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What is protein and how much should i eat?

What is Protein?

Protein, from the view of chemist, they are composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Protein is one of the macronutrient (along with carbohydrate and fat) needed by your body to function properly. Many foods contain protein, found in both animal and plant foods.

Protein is then broken down to amino acids by the body. Our body utilizes protein in the form of amino acid. There are 21 different types of amino acid and will be combined and form different sequence to perform specific functions. Amino acid can be classified into essential amino acid and non-essential amino acid. Nonessential amino acids can be made by the body, while essential amino acids cannot be made by the body so you must get nine of the amino acids our body needs from our food.

Most animal products such as meat, poultry and seafood are complete proteins (have all the nine essential amino acids) but so are certain plant sources such as quinoa. Most proteins from plant sources are incomplete proteins and contain smaller amounts of proteins than animal sources. . However, legumes are an exception: peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas, lima beans, soybeans and peanuts have large amounts of proteins in their seeds. Although proteins from legumes are not equal in quality with animal proteins, they can be an adequate substitute if they are eaten in combination with other foods.



Functions of Protein

  • Repair and Maintenance in body tissue

  • Structural component of the body (eg: muscles , body tissues)

  • Source of energy

  • Hormones. Protein is involved in the creation of some hormones....

  • Enzymes

  • Antibodies

  • Transportation and Storage of Molecules

  • Acid base regulator (Protein buffer system )



How much protein should I eat ?

Protein Requirement according to different Age group

According to Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia 2017



  Protein (g/d)


 0 – 5 months


 6 – 11 months



 1 – 3 years


 4 – 6 years


 7 – 9 years



 10 – 12 years

 30 (B) ; 31 (G)

 13 – 15 years

 45 (B) ; 42 (G)

 16 – 18 years

 51 (B) ; 42 (G)


 19 – 29 years

 62 (B) ; 53 (G)

 30 – 59 years

 61 (B) ; 52(G)

 >60 years

 58 (B) ; 50 (G)

 *(B) Boy ;   (G) Girl

Otherwise, as a rough guide, the normal recommended protein intake for normal healthy adult is calculated based on per kg of bodyweight that is 0.8-1.0 g/kgBW.

The above recommendation is for healthy population.

Protein requirement will increase depending on individual situation such as clinical factor like surgery, burns, disease. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers need more too.

Let’s try to calculate yourself how much protein you need to eat in a day!!!

Example: Alice is a healthy adult. She is 50kg , How much protein she should take in a day?


  • Since the recommended protein intake for normal healthy adult (RNI 2017) is 0.8- 1.0 g/kg body weight.

  • Multiply Alice’s weight with the requirement 0.8g protein & 1.0 g protein.

           50 kg x 0.8g protein = 40g

           50 kg x 1.0g protein = 50g

  • Therefore Alice recommended protein intake is 40g-50 g protein / day.

You may refer to the picture to see how much is 1 serving of protein & how many grams of protein in it.


Sources of Protein Food

  • Lean meat, poultry, fish and seafood

  • Eggs

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)

  • Seeds and nuts

  • Legumes

  • Soy products including tofu


1) RNI Malaysia 2017


Written By Certified dietitian

Fung Jin Yee, Bachelor of Dietetics(Hons) (UniSZA) & JL, Bachelor of Dietetics(Hons) (UKM)