How to Calculate and Track Protein Intake

by Shelby Burns, MS, RDN/LDN

If you track your protein intake but wonder whether you should be tallying the protein ounces, grams of food, or grams of protein in the food, you are not alone. Ounces and grams are both measurements of weight, which makes understanding protein content versus food weight confusing! Let’s dig in.

An 8-ounce chicken breast is equal to 224 grams because there are about 28 (weight) grams in one ounce. But that doesn’t mean the chicken breast contains 227 grams of protein; rather, it contains 56 grams of protein. That’s because there is a difference between the weight of the protein-rich food and the amount of protein it contains.

Gram weight for a serving of food refers to the weight of everything in that serving. Most foods that contain protein also contain other nutritional elements, primarily fat and water, which account for the additional weight. This is why there is a difference between how much a food weighs in grams versus how many grams of protein the food contains.

For Example:

  • By weight, 130 grams (4.6 ounces) of salmon contains about 30 grams of protein.
  • By weight, 142 grams (5 ounces) of strip sirloin steak contains about 35 grams of protein.

For poultry, red meat, and fish you can use this simple equation to determine protein content:

1 ounce (28g) of cooked meat = about 7 grams of protein

Therefore, 4 ounces (about 113g) of cooked, skinless chicken breast contains 28 grams of protein.

The nutrition facts on raw meat typically list the data for raw meat only, not cooked. If you weigh food after it’s cooked, you can use the equation above, 7 grams of protein per ounce (28g), to calculate the protein in cooked poultry, red meat, or fish. Because the protein in 8 ounces of raw chicken is not the same as the protein in 6 ounces of cooked chicken, do not use the above formula for raw proteins. If you want to find the protein content of the raw product, refer to the nutrition label on the package. For non-meat proteins, refer to the table below, as the protein content can vary substantially.

Protein-Dense Foods

The table above illustrates how protein content differs greatly depending on the food source. It also shows that protein comes from plant and animal sources, and you can meet your protein needs with either or both.

Ixcela provides personalized protein intake recommendations because protein is crucial for supporting muscles, organs, the nervous system, and skin. Protein also provides our bodies with amino acids, such as tryptophan, which are necessary for producing important neurotransmitters that affect mood, behavior, memory, and learning. Consuming adequate protein comes with a bonus: Because it takes longer to digest a protein-rich meal, you are likely to feel fuller and stay satisfied, which can help you manage your weight!

About the Author

Photo: Shelby Burns, MS, RD/LDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Shelby Burns has been in the fitness and nutrition industries for more than ten years. Shelby, who has personally struggled with gut issues, believes that exceptional wellness starts from within. Her passion for helping people prioritize their health shines through as she assists Ixcela clients in making diet and lifestyle shifts that result in renewed energy, better sleep, and improved digestion. 

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Interested in learning more about Ixcela? Check out Ixcela’s test, to receive personalized nutrition, supplement, mindfulness, and fitness fitness recommendations based on the metabolites we test to improve energy, GI health, mood, and overall wellbeing.