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Protein - How much do you need?

Protein - How much do you need?

The importance of pūmua (protein) by Dr Shehnaz Hussain

Pūmua is probably the most talked about macronutrient, but most of us don’t get enough in our diet! It is necessary for not only gaining and preserving muscle, but also in maintaining good hauora; aiding your immune system in creating antibodies (very important during these pandemic times) and maintaining good hair, nail and blood health. In general, it is required for growth and repair.

So how much pūmua do you need in your diet? That depends on your goals.

Based on nitrogen-balanced studies, the minimum recommended daily amount of protein is 0.8g/kg1. This is the minimum level required to prevent a protein deficiency.

Muscle and other cellular structures are dynamic, in that they are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. Now if you train or are relatively active, there are extra protein requirements since you are creating micro tears in your muscles that need to be rebuilt. Essentially, you need to be in a positive protein balance; consuming more protein than you break down.

If you predominantly do endurance training eg middle to long distance running, hiking, swimming and cycling the recommended daily intake of protein is 1.2-1.4g per kg of bodyweight per day 2.

If you predominantly do more power or strength training, such as weightlifting, powerlifting, CrossFit and resistance training then the recommended daily intake can range between 1.4-2.2g per kg of bodyweight per day 3. The exact amount of protein recommended is a highly debated topic in scientific literature, but I would recommend aiming for within that range!

Your training is only as good as your nutrition. If we don’t get enough pūmua in our diets to supplement our lifestyles, we will be in a catabolic state; which means you will be breaking down muscle instead of maintaining or gaining lean mass.  And you will therefore lose out on the benefits of all of your hard work! Protein intake is only one aspect of recovery, but a very important and often neglected one. So start today by incorporating more foods high in pūmua!

(Next I will discuss protein timing and the importance of quality of the protein we consume!)

Written by Dr Shehnaz Hussain

@shehnazzy_cooks @shehnazzy


  1. Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016;7(3):1251-1265. doi:10.1039/C5FO01530H
  2. Kato H, Suzuki K, Bannai M, Moore DR. Protein Requirements Are Elevated in Endurance Athletes after Exercise as Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Method. PLoS One. 2016;11(6):e0157406. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0157406
  3. Bosse JD, Dixon BM. Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2012;9(1):42. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-42
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