This question is one of many concerning the difference in nutritional needs between men and women that has persisted throughout the ages. The short answer is yes (in most cases), men do need more protein than women. But why?
A person’s protein need is generally based on two factors: body size and activity level. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends a daily allowance of 56 grams of protein for men and 46 for women, (if breastfeeding or pregnant, the amount jumps to 71 grams per day).
However, it is easy to refine the recommended estimated amount by individual based on the formula of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. If weight is in pounds, divide it by 2.2 to convert to kilograms. So a person weighing 150 pounds would need approximately 54 grams of protein per day. That falls in-between the RDA of the amount listed above.
One of the factors affecting the amount of protein needed each day is activity level. For athlete or those with a high daily activity level, the need increases – up to as high as 2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight. The additional protein due to an increased activity level keeps the body from using lean muscle mass. In the case of a 150-pound individual training for an athletic event, such as an ironman, they would need around 136 grams of protein each day. The additional protein is used for fuel instead of using lean muscle mass.
Not All Protein is Created Equal
It is true, there is a difference where you get protein from. Animal protein is known as a “complete” protein because it contains all of the essential amino acids. Plant protein generally does not, with some exceptions, so vegans and some vegetarians have to ensure they are getting a good mix of plant-based proteins to get all of the essential amino acids or resort to taking protein supplements.
The Dangers of Too Much Protein
One would think that if some protein is good, more is better, but that is not the case. Too much protein can lead to a number of medical issues including osteoporosis. Excess protein is excreted out of the body with urine, but it takes calcium with it, so it is easy to become calcium deficient.
Also, if a lot of protein is coming from red meat, saturated fat can be a problem, leading to cardiovascular issues and obesity. However, staying within the RDA requirements or calculations based on body weight and activity level, will prevent getting too much protein.
While men generally need more protein than women, the difference in most cases is not great. Factors such as athletic training, breastfeeding or pregnancy can increase a women’s requirement higher than what is it for a more sedentary man.
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