The protein craze: Are you really not eating enough?

The protein craze: Are you really not eating enough?

If you scroll social media, you likely will come across videos touting easy ways to beef up your protein intake: protein pancakes, cottage cheese wraps, protein coffee and the list goes on. These videos may make you question if your diet lacks this essential nutrient.

Afterall, protein provides your body with energy and allows your body to repair muscles, tissues and bones. Protein-rich foods can also help you feel full longer which can prevent overeating and therefore result in weight loss and/or maintenance.

The average adult should aim to consume about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (.45 kilograms = 1 pound). This may vary based on the amount you exercise, your age and if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

“After age 30, you start to lose 3-8% of your muscle mass every 10 years – with that rate increasing after age 60,” explains Lisa Dempsey, a registered dietitian at Advocate Health Care. “Eating enough protein is an important way to maintain muscle mass and minimize age-related decline in functionality.”

Many people exceed overall protein recommendations. However, when it comes to protein subgroups, 90% of Americans are deficient in protein from seafood and 50% lack protein from nuts, seeds and soy, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Dempsey says getting your protein from a variety of sources provides your body with many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Protein-rich food sources:
  • Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
  • Meat, such as beef and pork
  • Fish, such as shrimp, tuna and salmon
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products, including milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Plant-based protein sources, such as beans and lentils
  • Soy products, like tofu, tempeh and edamame
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters

So, what about protein powders and bars? Dempsey recommends primarily sticking to whole foods.

“Protein powders and bars can be a convenient way to meet your daily protein needs or use in a pinch as a meal replacement – just watch out for added sugars,” says Dempsey. “If you have a medical condition in which whole foods do not suffice your minimum protein requirements, protein shakes can be effective.”

Before you load up on protein, it’s important to know that some health conditions may not be suited for a high protein diet. For example, those who have kidney disease and are not on dialysis typically are told to eat a low protein diet. However, Dempsey recommends following personalized advice from your doctor and/or renal dietitian.

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range.

Related Posts


Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is an external communications specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her bachelor's degree in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in health care public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.