Growing up I didn’t try to figure out how much protein to eat, neither did my parents. My mother would place food on the table and we all served ourselves. I ate the amount I wanted. Was it enough? Since some of my bones didn’t develop properly, I doubt it.

As I grew older, I continued what I did as a child, eating the amount of protein I desired. This changed when I came across various opinions of how much protein you needed. Now I was confused, and the amount of protein I ate changed as I explored these opinions.

In 1997, I read a book on the Zone Diet written by Barry Sears. At the time, he recommended getting 40% of your calories from carbohydrates, 30% from fat, and 30% from protein. I followed this plan for several years, then quit because the amount of work required was exhausting. However, I continued including some protein and fat in every meal.

A few years ago, I came across “The Paradox of Osteoporosis Irreversibility” in the Creighton University School of Medicine’s blog. It was written by Robert P. Heaney MD, a professor at the university. He wrote that when the body needs calcium, it breaks down microscopic pieces of bone and extracts the calcium. The result is pores, tiny holes, in the bones. Consuming calcium can prevent more bone from being lost, but without enough protein the body can’t rebuild lost bone.

According to Dr. Heaney, bone is 50 percent protein by volume. He estimates that to build bone the body needs calcium and at least 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The calculation is daunting if you’re not on the metric system. To simplify, all you need to do is multiply your body weight in pounds by 0.54. If you weigh 100 pounds, the formula would be 100 x 0.54 or 54 grams of protein a day.

I now follow Dr. Heaney’s advice and eat 1.2 grams of protein for each kilogram of my ideal body weight. To get this amount of protein I eat meat, fish, shellfish, and eggs. I also add collagen (a form of protein).


For more information:
Osteoporosis Research Center, Creighton University, Omaha, NE
blog post: The Paradox of Osteoporosis Irreversibility
Note: The Creighton University website is currently not available.