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Protein, carbohydrates and fats, are the three primary macronutrients. Found in virtually every body part, proteins are the main building blocks of the body. They’re used to make muscles, tendons, organs and skin. Proteins are also used to make enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters that serve as important functions for life. All these factors play an important role in the body, and getting a balance of each is important for optimum health as well as results in the gym.

The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound. This amounts to 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man and 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.

People who exercise regularly may have higher needs, about 1.1-1.5 grams per kilogram. People who lift weights regularly or are training for a running or cycling events need 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram. Keep in mind your needs may be higher or lower depending on your activity level.

It is important to note the RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. You can look at it as the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick — not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day. Your intake may be different based on many individual factors.

Another way to look at protein intake is by percentage of total daily calories. Calorie needs vary, but anywhere between 10 to 35 percent of your calories should come from protein sources. For example, if your needs are 2,000 calories a day, protein should account for between 200 and 700 calories (50-175 grams).

The best time to eat protein is spread out over the entire day. Protein should accompany other foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains; however, it should not account for the entire meal.

Quality is important when looking at protein. Some high-protein foods to include in your daily diet include:

  • Eggs
  • Nuts like almonds and cashews
  • Chicken breast
  • Shrimp
  • Oats
  • Greek yogurt
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef
  • Tuna
  • Quinoa
  • Wild salmon
  • Lentils
  • Organic tofu
  • Tempeh
  • Edamame

There is no “one size fits all” suggestion for including protein in your diet, as everyone has different lifestyles, activity levels and goals. For further information and to learn exactly what to eat pre- and post-workout according to your specific body type and lifestyle factors, reach out to me at .

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