Men's Health

What Men Need to Know About Protein


Everyone knows that protein is essential to good health. But there’s more uncertainty when it comes to exactly how much the average man need to stay healthy.

The answer is more complicated than it might seem, according to the October 2015 issue of Harvard Men's Health Watch. Most Americans get about 15% of their calories from protein — well within the recommended daily requirements. But, the Health Watch says, preliminary research suggests that eating more protein — perhaps as much as 25% of daily calories or more — could help people maintain a healthy weight or preserve muscle mass and strength with aging.

However, anyone deciding to boost daily protein should also consider its impact on his or her whole diet, cautions a Harvard expert.

“If you are not eating much fish and you want to increase protein intake — yes, eating more fish might improve the overall nutrient profile and would subsequently improve your health,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “But I think the evidence is pretty strong against significantly increasing red meat, and certainly processed meat, to get protein.”

It also pays to remember that healthy diets are based on healthy foods, and some of those foods should contain protein. It’s easy for men to get the message that “protein” equals “meat,” but there are other foods you can and should eat that contain this key nutrient. According to a news release from the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, here are some suggestions to guide your choices:

Choose protein sources low in saturated fat, and avoid highly processed carbohydrates.

Protein powders and shakes provide amino acids, the "building blocks" of protein, but offer limited nutritional value. Ready-to-drink shakes may also contain added sugar and other caloric sweeteners, so make sure to read the nutrition label, the Harvard news release said.

Unless you are a bodybuilder, you don’t really need an extra boost of protein before a strength-training workout. The current protein intake of the average American male (15% of daily calories), combined with regular exercise, is sufficient to maintain muscle.

For more information on male health issues, subscrube to The Harvard Men's Health Watch. It is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $20 per year. Subscribe at  or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).