Diabetes and Endocrinology
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Women are bombarded every day with information about diets and what to eat. With all of this information overload, it can be confusing to figure out how much you should be getting of each macronutrient. Specifically, how do you know if you’re getting enough protein? Are you eating too much?
A helpful formula to follow
Many women struggle to get enough protein in their daily diet. A good rule of thumb, says Michele Geiger, RD, LD, certified diabetes educator with Kettering Health Diabetes and Nutrition Centers, is to consume about 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This formula applies to overall healthy women who are mostly sedentary. For example, by this calculation, a 120-lb. woman would need 48-50 grams of protein to maintain her current weight and health.
However, the formula should be treated as a starting point, not necessarily a strict rule. “It might not be enough protein to fill you up,” says Geiger. “If you’re highly active or stressed, you will need more protein. When you’re stressed, your body breaks down muscle more rapidly, and you might need 1.2-2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight to feel your best.”
What qualifies as high stress?
Everyone deals with a busy week from time to time. Does that mean you need to eat more protein during those weeks? Not necessarily. “High-stress states can include stress from disease, like cancer, diabetes, or obesity,” Geiger explains. Someone who is obese is in an inflammatory state, which puts the body in a state of constant stress.
For most people, extra protein doesn’t equal extra benefits. And some people should avoid overconsumption. People with kidney disease or kidney stones, in particular, need to limit their amount of protein.
Why is protein important?
Protein is the building block of many of the cells in our body, including blood, muscles, and skin. “Protein is filling and satisfying,” says Geiger. “It helps to promote satiety in our diet. If we ate bread all day, we’d be hungry all the time.”
The macronutrient is also crucial for building muscles. However, this doesn’t mean that eating more protein will automatically make you more muscular. Muscle is built by tearing down the muscle through exercise. For the average person, a combination of weight training and protein consumption is what builds muscle.
How can I get enough?
“Especially when women are dieting, getting enough protein is a common struggle,” Geiger says. Many women tend to gravitate towards carbohydrates and fats, such as salads, cheese, nuts, or avocados. Geiger advises incorporating more vegetable sources of protein. Some examples include dried beans, edamame, hummus, nut butters, soy/almond milk, or Greek yogurt. “When trying to increase protein, it’s easy to also accidentally increase your fat intake. Look for leaner cuts of meat like fish, chicken, ground sirloin, egg whites, and reduced-fat dairy products.”
Most people can meet their micronutrient needs by eating a range of healthy foods. Still, Geiger advises taking a daily multivitamin. “Most people can get what they need in a well-balanced 1,500-calorie diet. However, always have your primary care provider check your labs if nutrient deficiencies are suspected.”
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