Protein is a crucial component of every cell of the human body. As protein is constantly broken down, the body replenishes it with amino acids derived from protein in the foods we eat. Most American adults get enough protein in their diet to meet their needs. Depending on age and activity level, different populations have different protein needs.
Proteins are required for structure, function and regulation of the body's tissues and organs. Many substances that regulate body functions, such as enzymes and hormones, are made from protein. 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. This is a general recommendation and protein needs can vary based on age and activity level. Athletes, particularly those competing in endurance sports and strength training, require more protein than the average person. 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. For a 140 pound male, this would equal 95 to 113 grams of protein per day.
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. Foods are considered complete sources of protein if they provide all of the essential amino acids, and incomplete if they do not. Complementary protein foods are foods that offer different incomplete protein sources that together provide all the essential amino acids. 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.
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. However, with a little planning, a healthy vegetarian diet can meet all protein requirements for adult males. Nearly all vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds contain some, and often a lot of protein. By choosing a wide range of these nonmeat proteins, you can get enough protein to meet your daily needs.