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How Much Protein Do I Need? continued...

Ideally, you should consume 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, according to recommended daily allowances (RDA) set by the Food and Nutrition Board. So if you weigh 170 pounds, you need about 61 grams of protein each day.

Protein should also make up approximately 15% of your total daily caloric intake, also according to the RDA. In a diet of 1,800 calories a day, for example, about 270 of those calories should come from protein.

It's Essential

Although limiting protein intake is important, you should also realize that protein is essential to our bodies' normal functions. It assists in synthesizing enzymes and hormones, maintaining fluid balance, and regulating such vital functions as building antibodies against infection, blood clotting, and scar formation.

Protein is also a building block for our muscles, bones, cartilage, skin, hair, and blood. Protein-rich foods include meat, cheese, milk, fish, and eggs. For vegetarians, protein can be found in soy products such as tofu as well as in combinations of foods, such as rice or corn with beans.

Whether you are an avid strength trainer, a marathon runner, or just an average exerciser, a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and complex carbohydrates is what nutritionists recommend.

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