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Quiz: Myths and Facts About Protein

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Men need more protein than women.

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Men need more protein than women.

  • Your Answer:
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Your body's protein needs depend on your gender, body weight, age, physical activity level, and other factors.  All other things being equal, men need more protein than women.  According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily allowance for an average adult man is 56 grams per day. Adult women need 46 grams, teenage boys 52, and infants 10.

 

For example, a typical day of protein intake of 50 grams would include:  Chicken, 3 ounces, 21 grams; two large eggs, 13 grams; 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 8 grams; and 8 ounces of yogurt, 8 grams.

 

More specific recommendations, based on body weight, call for adults to get  about 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight.

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What percentage of your daily calories should come from protein?

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What percentage of your daily calories should come from protein?

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  • Correct Answer:

In general, it's recommended that 10% to 35% of your daily calories come from protein.  Most Americans fall well within that range, getting about 12%-18% of their calories as protein.

Athletes need more protein than non-athletes.

Athletes need more protein than non-athletes.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

To some degree, your level of physical activity influences the amount of protein your body needs.  Recent research suggests athletes may need more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or about 0.4 grams per pound) per day.  Athletes may need slightly more than that -- about 1 to 2 grams per kilogram per day to repair and rebuild their muscles.

Which of the following has more protein?

Which of the following has more protein?

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All of the above are good sources of protein, but beef and other meats tend to be particularly protein-packed.  However, animal-based proteins also tend to be high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol and heart disease. When choosing red meats as a source of protein, stick with the leanest cuts and chose moderate sizes.  Processed red meats in particular have been linked to a higher risk of colon cancer.  Most experts recommend limiting your intake of red meat to 18 ounces weekly and avoiding processed meats.

Why do we need protein?

Why do we need protein?

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Protein is an essential part of every cell of your body, comprising about 15% of your body weight.  It has a wide variety of uses and functions, including providing energy, helping to build the structural skeleton of cells, moving molecules from one place to another, breaking down toxins, and repairing bones and muscles.

A high-protein diet can help you lose weight.

A high-protein diet can help you lose weight.

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High-protein diets are not a magic bullet for weight loss.  But studies have shown that diets that substitute protein for carbohydrates may help people lose weight.  High-protein foods move more slowly through the digestive system, helping you to feel full for a longer period of time after a meal.  And your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does digesting carbs.  Also, protein can help you avoid peaks and valleys of hunger by keeping your blood sugar levels relatively steady.

 

However, experts caution that more research is needed.  The long-term effects of a high-protein, low-carb diet are unknown.

It can be unhealthy to eat too much protein.

It can be unhealthy to eat too much protein.

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  • Correct Answer:

Most of the time, eating more protein than you need is not a problem.  But if you eat too much protein, you're taking in unnecessary calories, which can lead to weight gain.  And if the protein is from meat or other animal sources, it might be high in saturated fat, which can lead to high cholesterol levels and heart disease.

 

Too much protein can also cause problems for people with specific medical conditions, such as kidney disease or diabetes.

A protein is said to be "complete" if it includes:

A protein is said to be "complete" if it includes:

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Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.  There are about 20 different amino acids, and your body needs all of them, but it can only make some -- others have to come from your diet.  These are known as "essential" amino acids because it's "essential" that they come from your diet.  A "complete" protein includes all nine essential amino acids.  Animal-based foods (eggs, cheese, meat) tend to have complete proteins.

 

"Incomplete" protein sources are low in one or more of the essential amino acids. Beans and tofu are considered good sources of protein but are incomplete protein sources since they contain lower amounts of some essential amino acids.

Women should avoid soy protein.

Women should avoid soy protein.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

There have been some concerns about whether the presence in soy of isoflavones, a plant-made estrogen or "phytoestrogen," should cause women to be wary of soy.  But experts say that as part of a balanced diet, soy protein can make a good low-fat alternative to high-fat, animal-based proteins for both women and men.

 

Many other health claims about soy suggest an inconclusive mix of benefits and risks.  The key, as in so many things, is moderation.  The Harvard University School of Public Health recommends keeping it between two to four servings per week.

 

Soy comes from the soybean and can be found in soy milk, tempeh, edamame, and tofu. Whole soy provides all the essential amino acids, just like protein from animal sources. It is also used as a meat substitute in some vegetarian dishes.

Our bodies are good at storing protein to use later.

Our bodies are good at storing protein to use later.

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The human body does not store proteins the way that it stores carbohydrates and fats.  For this reason, and because the body is continuously breaking down and replacing proteins, you need a steady supply of protein every day.

You can help your body build muscle by consuming protein soon after a workout.

You can help your body build muscle by consuming protein soon after a workout.

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Protein is an important building block of muscles and can help repair them after a workout.  Multiple studies show that consuming high-protein foods or beverages soon after exercise helps build and restore muscle.

 

However, protein is only part of the equation. While protein provides amino acids for muscle growth and recovery, the most important nutrient for muscle strengthening is carbohydrates.

Though a good source of protein, whey protein is high in fat.

Though a good source of protein, whey protein is high in fat.

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Whey protein is popular in part because it’s low in fat.  A by-product of cheese production, whey contains proteins that are highly digestible and relatively complete.  Some studies suggest whey protein may also have antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, although more research is needed.

Which of the following are in the USDA’s MyPlate protein food group?

Which of the following are in the USDA’s MyPlate protein food group?

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The USDA’s MyPlate program includes as protein all foods from meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Beans and peas are also part of the vegetable group.

Most Americans do not eat enough protein.

Most Americans do not eat enough protein.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Most Americans get all the protein they need from their diet.  In fact, most Americans get more than enough.  Groups that may not get enough protein include vegetarians -- especially vegans -- because plant-based proteins can have low amounts of some essential amino acids.  Older adults may also need to make sure they get enough protein, because it becomes particularly crucial, and more difficult, to maintain muscle as we get older.

It's possible to get complete protein by combining two or more incomplete sources.

It's possible to get complete protein by combining two or more incomplete sources.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Incomplete proteins are low in one or more essential amino acids, but they can still be important sources of protein, especially if you combine proteins that are "complementary" (that is, when eaten together, they supply all nine essential amino acids).  Rice and beans, and peanut butter and whole wheat bread, are examples.  Strict vegetarians should pay special attention to which protein combinations are complementary.

 

It was once thought that you had to eat complementary proteins as part of the same meal for your body to process them as a complete protein.  More recent research suggests you only need to eat them on the same day.

Which of the following could be a sign you're not getting enough protein?

Which of the following could be a sign you're not getting enough protein?

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Most people don't need to worry about eating enough protein.  However, strict vegetarians and older people in particular should be careful to monitor themselves for warning signs of protein deficiency.  These include recent weight loss, muscle fatigue, and a decline in muscle strength.

A high-protein diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

A high-protein diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

  • Your Answer:
  • Correct Answer:

Most Americans get about 12% to 18% of their calories from protein, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health. Increasing that to about 20% to 25% can reduce your risk of heart disease as long as you're substituting protein for refined carbohydrates.

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