Meeting Your Protein Needs at Every Age

Getting in the right amount of protein ranks high on the healthy lifestyle must-do list. Protein foods supply the body with the amino acid building blocks it needs to grow and repair every cell, structure, and enzyme we have. Providing the body with enough protein is vital to keeping the body healthy and happy. As we get older, our protein needs change, and it’s essential to adjust our diet to meet these demands. In this blog, we’re taking a look at our ever-changing protein needs at each stage of life. 

PREGNANCY

In pregnancy, you are building a whole new lifeform! Getting in the right amount of protein is imperative to growing a healthy baby. Protein needs vary depending on the stage of pregnancy. The rule of thumb recommendation is 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) or 75-100 g of protein daily. 

Unfortunately, with spiking hormones, many moms have horrible food aversions and nausea throughout pregnancy. When nausea hits a mom-to-be hard, focus on food that is easy to swallow, like yogurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, and protein drinks. When it comes to supplements to boost protein in pregnancy, it’s always important to get approval from your doctor and perinatal dietitian. As a perinatal dietitian, I recommend protein powders that are clean and contain pure protein with no weird additives or over-supplementation. I love recommending Designer Egg for a simple complete protein that helps meet prenatal needs and includes choline needed for baby brain development.

CHILDHOOD

Children are little active growing weeds. They need more protein than how big they are at this stage of life due to how rapidly their bodies grow and change.  Getting them to slow down and eat can be an ever-changing challenge. Experts recommend making foods into fun shapes and designs, cutting them up into finger foods, getting them involved in cooking, and consistently exposing them to various foods. American Association of Pediatrics recommends parents let them decide how much they want to eat without being forced to finish their meals. It’s important to guide kids to listen to their bodies and hunger cues to prevent overeating in childhood and adulthood. Kids are surprisingly very good at self-regulating and may eat more at some meals and much less at others. Protein needs are calculated by age and weight. Check out the table below for the dietary guidelines for children. 

 

Age

Recommended Daily Allowance

Approximate Protein Recommendation

7-12 months

1.2g/kg

10g

1-3 years

1.05g/kg

13g

4-8 years

.96/kg

19g


TEENS

Tremendous change comes during the teen years; bodies and emotions are a rapidly changing rollercoaster. The recommended protein intake in adolescence is 46 g for girls and 52 g for boys to meet the body’s demands. Luckily research shows most teens are eating more than enough protein. Continuing to encourage teens to eat various foods and listen to their bodies will be increasingly important to promote a healthy body and food relationship. 

ADULTHOOD

In adulthood, protein takes on another important role. It is still needed to continuously rebuild and heal the body, but sufficient protein is required to maintain muscle mass. Muscle mass steadily decreases by 3-8% every decade after the age of 30. We reduce our metabolism when we lose muscle mass, and body fat can steadily begin creeping up. Muscle loss can also increase our risk for falls and hinder our activities of daily living. By staying physically active, including strength training in your routine, and meeting protein goals, you can help decrease your muscle loss. 

It’s estimated about 40% of Americans do not meet their protein goals while 60% over-consume protein. Early adulthood needs range from .8-1.2g or more depending on activity level and health status. Adults over the age of 65 have a more challenging time digesting protein and need more to meet their needs. Protein recommendation is 1-1.2g/kg of body weight. If someone is chronically ill, this need increases to 1.2-1.5g/kg of body weight. 

Evenly distributing protein throughout the day is vital to maximize absorption, prevent fatigue, and promote muscle repair. Research shows that people who do not distribute protein evenly throughout the day are more tired, have less muscle mass, and have less speed and agility. For many adults, this means aiming for 20-30g of protein per meal.

Protein needs are easily met by targeting protein-dense foods and including them in each meal and snack. Check out the table below for easy protein sources to include in your healthy lifestyle.

Food

Portion

Protein

Designer Whey

1 Scoop

20 g

Designer Egg

2 Scoops

24 g

Designer Plant

2 Scoops

22 g

Designer Lite 

1 Scoop

10 g

Designer Energy

1 Scoop

16 g

Designer Aria

2 Scoops

15 g

Designer Collagen

2 Scoops

10 g

Chicken Breast

3 Ounces

23 g

Egg

1 Egg

6 g

Egg White

1 Egg White

4 g

Black Beans

½ Cup

8 g

Almonds

¼ Cup

6 g

Peanut Butter

2 Tablespoons

8 g

Greek Yogurt-Plain

1 Cup

22 g

Skyr Yogurt-Plain

1 Cup

28 g

Peas

1 Cup

8 g

Lentils

1 Cup

18 g

Fish

3 Ounces

~20 g

Tofu

1 Cup

20 g

Tempeh

1 Cup

30 g

Edamame

1 Cup

17 g

Quinoa

1 Cup

8 g

Barley

1 Cup

6 g

Faro

1 Cup

6 g

Wild Rice

1 Cup

4 g

 

BOTTOMLINE

Maximizing the body’s ability to build and repair itself doesn’t have to be complicated at any age. Include any of the simple protein sources listed above in your healthy lifestyle, and try some of our delicious and simple Designer Protein recipes below. 

ONE OF MY FAVORITE DESIGNER PROTEIN RECIPES

Vanilla Protein Spirulina

INGREDIENTS

Optional Toppings

  • Blueberries
  • Peanut Butter
  • Hemp Seeds ⁠

By Ginger Cochran, MS, RDN, CDCES, CEP-ACSM

SOURCES 

PCRM’s Guide to Clinical Nutrition
Nutrients. 2018 Mar; 10(3): 360.Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults

Very Well Family. Food and Nutrition- Protein-Rich Foods for Kids

Cleveland Clinic August 10, 2021 / Nutrition

Why Extra Protein for Your Child Is Unnecessary – and Possibly Dangerous

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