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Protein is a crucial component of every cell of the human body 123. As protein is constantly broken down, the body replenishes it with amino acids derived from protein in the foods we eat 123. Most American adults get enough protein in their diet to meet their needs 23. Depending on age and activity level, different populations have different protein needs 12.
Proteins are required for structure, function and regulation of the body's tissues and organs 1. Many substances that regulate body functions, such as enzymes and hormones, are made from protein 12. Proteins are made of 20 different types of amino acids. Your body can make 11 of the 20 amino acids on its own, but it must obtain the other nine from food. This is why they are referred to as essential amino acids.
How Much Protein Do Males Need?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average male needs 56 grams of protein per day, based on the recommended dietary allowance for protein 123. This is a general recommendation and protein needs can vary based on age and activity level 12. Athletes, particularly those competing in endurance sports and strength training, require more protein than the average person 123. For example, a resistance training athlete may need as much as 0.68 to 0.81 grams of protein per pound of body weight to promote the growth of muscle mass 123. For a 140 pound male, this would equal 95 to 113 grams of protein per day 2.
Protein can be found in a wide variety of foods, including meats, poultry, fish, legumes -- dry beans and peas -- tofu, eggs, nuts, seeds, dairy products and grains such as quinoa 12. Foods are considered complete sources of protein if they provide all of the essential amino acids, and incomplete if they do not 123. Complementary protein foods are foods that offer different incomplete protein sources that together provide all the essential amino acids 123. In the past, it was believed that complementary proteins had to be eaten at the same time to actually be complementary. This has since been reconsidered and new research shows your body can effectively combine complementary proteins if they're eaten in the same day 1.
What if I'm Vegetarian?
There are many types of vegetarianism, and depending on what type you practice, practiced, it can be more difficult to get adequate dietary protein 12. However, with a little planning, a healthy vegetarian diet can meet all protein requirements for adult males 23. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often a lot of protein 12. By choosing a wide range of these nonmeat proteins, you can get enough protein to meet your daily needs 2.
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