miles per day, you lead an active lifestyle.

When you lead an active lifestyle, you need more protein than inactive women–but you may not need as much as you think. According to the Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, active adults should get about 12 to 15 percent of their daily calories from protein. Even bodybuilders only require 25 to 30 percent of their calories from protein, according to a 2004 review published in the journal “Sports Medicine.” Eating a variety of high-protein foods throughout the day will help you easily meet your protein needs.

Based on Calories

Active women need usually need 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day to maintain a healthy body weight, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies active women as those who walk over 3 miles per day, or perform other exercise of the same intensity and duration. If you eat 2,000 calories per day, aim for about 75 grams of protein, which is 15 percent of your daily calorie intake; if you eat 2,400 calories a day, shoot for 90 grams of protein each day.

Based on Body Weight

If you’re not sure how many calories you eat a day, you can use your body weight to estimate your protein needs. A position paper published in a 2007 edition of the “International Society of Sports Nutrition,” reports that physically active adults need 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight—equivalent to 0.64 to 0.91 grams per pound of body weight–each day. Based on this recommendation, an active 120-pound woman needs 77 to 109 grams of protein per day, depending on the intensity and duration of her workouts.

Active vs. Sedentary

All women—sedentary and active—should shoot for a minimum of 46 grams of protein per day, which is the recommended dietary allowance for protein, according to the Institute of Medicine. But because sedentary women need fewer calories, they often require less protein than active women. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that sedentary women need 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day for healthy weight maintenance. If you eat 1,600 calories per day, aim for 60 grams of protein; and if you consume 1,800 calories a day, shoot for 68 grams of protein per day, which is about 15 percent of your calorie needs.

Healthy Protein Foods

Protein is present in a variety of foods; but not all will keep your waistline trim and help prevent heart attacks. Stay away from—or limit–artery-clogging high-fat meats, egg yolks and full-fat dairy products, such as cheese. Instead, choose lean cuts of meat, un-breaded skinless poultry, seafood, egg whites, low-fat dairy products, reduced-fat cheeses, seitan, soy-based foods, legumes, nuts and seeds. Three ounces of chicken provide 27 grams of protein, 1 cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 28 grams, 3 ounces of lean beef provide 21 grams, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt contains 13 grams and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provide you with 8 grams of protein, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.for

Share this:

Doctors’ orders: watch what you’re eating when

From salmon burgers for breakfast to spinach for a headache, these M.D.’s say eating the right foods at the right times is the key to health.

Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer at the Cleveland Clinic and a New York Times best-selling author. Michael Crupain, M.D., is chief medical officer for television’s The Dr. Oz Show. Both have long linked a better diet with better health. But their new book, What to Eat When, says emerging science confirms that “when you eat is as essential as what you eat for maintaining a good weight, preventing and curing some diseases, and living a long, energetic, and happy life.”

Ahead of the book’s December release, the doctor-authors answered questions for National Geographic.

Tell us about the science behind your approach to eating.
We’re all familiar with our biological clocks—the circadian rhythm that sends out chemical signals at certain times to help us wake, sleep, and do other activities. Well, we also have a food clock with a similar purpose: to sync our consumption of food with chemical reactions in the body.

So we need to override that craving-driven schedule and eat in a way—more early, less later—that aligns food patterns with our internal clocks. We call this chrononutrition.

What are the guiding principles in this system of eating?
A few adjustments to existing eating habits will help sync up our internal systems. Two are especially important:

1) Limit your eating to when the sun shines—a window of about 12 hours or, better yet, fewer. That means cutting out nighttime refrigerator raids.

2) Eat more in the morning and midday and less later on. Your body will work best—and be healthier—if you preload calories rather than save them until later in the day, as many of us do.

We help people learn how to do this day to day. But we also define “when” another way. Our bodies change depending on what’s going on in our lives—so we may need to adjust what we eat to be at our best. In the book we list common situations, suggest the best things to eat to prepare for them, and explain the science behind our advice.

What benefits do you tell people they’ll derive from eating this way?
The endgame is that this way of eating will extend your own endgame. It will help prevent disease and, in some cases, even curb or reverse disease. Following this plan can result in all kinds of improvements to your quality of life: better sleep, more energy—and just overall better health.

This story appears in the January 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine.


Share this:

Amino Acids vs. Protein Powder

Soy Flour

Protein powders and amino acid supplements deliver different results. Protein powders boost your total protein and contribute calories, so they support muscle building and can fill in gaps in your diet. Amino acids target very specific and diverse areas of your metabolism. One amino acid may affect brain chemicals, while another improves muscle performance. Supplements, including protein powders and specific amino acids, may cause side effects, so talk to your health care provider to be sure they’re safe for you.

Protein Metabolism

Protein powders and amino acid supplements enter your blood stream as single amino acids, then cells throughout your body collect the amino acids needed to build new proteins. If you don’t have enough of one required amino acid, that protein can’t be produced. Events that affect your metabolism, such as increased muscle activity or illness, may impact the amount of total protein you need, but one thing stays the same: To ensure that your cells can synthesize vital proteins, you must consume enough of all the essential amino acids every day.

Value of Complete Protein

Protein powders made from milk-derived whey and casein, egg white or soy protein are sources of quality protein that contain all the essential amino acids. Their complete protein supports increased protein demands from athletic activities, and they can contribute to your total daily protein intake. Amino acid supplements do not satisfy daily protein demands and, in large doses, may cause a metabolic imbalance. For example, taking too much leucine, one of the three branched-chain amino acids, may lead to low blood levels of the other two, according to a May 2014 review in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.”

Amino Acid Benefits

In addition to making proteins, some amino acids fill specific roles that directly affect your health outside of protein metabolism. One example is tryptophan, which turns into the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin. Taking supplements may enhance the physiological function filled by these amino acids. Supplemental creatine increases muscle strength and improves performance in high-intensity, short-duration exercise, reports Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Branched-chain amino acids may help promote muscle protein synthesis, according to the May 2014 review in the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.”

Health Considerations

Amino acid supplements contain minimal calories, but one scoop of protein powder has about 120 calories, and some brands may have significantly more. Be sure these extra calories don’t exceed your daily goals. Soy naturally contains isoflavones, which exert an estrogen-like effect. Avoid soy-based protein powders if you have thyroid disease, a history of breast or uterine cancer, or you’re pregnant, recommends NYU Langone Medical Center. Most amino acids are safe, but some may cause side effects, such as muscle cramps or gastrointestinal problems, and others should be avoided if you have heart or kidney disease, so it’s especially important to consult your physician before taking supplements.


Share this:

5 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

The holiday season can be challenging when it comes to holding onto the healthy lifestyle habits you’ve worked so hard to cultivate throughout the year. But it doesn’t have to be that way! There are small things you can do each day through the holidays and in January to help maintain your healthy ways.

If you’re someone who works better when you have a goal to stick to, you’ll love this—here’s a Mini-Challenge you can do to help you stay on track this holiday season. Just follow these 5 simple steps and you’ll feel energized and healthy despite all of the temptation in your path.

1. Drink hot water + lemon first thing in the morning

  • Improved digestion: Lemon juice flushes unwanted materials and toxins from your body. Hydrating also helps curb cravings.
  • Balanced pH: Lemons are one of the most alkalizing foods for your body; disease states only occur when your body pH is acidic.
  • Boosts immunity: Warm water and lemon juice supports the immune system by hydrating and replacing fluids lost by your body. When your body is deprived of water, you quickly feel the side effects  feeling tired, sluggish, constipation, lack of mental clarity, feeling stressed, etc. Lemons are high in vitamin C, potassium, and have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

2. Eat 3 meals and 1 snack

It’s important to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day; otherwise, you’ll end up looking for the easiest (and not necessarily the healthiest) choice when your levels drop. Do this by eating three nutritionally balanced meals and one whole-food snack every day. This allows you to burn your own body fat between meals.

3. Drink ½ your body weight in water

This will help keep you feeling full and satiated throughout the day and help kepp your cells hydrated. By drinking filtered water, you’ll also help your body flush toxins in your system.

4. Enjoy cocktails or treats on the weekends only

Remember: food is love, food is celebration, and during the holidays, you’re surrounding yourself with all of that, so give yourself permission to indulge! On the weekends, allow yourself 2 cocktails and/or 2 treats (or 1 cocktail and 1 treat) at festive celebrations.

5. Eat 5–9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily

Load up on colorful, organic, seasonal fruits and veggies whenever possible, aiming for at least 5 servings per day or 4 1/2 cups, mostly veggies. This will provide your body with lots of fiber to keep you feeling full plus a complete range of phytonutrients to keep you feeling your best.

Whether you indulge or maintain your healthy habits this holiday season, my wish is that you experience great joy and peace.

Karen Malkin Health Counseling Logo

Share this: