Do I Need More Protein In My Diet Now That I’m Exercising?

I just turned 30 years old and started walking for 30 minutes every day. A friend at work told me that when you exercise, your protein needs increase. Is this true? She recommends drinking a shake with a protein powder every morning to meet my increased protein needs. What do you think?

Good for you! You hit 30, and you decided to hit the walking path for 30 minutes daily. I can’t wait to see what happens when you hit 40! While it’s true that your protein needs can increase if you routinely partake in exercise, I don’t think that it warrants plugging in the blender and scooping out the protein powder.

According to the latest guide on sports nutrition from the American Dietetic Association (ADA), several factors can cause your protein needs to be increased, such as:

  • if you are growing or are pregnant;
  • if you are injured or sick;
  • the level of your activity. Your protein needs go up with more demanding endurance exercise, such as running, and also with resistance exercise (weight training) as compared to leisure activity;
  • if you are not chowing down on enough calories and dietary carbohydrates (grains, veggies, and fruit). If you are not eating adequate calories, your dietary protein could be burned for fuel, rather than being squirreled away for more important uses in your body like to maintain your muscles. (Click here for more on Healthy Dieting Guidelines.)

According to the ADA, couch potatoes or individuals with modest exercise in their lives need about 0.4 grams of protein for each pound of body weight. Active folks who regularly partake in more vigorous activities such as running have needs that are about 50 percent to 75 percent higher, or about 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. While the increase seems huge, it isn’t a huge task to get adequate protein from your diet. Let’s do some light math: A 140-pound sedentary person would need about 56 grams of protein daily (140 lbs X 0.4 grams protein per pound = 56 grams). However, a protein increase of 50 percent to 75 percent would inflate that number to 84 to 98 grams of protein.

The beauty about exercise is that it has a snowball effect. The increased activity in your life affords you the luxury of increasing your calories, which in turn, allows you to eat more protein. If you eat a balanced diet with adequate calories, your protein needs based on your exercise level can likely be met from the foods off your plate without having to whip up a protein shake.

The information provided on Health Search Online is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.