The amount of protein you need depends primarily on the size of your body and how fast it is growing, and to a lesser extent on your gender and how much you exercise. Babies need more protein per pound than moms, moms more than grandmothers, and dads more than moms. As a general guide, this is the amount of protein that the average person needs at various ages:
AGE PROTEIN PER POUND DAILY PROTEIN NEEDS
- Birth – 6 months 1 gm. 13 gms.
- 6 months – 1 year .75 gm. 14 gms.
- 1 – 6 years .6 gms. 16-24 gms.
- 7 – 15 years .5 gms. 28-50 gms.
- Adults .36 gms. 50-60 gms.
Growing children need more “grow” foods (i.e., proteins). During the first two months of life, fifty percent of the protein in a baby’s diet is used for growth and the other fifty percent is used for continued maintenance of the tissues. By three years of age, only eleven percent of dietary protein is used for growth. During the periodic growth spurts of infancy, childhood, and adolescence, you may need to perk up the proteins in your child’s diet anywhere from five to fifteen grams more a day.
Animal proteins are better tailored to meet the needs of infants and growing children than are plant proteins, which is why nature provides human milk for babies. The complete proteins in breastmilk are more suited to a growing infant’s needs than plant protein, which is found in some formulas. Even babies in vegan families get an animal-based food if they are breastfed.
- These amounts are average recommended dietary allowances (RDA’s). Practically speaking, most people eat different amounts of protein each day.
- Vegans (eating plant proteins only) should add 25 percent to these values. Because the body metabolizes animal protein easier than plant protein, eating more plant protein makes up for this difference.
- Pregnant and lactating women add 15-25 grams a day.
- During growth spurts in infancy, childhood, and adolescents, add 5 to 15 grams.
- During periods of increased tissue repair (illness, injury, or strenuous athletic training), add 10 to 20 grams.
- Male adolescents and adults usually need 10 to 20 grams more protein daily than females.
- As a rough and very general guide, if you shoot for a gram of protein per pound per day for infants and children, 3/4 of a gram for adolescents, and 1/2 gram per pound per day for adults, you’re in the right nutritional ballpark, and getting even more than the RDA for protein.
JUST HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO YOU REALLY NEED?
The usual figures that are thrown around concerning protein needs are “15 to 20 percent of total daily calories.” For most individuals this is much too high. The average infant, child, and adult can get all the protein they need without having daily calories from protein exceed 10 percent of their total calories. For example, if you eat an average of 2,000 calories a day, about 200 calories of this should be protein. Protein contains four calories per gram, so this would be about 50 grams of protein (200 divided by four calories/gram equals 50 grams). Most children and adults get at least ten percent of their total daily calories as protein without even trying. In times of increased protein needs (such as pregnancy, lactation, adolescent growth spurts, or high endurance exercise), this figure may increase to 15 percent.