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Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Protein Requirements

Each week Jeff Novick, MS, RD shares insights on health and nutrition. This week Jeff talks about protein requirements. We are doing another giveaway for Jeff’s DVD “Fast Food“. Please leave a comment and tell us why you’d love to win a copy!


Protein Requirements 

Jeff Novick, MS, RD

Q. How many grams of protein do we need each day?

A. I don’t know!

But then again, neither does anyone else.   :)

All nutrient recommendation are given in relation to the needs that will cover over 98% of the population and therefore include built in safety margins for most people. None of them ever represent the actual daily needs of any one person on any one day.

The only way to know the actual protein needs of any one person on any given day is to do a nitrogen balance study on that person on that day. But, realize that whatever your needs where today, they may be different tomorrow.

However, we can get a better idea of about how much we need when we look at national recommendations.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine


“The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for both men and women is 0.80 g of good quality protein/kg body weight/d and is based on careful analysis of available nitrogen balance studies.”

For a 150 lb person, this would equate to about 55 grams

Recently (2/2012), as reported in their paper, “Scientific Opinion on Dietary Reference Values for Protein,” the European Food Safety Association paper, ” set the Population Reference Intake (PRI) at .83g/kg body weight per day for both Adults and for Older Adults.  Again, this would meet the needs of 98% of the population.

As a percentage of energy:

From the,  “Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies.”

Protein 10–35% of calories.

On an 1800 calorie diet, 10% would equate to 45 grams

In grams, from:

“Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Intakes for Individuals, Macronutrients Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies”

Adult Men: 56 g/day

Adult Women: 46 g/day


“Protein requirements of adults, including older people, and women during pregnancy and lactation.(PROTEIN AND AMINO ACID REQUIREMENTS IN HUMAN NUTRITION) COPYRIGHT 2006 World Health Organization”

Furthermore, recent detailed balance and body composition studies have shown that with a suitable program of resistance exercise sarcopenia (muscle loss) can be reversed and muscle strength increased on a protein intake of 0.8 g/kg per day (68). This intake is similar to the 1985 safe allowance and lower than usual intakes in this population.

(68) Campbell WW et al. Dietary protein adequacy and lower body versus whole body resistive training in older humans. Journal of Physiology, 2002, 542:631-642.

So, there you have it. Now realize the .8 gram/kg is based on a persons healthy weight, and includes a fairly liberal safety margin. Nitrogen balance studies have shown adults can maintain nitrogen balance on as little as .5-.66 gm/kg though no one needs to shoot for the minimum. Patients who must limit their protein intake due to kidney issues are usually put on a diet that limits protein intake to around .5-.6 grams/kg and studies have been shown you can actually build strength and muscle at that level too with a proper resistance exercise program..

The simple answer is this, as long as you consume adequate calories to maintain a healthy weight from a variety of whole plant foods, (and not from junk foods and/or just fruit) you will get in all the protein and amino acids that you need.


In Health


© Jeff Novick 

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of “Fast Food“! 



About the author

Jeff Novick
Jeff Novick, MS, RD, LD, LN is truly a unique dietitian and nutritionist. With over 24 years of experience in nutrition, health, fitness and natural living, he offers expert health advice distilled into powerful, easy-to-understand language on a variety of current topics.Novick’s insightful and humorous approach to nutrition and health has helped thousands worldwide make the transition to healthy living. He holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Indiana State University in nutrition, with a minor in exercise science.Novick serves as Vice President for Executive Health Exams International and lectures at the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California and at the Engine 2 Immersion program in Austin, Texas. He is also the Director of Nutrition for the Meals for Health program, which is helping empower low-income families to achieve optimal health.For almost a decade, Novick served as the Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Center in Aventura, Florida, and as Vice President of the Board of the Directors for the National Health Association (NHA). He also served as the Director of Health Education for the NHA and as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Health Sciences for Kaplan University.Novick has taught nutrition classes at Indiana State University, Indiana University Medical School, the University of Miami Medical School and the Florida Academy of Family Physicians. He regularly lectures at medical conferences across the country. While in Indiana, he created and taught the Nutrition Education Initiative, a preventive medicine curriculum for medical doctors, residents and medical students. In recognition of this groundbreaking project, Indiana’s governor awarded Novick the Indiana State Public Health Excellence in Health Science Award and Indiana State University awarded him the Graduate-of-the-Last-Decade Award.He has been interviewed by Newsday, Parade, Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s World and has appeared on Fox News, Discovery Health, the Today Show and other media outlets nationwide. He recently appeared in the documentary Processed People and the movie Fatboy, which won the Best Documentary award at the Fort Lauderdale and Queens Film Festivals.

80 Responses to “Tuesdays With Jeff: Insights Into Your Health: Protein Requirements”

  1. Beth says:

    I always need more plantstrong recipes.

  2. sheila zipfel says:

    I needs me a burger, no meat please.

  3. Stephen says:

    Dear Jeff,

    Daily allowances for nutrients like protein are confusing in one respect – what about the individual who is not eating at all daily – fasting? It is my understanding that a fast, the consumption of NO nutrients, of up to forty days is safe for most people. Do you agree? If so, then your daily protein intake recommendation is actually an AVERAGE intake over time.

    Or would a person fasting merely resume his daily protein intake when coming off his fast?

    • Jeff Novick says:

      Most all nutrient recommendations are based on “averages over time” and are not required specific daily requirements even though they are presented that way. Fasting can be of benefit when indicated and when properly done. Long term fasts should also be properly supervised.

  4. I would love to win a copy of Fast Food and spend some time making healthy food with my wife. Time together and great food. That is a gift.

  5. justme says:

    Thanks Jeff. When I was sick last year, a doctor tried to convince me that my lack of animal protein (and iron) was the reason for my illness. I used cron-o-meter to prove him incorrect, but he still wouldn’t listen. Some old dogs won’t learn.

    I got this video about a year ago. At first I stuck to the recipes like glue. Now in addition to making your exact recipes some of the time, I use the ideas to put together meals with what’s on hand. I can’t say anything has been terrible using your principles. AND non-veg family members like the food, too.

    Thanks for your work and making this subject funny/interesting/accessible.

  6. Debbie Kuehnle says:

    I have been learning so much from Tuesday’s with Jeff, and would love a copy of Fast Food for my family.

  7. Kay Witt says:

    I would love to win a copy of this book because I am new to plant based nutrition and i think i would gain valuable insight to eating properly. Thanks!

  8. HealthAmanda says:

    I have lost 52 pounds in 90 days following a plant strong diet! I have more to go and would love to see Jeff’s Fast Food recipes. I am also starting a radio program on our local station to help my city (of 110,000 people) lose weight, eat great, and be healthy. On air on May 23! Every tip and hint I can find before then would be fantastic!

  9. Ali says:

    I would love to win a copy. We are trying to make changes to our eating habits and develop wonderful eating habits in our very young children. However, all the info out there is so confusing so I would love to get a copy of the book.

  10. Pam says:

    I’d love to win this book! Hubby and I are going into our third week of the plant strong diet. Neither of us miss meat or dairy! We are feeling great too!

  11. Rileen says:

    I’d like to win a copy so that I can prepare fast food in a SNAP :-)

  12. LBJROCK says:

    I would love to win a copy. I’ve been plant based since January and am loving it. We’re always needing idea of healthy and quick meals to make after work and this would be a great resource! We can’t wait to see you in May here in Tucson!!

  13. SueSolin says:

    I would love to win a copy of Fast Food. I have a 25 year old son who wants to go vegan but doesn’t know where to start. The ease of cooking in Jeff’s DVD would be perfect for his transition!

  14. plantwise says:

    I’m always looking for something good for lunch!

  15. Cindy says:

    As a student of holistic nutrition therapy, and one who personally follows a plant-based whole foods diet, I thank you for a great article! I would love a copy of your DVD for my video library. I like hosting video nights for clients and friends to educate and generate discussion. “Fast Food” would be a great addition!

  16. Richelle says:

    I would love to win a copy of Fast Food as I am worried for the health of my husband. He has a family history of cholesterol/diabetes/blood pressure issues, but is a meat eater extraordinaire. Add that to my own blood pressure and weight issues, and it’s a no brainer. This DVD could help me take back my family’s health!

  17. Great article I need to share with my friends! I have nearly nobody who is on board with the plant based lifestyle, even my husband has not gotten 100% on board. I am loving just about everything I try, and am feeling great. I would LOVE the opportunity to get a copy so i can show it to my kids (especially my pickiest) as well as family members who insist that I am not getting the proper amount of protein and calcium, these are people with MANY health issues, especially diabetes (and they don’t believe a word I tell them). Thank you so much for this opportunity!!! :)

  18. Beverly says:

    I am always needing new information as I try to live plant-based. I am 65 and female and I do worry about my protein intake. Unfortunately, many family and others point out I couldn’t possibly be getting enough. It is a difficult thing to understand, this protein and how much is needed.

  19. Lori says:

    I would love to win this DVD. I could really use some fast, easy, and most importantly healthy recipes. I need to quit the junk, but it is just so easy. Thanks for all you do!!!

  20. Amy Macak says:

    Thank you Jeff for your great articles, they make trying to go plant strong easy
    I would love your DVD to add to my growing library

  21. gringa says:

    My husband and I have recently adopted a plant-based diet. I would love to win your DVD to learn more about cooking and eating healthy.

  22. Alisa Johnson says:

    I would love to win Jeff’s dvd after seeing him in action last weekend at Farm 2 Forks! I want my kids to start learning how to cook and I think Jeff’s dvd would be a great help. I could also use help with more healthy ideas to keep me plant strong!

  23. kavarney says:

    Great information! Nutrition and vegetarianism is my life and my hobby! I love the Engine 2 diet – have been on this regime since May 2009! So glad – I am 55 and never felt healthier in my life! Thank you to those who dedicate their lives to helping others through nutrition education!

  24. kathleen says:

    Farm2Forks in La was great! Jeff was so funny in his presentations!

  25. A month ago I jumped into the 28 day challenge. I am still not at 100% but I am eating so much better!! I feel better each day. Every tool available is an opportunity to do it better. Thank you.

  26. Linda says:

    I want to be plant based and am stumbling. I would love the video help.

  27. jim says:

    Saw Jeff this weekend at Farm 2 Forks in LA. He was so funny and informative. Great job and thank you for the motivation to continue being plant strong! Your food demo was wonderful! We came home from the Farm 2 Forks and made some of your 5 ingredient burgers. YUM
    We have also ordered a case of POMI from amazon.

  28. Sandy Berner says:

    Listening to Jeff will make ANYONE happy and much HEALTHIER! Thanks a million Jeff for leading us forward!

  29. Terri Cole says:

    I went vegan about a year ago. I’ve managed to lose almost 40 pounds and need to lose 70 more. I’m struggling with the no-oil part of this life style, so I could use the knowledge and encouragement from Jeff’s DVD.

  30. “Now realize the .8 gram/kg is based on a persons healthy weight, and includes a fairly liberal safety margin.”

    I was glad to see that sentence. I’ve always assumed it was based on current weight which would have me eating 80g protein per day. That is so not happening when I eat 1400-1800 calories per day. So glad to see that when I get 30-40 grams I am right on track.

  31. Christy B. says:

    My family and I are trying to live a plant-strong lifestyle. Jeff’s videos would help our journey with his fabulous information and cooking tips. Thank you!

  32. I would love to have this book. I need more recipe ideas!

  33. Pam says:

    I am a personal and group fitness trainer and also teach a class for lifestyle/nutrition change. Many of those people have changed their lifestyle through their diet but many others still need to change. Nutrition is the key, and I love telling others about it.

  34. Would like to have this…. am trying to lower my cholesterol and lose weight.

  35. In the process of learning to be more plant strong. Any help would be appreciated!

  36. plainoldsarah says:

    Novick has changed how I view a lot of foods – but I do find myself still drawn to carbs (bread and fruit) over protein sources.

  37. No one does it better than you, Jeff! You are the ambassador to good health with knowledge and humor. I’d love to share your recommendations with the people I love that weren’t able to attend the Farms2Forks weekend. There is a mighty power in a small package……speaking of the DVD of course. :)

  38. Carolyn says:

    Jeff Novick you are my inspiration! Thanks for all that you do with such great humor! I am still trying to lower my cholesterol despite my lowfat almost fat-free plant based diet. I can use all of your great info including Fast Food!

  39. Susan says:

    As a life long learner, I always welcome new information and opportunities to learn and continuously evolve a healthy living lifestyle. As a GF vegan, it can be challenging, but challenges are opportunities in disguise! Would love to win a copy and incorporate some more ‘challenges’.

  40. KimT says:

    I will like to win the dvd set for two reasons. #1 – I ran out of Jeff’s You Tube video to watch. #2 – To help educate my family and friends about a healthy plant strong diet. I think the videos will help everyone realize there is food left to eat after you cut out all the C.R.A.P. Right now, I just get the crazy stare for being plant strong. My mom has cancer and her “clinical” nutritionist is telling her no organic produce, no grains, and to eat meat.. hello?? (so, I guess that is 3 reasons)

  41. CoachBJ says:

    We have been plant-strong for almost 3 years, DH had his routine check up and doc said that “he is a poster child from good health”…numbers great with 150 total Chlor and NO MEDS!

  42. Cori says:

    I would love to win a copy of Jeff’s video as I’m struggling to keep up with a plant based diet and usually give up and go for unhealthy junk fast food. I love watching and reading anything on plant based diet and each one only helps reconfirm what I need to be doing. One of these days I will be 100%!

  43. I would love to win a copy because I never know what to make. It always takes me forever to cook and I never know if I’m eating the right things. I would just like to look and feel healthy.

  44. Michael says:

    I would love to win a copy of Jeff’s DVD so that I can share the simplicity of a healthy diet with those I care about. Thanks, Jeff!

  45. mrak1899 says:

    I would like to get a copy of your DVD as I find your material very informational AND entertaining :)

  46. nightingail2258 says:

    I just started a plant-based diet two weeks ago. I am looking for new recipes so I can have a variety of foods. I love to cook and would love to cook some healthy vegan dishes for my family.

    • DeAnne says:

      Check out Happy Herbivore’s website and books and check out Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book “Appetite for Reduction.”

      You can also make a lot of recipes oil-free just by sauteeing the onions/garlic in the beginning with water instead of oil. :)

  47. enmommy says:

    I would love to win a copy of the book. My family has been plant-based for about a year now, and I am trying to get my parents on board. I would read it and then give it to them:)

  48. I have started living and eating plant based and feel so much better! I am a senior nutrition manager at a senior activity center, and try to incorporate the knowledge I learn daily into our monthly newsletter. Our members have a varied list of health issues that I believe can be helped with their diet. It would be great to have a video to help me to show them how it works and how quick and easy it really is.

  49. Paulm says:

    What’s wrong with fruit? It has the same protein profile as mother’s milk – around 6%? Thank you

  50. Everyone on this thread definitely deserves to win a copy of this dvd ~ it’s fantastic & I hope one day ya’ll get to see it. Good luck! I was able to watch it at True North but unable to purchase. I look forward to having a copy one day. Thanks for all you do Jeff. :)

  51. Kristie Clark says:

    I love Jeff and all his videos! Thanks for all you do!

  52. veggiek says:

    I would love a copy because I work long hours and need some quick and nutritious recipes to help me with being plant strong!

  53. jeand says:

    I’ve been whole-foods, plant-based, no-oil since I saw Forks Over Knives in August, 2011. I’d love to learn some fast-food tricks. to appeal to my family. Thanks!

  54. zachbyoopser says:

    I don’t know what I am doing wrong. I went plant strong several months ago, via Engine2 diet and Forks over knives, and have yet to feel wonderful like everyone else! I am bloated, constipated, and have severe heartburn. ugh. I am committed to eating this way, but no weight loss, no invigorating energy…..I have been gluten/dairy free for five years, and have avoided most processed foods for that, so this isn’t a huge change, just no meat and eggs. I only drink water, and tons of it. But I feel miserable :(

  55. I am not the cook in our home and my husband spends an hour each night making meals for our Vegan family. He needs this book.

  56. Barb says:

    Would love to win Jeff’s Fast Food DVD to learn a good program for eating healthy nutritious food that is easy to prepare for my family.

  57. vegalissa says:

    I would love to win a copy of Fast Food because I have been so inspired by Jeff Novick’s tips and recipes.

  58. Rita Butler says:

    I have been vegan for about 4 years. Best decision I made. Cholesterol last tested…107. I need some of the quick recipes as I am so busy.

  59. Gina McLean says:

    My family recently started a whole foods plant based diets. We would love to get tips and would love your Fast Food DVD! Of course I have spread the word, just look at all my great post. haha!

  60. Perla says:

    Thanks for the article. I would love Jeff’s Fast Food recipes because I’m tired of cooking every night.

  61. You have some great fast and easy recipes which I’ve seen online. Would love to read your ideas and recipes in this book.

  62. jr says:

    Having tried a completely plant-based diet, I have had no choice but to go back to eating meat again. With severe digestive problems, I just couldn’t ever eat enough of a variety of foods without getting even sicker. I’m just wondering if you know of any professionals leading the charge in educating people about the benefits of a plant based diet who may be trying to work out ways that people with severe digestive problems can find ways to benefit from at least a mostly plant-based diet as well?

    • DeAnne says:

      They say to add in fiber gradually. Meat, dairy, and eggs have no fiber, so replacing them with plant-based foods is increasing your fiber drastically. Depending how much meat/dairy/eggs you ate previously and how little plant-based foods, you might have greatly increased your fiber intake. This can aggravate digestive problems until your digestive track gets used to it.

      They say to add in foods with less fiber first: example bananas, lettuce, lentils, instead of kale, berries, and beans. Beans you should add the slowest, is what I’ve heard. They take some time to get used to.

      I have even read if you’re really having a fiber problem, then to start with white grains over whole grains, and gradually mix them and gradually go to whole grains.

      I got these tips from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book “On Being Vegan.”

      Over time adding fiber into your diet can help your digestive issues and help regulate your digestion. But if you are sensitive to foods (as it sounds like you are), take it easy.

      What you describe sounds like de-tox symptoms and getting used to fiber. Your body needs time to adjust, and to start with plant-based foods that have less fiber first, might be a good start.

      Plus you might genuinely have allergies to one or more foods. For instance, I cannot digest corn. So I know that if I eat it, it won’t be digested and will cause stomach pain. Thus, I generally opt for something other than corn when given a choice.

      Good luck!

  63. mrak1899 says:


    What are the primary sources of protein in your diet (Legumes, Oats, Kale?) I am finding it difficult to reach 40 g of protein a day without bursting at the seam from eating kale salads. Would you recommend using a plant based protein powder?

  64. I am new to all plant based eating and I am loving it…my husband, on the other hand, is harder to “win” over. I would love to win a copy of your new book so that I have new foods to try to get him to put down the meat. :o) Thanks!

  65. Carol Schmoker says:

    Would love to win copy of “Fast Food” as I’m trying to prevent recurrence of Stage 4 colon cancer through going plant-based in my diet.

  66. Deb Hollimon says:

    Are the people who ask very valid questions being answered some way? Most replies are thank yous for rah rah comments. I am curious to see the answers to the serious questions.

    • Leslie says:


      • Celina says:

        I third this:
        I find it really concerning when I read people’s comments with genuine problems / concerns and see no moderator answer to them!!! Please answer so other people can see this!

  67. Leslie says:

    Over 30 days on plant strong diet via E2, FOK, and MacDougall. My cholesterol 30 days ago was better than it is today. Very sad and hoping for insight. We were pescatarian with dairy/eggs before switching to this plan. Here are my numbers

    April 1 2013
    TOTAL cholesterol 214
    LDL 143
    HDL 57
    Trig 69

    May 2 2013
    TOTAL cholesterol 217
    LDL 140
    HDL 51

    What in the world would cause this?

    Help! Don’t want to give up, but not seeing results!


    • Celina says:

      Did someone answer this???

      • Leslie says:

        No one answered me. Disappointing. I have re taken lipid panel today and will let you know. I do eat a bit of coconut at night frequently. My husband, has been on same plan and is less stringent than I. His LDL dropped 20 pts in a month. Only diff is that he juices and drinks 16 oz of homemade green juice daily. I have added this and will let you know. Be great if moderator gave some counsel!!

    • DeAnne says:

      I too find these to be confusing results, and I hope a moderator gets back to you on this.

      One idea might be this: what did you eat the days right before your 2nd test? Sometimes what you ate most recently can throw off cholesterol counts, for example coconut or coconut oil if you had eaten that right before hand, I think that can raise cholesterol.

      Make sure you are eating genuinely low fat: no added oils, no avocados, no coconut, no nut butters, peanut butter, or nuts. Try that for a month (hard! I know!). Then re-test. Maybe added oil / fats was what kept the cholesterol high?

      Just some ideas. I’d be interested to hear what the plant-strong nutritionalists say.

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