Protein Guide – Food Sources And How Much Protein We Need

Protein Guide – Food Sources And How Much Protein We Need

Protein is an essential component required for the wellbeing of our body. Right from losing weight, gaining muscle mass, recovering from strenuous workout to feeling more satiated or simply maintaining a good health, it’s very important to get the adequate amount of this macronutrient.

Basics of protein

Protein plays an important role in building and repairing numerous tissues such as skeletal muscles, bones, skin, fingernails, hair, cartilage, blood, etc. It is also responsible for making enzymes and hormones that take care of our metabolism, growth and several other things. Protein makes up about 16 percent of the total body weight.

Protein is one of the three major macronutrients besides carbohydrates and fats. Like the other two macronutrients, it also provides energy but since it has numerous functions to perform, it can’t be stored and the body considers fat and carbohydrates as primary sources of energy. Just like fat and carbs, excess amount of protein gets converted into fat and stored up in the body.

Functioning of Protein

Protein during digestion decomposes into amino acids and later absorbed by small intestine and distributed across the body. The cells in the body take the amount of protein they need and then rearrange the amino acids to either make new protein or repair the old ones.

And since our body does not store protein, the surplus amino acids are either converted into glucose to be used as energy if the body lacks carbohydrates, or turned into fatty acids and stored as fat.

Food sources of protein

Protein can be found in both animal and plants sources of food. The animal foods are high in protein and can be derived from beef, fish, poultry and eggs. High amount of protein can also be found in dairy products. On the other hand, the most notable non-animal sources of protein include nuts, soy, seeds and grains.

Animal foods, eggs, and dairy products are also known as complete protein since they contain all the essential amino acids our body requires. Plant sources also contain amino acids but it’s rare for a plant protein to contain all the essential amino acids, hence they are referred as incomplete protein.

Here is a quick list of 10 protein rich food sources taken from different food groups. The recommended protein intake should be 20 percent of the total calories you are consuming daily. 

Food in grams listed below is equal to 400 calories for daily protein requirement based on 2000 calories diet.

Walnuts (28 half pieces) - 10 gms
Pistachios (57 pieces) - 14 gms
Almonds (25 pieces) – 15 gms
Egg Whites (3 Large) – 20 gms
Black Beans (2 Cup) – 27 gms
Skim Milk (5 Cup) – 37 gms
Salmon fish – 50 gms
Meat – 58 gms
Two and half Cup Cottage Cheese (Paneer) – 67 gms
Chicken Breast – 67 gms

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How much protein we need?

Protein needs depend on a variety of factors such as age, size and the level of activity. The standard method recommended by experts to determine protein requirements is to multiply the total body weight by 0.8 or per kilogram of body weight by 0.8. For instance, if the body weight is 50 kgs, the daily protein requirement will be 40 grams. This is the minimum or say the average requirement to maintain muscle mass.

The protein requirement will be high for people who are engaged in endurance activities and workouts. This can be calculated by following formula.

Endurance activities such as running, swimming and biking – 1.2-1.4 grams/kilogram of bodyweight

Strength training such as bodybuilding, power lifting, and bodyweight training – 1.4-2.0 grams/kilogram of bodyweight


Most of us can get daily protein needs by consuming real foods, rather going for protein powders and other supplements. An inactive or sedentary woman weighing about 58 kgs would only need 46 grams of protein, which she can easily get by consuming half chicken breast, 2 large eggs and 1 cup skim milk. 

Pregnant women need 10 grams of extra protein per day, though this is not important in the first half of the pregnancy.

Tips to get most out of protein

Sometimes, it can very difficult to meet our protein goals. Some high protein foods can be healthy but they might be loaded with fat, calories, sodium or even added sugars. These tips can make your task easy without ruining your diet.

  • Cereals can be replaced with eggs as most breakfast foods including cereals are low in protein.
  • Eggs and milk is an evergreen combination for breakfast.
  • Using almonds to top your foods will not only provide high protein but also add crunch to your meal.
  • Serve your meat with lots of colorful and dark green veggies.
  • Choose baked or roasted chicken instead of fried chicken.

Protein is unbelievably a vital macronutrient. If you get creative, you can make the most out of it.