How much protein do I really need daily?
Protein requirements vary slightly from individual to individual, but the average for adults is a minimum of about 4-5% protein calories of total calories per day, or 0.6g/kg body weight. This average minimum was created by scientists who measured people’s protein consumption and nitrogen balance and determined how much protein (as nitrogen) must be consumed to balance how much is routinely lost (the body is always replacing old protein).
Since minimum requirement is an average, that means half of adults needs more than that minimum, and half need less. In order to take into account the needs of people who require more than the average, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, is set at 0.8g/kg body weight, or around 8-10% of total calories.
The Dietary Reference Intakes are accessible online here:
If you are consuming at least that much, you are almost certainly getting more than what you need. What this means is that someone eating a diet of 2,000 calories per day would need no more than 200 calories to come from protein. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, and carbohydrate and protein both contain 4 calories per gram. 200 divided by 4 = 50 grams of protein per day.
Conveniently, eating a varied whole-food, plant-based diet will naturally provide approximately 10% of protein from total calories without any special effort. While 50 grams per day is a fine average, it is not necessary to do anything in particular to achieve this, as long as you are eating whole foods. There is no need to count grams of protein or count calories. In developed countries we have the privilege of access to fresh, good quality plant foods at all times of year it is easy to get enough calories and enough protein. As long as you are consuming adequate calories from a variety of whole plant foods, you will easily meet your protein requirement.