Age and activity level are two of the key factors women need to take into account when trying to determine their protein needs, but women may also want to take a close look at their protein intake if they're trying to build muscle mass or lose weight.
Why We Need Protein
Proteins make up most of the structure of the human body—without them, there'd be no muscles or skin, for example—and they also contribute to less visible, but no less necessary, functions of the body as components of neurotransmitters and hormones. Women need to eat protein in order to keep their bodies functioning at peak levels. In turn, proteins are made up of amino acids. The human body produces some amino acids on its own, but some amino acids essential to women's health are available only from foods that contain protein.
The Best Sources
Not all protein sources are created equal. Fish, eggs, meat, and dairy provide the amino acids women need in the right ratios. Chances are that women who eat those products daily don't need to worry about their protein intake. For women who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, getting enough quality protein with the right amino acids can be more complicated. Vegetarians can incorporate more dairy or whey protein powder from Do Vitamins into their diet, while vegans can increase their intake of tofu and legumes. Plant-based protein sources also include lentils, nuts, tempeh, and beans.
Women need a minimum of 46 grams of protein a day. But don't stop reading there. That isn't the serving size. It's the amount of actual protein. For example, an egg that weighs 46 grams contains only six grams of protein, even though it's considered a quality protein source.
For women who want to lose weight, a good rule of thumb is to increase protein intake to about thirty percent of daily calories. Extremely active women or those trying to build muscle mass will need more protein than sedentary women, and older women may want to consider getting almost half their daily calories from protein to prevent brittle bones and loss of muscle mass.
If you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, keep in mind that it’s a nutrient you need to stay healthy and active. Look into quality sources of protein to incorporate into your diet—whether it’s an extra egg at breakfast or a handful of almonds at snack time, whatever you can do to ensure you’re getting enough protein can be great for your health.