What is protein and how much do we need in a normal, healthy situation? This has been the subject of discussion among everyday citizens who have little or no medical expertise. It is also a subject of much interest among medical doctors and nutritionists. There are recommended daily allowances, minimums and maximums for most food ingredients and nutrients such as protein. Perhaps the best place to start is with the amount of protein recommended by those in the medical field.
According to some studies the diet of a normally healthy, average U.S. citizen provides more than enough protein to maintain health. The amount of protein provided by the average diet is more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA)). According to medical information, this RDA is .8 grams of protein per day for each kilogram of body weight.
There are some limitations and concerns with this information however. The numbers hold true for healthy individuals of average age. But a very young child, a pregnant woman or an elderly person might need more than the RDA. If any individual is in a traumatic situation, is having surgery or struggles with a major disability, the body may also need considerably more protein. Individuals who are especially active, such as athletes, and those who have a daily regimen of exercise and workouts should also consider getting a bit more protein.
One of the reasons, of course, is that muscles in the body are made from protein. The body doesn’t store protein like it does other items so a consistent intake of protein is necessary to keep muscles growing and working properly. The subject of protein is quite complex but in simple terms amino acids are what protein is built from. Scientists have isolated both plant and animal protein and approximately 20 amino acids. Some of these are considered essential to humans, while others are called non-essential. In this case, “essential” means the body does not manufacture this type of protein and we must get them from our food.
Some nutritionists and doctors have addressed the question of whether humans and other animals can get too much protein. Most of the study results indicate that humans can’t really get “too much protein.” However, if the individual is suffering from a disease of the kidneys or the liver, there is a possibility of protein not being processed correctly. These organs are the two that process or “metabolize” the protein so the body can make use of it.
Proper nutrition also must include the correct balance of plant protein and animal protein. Plant protein may not provide all the necessary amino acids. A good combination of protein sources will provide most of what the body needs. Most doctors and nutrition experts also emphasize that there is little or no benefit from taking in more protein than the body needs for the individual lifestyle and health status. In some cases, too much protein in the body can put the kidneys and liver under pressure to deal with the excess. Older people must be careful to avoid this situation.