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Every part of your body contains protein, from your skin and hair to your muscles. Not only does protein supply your body with energy, it helps regulate and repair your cells. While most American adults with well-balanced diets consume a sufficient amount of protein, those who are looking to increase their muscle mass and strength may need protein supplements. Are You Getting Enough Protein in Your Diet?

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is roughly 0.4 grams (g) of protein per pound, says Leslie J. Bonci, RDN, owner of Active Eating Advice, a nutrition consulting company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Endurance athletes or those with active lifestyles will need 0.5 to 0.6 g of protein per pound, while those looking to increase their muscle mass may need up to 0.5 or 0.8 g of protein per pound. In general, the average recommended amount of protein for a sedentary man is 56 g per day, while the recommended amount for a sedentary woman is 46 g per day.

Protein powder is a convenient way to help boost protein intake. But what exactly is protein powder? Protein powder, or protein isolate, is a man-made mixture of protein fortified with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. The flavored versions can be consumed as a shake or added to peanut butter, oatmeal, pudding, muffins, or even pancake mix. A protein shake works well as a quick and easy breakfast when you don’t have time to cook, and it can help round out a well-balanced diet. While protein shakes won’t take the place of whole foods like meat and fish, they can be an acceptable alternative on occasion, says Bonci.

“It’s important to remember that whole foods contain protein and there is no need to exceed daily requirements,” says Bonci. “Look for a protein powder that has around 20 to 25 grams of protein per serving, and factor that protein into your total protein intake for the day.”

Also, pay special attention to whether the product has complete or incomplete protein, as incomplete protein may need to be combined or supplemented. Protein is considered complete when it contains all the essential amino acids, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Animal products like poultry, fish, beef, pork, eggs and dairy are all considered complete protein sources. Most vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans are considered incomplete protein sources and must be combined to become complete. For example, beans on their own are not considered a complete protein, but when they’re combined with rice, they becomes complete. A Word of Caution About the Risks of Using Protein Powder

Be sure to keep in mind the FDA doesn’t regulate protein powders. To ensure you’re picking a responsible protein powder, Bonci recommends looking for a third-party certification, such as NSF Certified for Sport, on the label. If a product doesn’t have a seal, look at the ingredients to make sure you’re not consuming more than your RDA for protein. Too much protein can put a strain on your organs and lead to excessive weight gain over time.

All products and services featured here are selected by Everyday Health’s commerce team and chosen for their potential to inspire and enable your wellness. Everyday Health may earn an affiliate commission on items you purchase. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder