Protein Requirements

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Protein Requirements 

Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Every cell in the organs of our body are made of basic structural proteins called amino acids. The body needs protein for growth, maintenance and energy.

They are nine essential amino acids, which must be supplied by dietary intake, as our body lacks the ability to synthesize them.

Essential amino acids include:

  • Histidine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

What kinds of food are high in protein? 

Foods with high protein are easily available in our day-to-day diet.

Below is a list of foods that contain high protein.

  • Dairy products such as milk and yoghurt
  • Soybean product
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Lean beef/pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Wheat germ
  • Quinoa

How much protein do you need? 

In a healthy, balanced diet, about 10-20% of total daily calories should come from protein.

The reference daily intake (RDI) is 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight for an average adult with a sedentary lifestyle.


Under what circumstances do I need high protein diet? 

A high protein diet is a protein intake of approximately 1-2 gram/kg/day. Pregnant and breastfeeding woman generally will require a higher protein intake, as proteins are the building blocks for a baby’s body.

As one loses lean body masses during acute illness, it is advocated to have a high protein diet during the convalescent period to replenish lean body mass. Other circumstances where high protein diet is required are patients who are on regular dialysis and athletes (e.g, bodybuilders). Protein supplements are available in the hospital pharmacy or health food & supplement stores.

Under what circumstances do I need to be careful with protein intake? 

Patients who have end-stage kidney disease and who are not on dialysis are advised to have a lower protein intake (not more than 0.8g/kg/day). In these patients, the kidneys have difficulty in excreting the byproducts of protein metabolism. Patients who have frequent gout attacks may need to limit beans, seafood and lean meat from their usual diet, as these are associated with a high purine diet that may potentially precipitate a gout attack. Gout patients should try to supplement their protein with dairy products such as milk or yoghurt.


Take home messages:

  • A balanced protein intake is important for growth, maintenance and energy.
  • Protein requirements can vary according to age and medical condition.
  • Consult your doctor or dietician before embarking on a high or low protein diet.