How Much Protein Does A 14-Year Old Need?

Protein is quite the buzz word with protein bars, protein shakes, protein pancakes and even high protein diets. These protein labels often come with some great sounding health claims. It may seem as though everything and everybody is pushing you to eat more protein. Protein performs an important role in both a healthy diet and healthy body, but is it worth all the hype? And, how do you know if you are eating enough protein to access all the benefits? The following article will answer these questions and more to help a 14-year old understand how protein can be part of a healthy meal pattern and lifestyle.

A 14-year old should eat at least 0.45-0.6 grams of protein for every pound of body weight or around 0.85 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 112 pound 14-year old would want to consume 44 grams (g) to meet the recommendations. In order to consume protein as part of an overall balanced eating pattern, 14-year olds will want to make 10-30% of their calories protein with 20-35% fat and 45-65% carbohydrate.

Keep reading for all the best protein tips for a 14-year old.

Why Is Protein Important?

Every cell in the body requires protein. This means protein in the diet is essential to body growth, maintenance and repair. Protein also works as an enzyme, which assists with digestion, energy, movement and more. Protein doesn’t stop with just those roles, but is also involved in body communication, creation of energy, nutrient transportation and immune health. As part of meals and snacks, protein adds a satiety factor and stabilizes blood sugar.

In speaking about protein, one will hear talk of complete and incomplete protein. These labels refer to whether a protein contains all nine essential amino acids, or not. Individual amino acids are linked together to form a protein. Nine of these amino acids cannot be made by the body and need to come from the diet. Thus, a protein food that contains all these nine amino acids is considered a complete protein.

Most plant based protein sources are incomplete protein, but teens can still receive all the amino acids they need from a varied diet. Various foods will offer different amino acids and together will meet the body’s protein needs.

In light of these functions and benefits, teens will want to ensure appropriate intake of this macronutrient. Inadequate protein from the diet results in serious and lasting health consequences. 

Good Protein Sources For A 14-Year Old

Many foods contain the macronutrient protein in differing amounts. The body readily absorbs and uses protein from meat, but not as well from plant sources. However, meat is often higher in saturated fat and high intake of red and processed meats are linked to an increased risk for disease. On the other hand, plant foods contain fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients that promote health. Eating a variety of protein sources is the key to utilizing the benefits of both meat and plant foods.

The following list details several high quality protein sources 14-year olds can use to meet their needs:

  1. Poultry

These types of meat (chicken, turkey) tend to be lower in saturated fats than others, and contain a good amount of easy to absorb, complete protein. A 3 oz serving, about the size of a deck of cards, contains about 24g protein.

2. Seafood

Along with great quality protein, most seafood comes with heart healthy fats, such as omega-3. These healthy fats fight inflammation and boost cognitive health. A 3 oz serving of salmon will give close to 20g protein.

3. Beans and Legumes

Beans are a health boosting powerhouse of protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants. These nutrients and components fight off disease and improve overall well-being. One cup of black beans provides around 15g protein.

4. Nuts

Nuts boast of a variety of health benefits such as supporting a healthy weight, improving heart health, decreasing inflammation and risk of certain chronic diseases. One fourth cup almonds will give about 7g protein. While technically a legume, but often classified as a nut, peanut butter gives 4g protein in just one tablespoon.

5. Eggs

Eggs are an easy, nutrient dense protein source. Among other important vitamins and minerals, they also contain the often unknown mineral, Choline, which is important to brain health. One egg packs in 7g protein.

6. Soy beans

Most plant based protein sources are considered incomplete due to not having all nine amino acids that the body needs. However, soy beans are one of the few plant based protein sources to provide all of these nine essential amino acids. On top of this benefit, soybeans can help lower cholesterol and decrease risk of breast cancer and type two diabetes. One cup soybeans has about 30g protein.

7. Tofu

Derived from soybeans, tofu makes an excellent plant based meat substitute as it can easily take on the flavors of any dish. This complete protein contributes many minerals important to bone health. A half cup tofu gives around 10g protein.

8. Cottage Cheese

This often overlooked protein food packs in a lot of protein with 28g protein in one cup. This muscle building protein also helps with maintaining a healthy weight, good skeletal health and provides Selenium, a powerful antioxidant.

9. Yogurt

Probiotics found in yogurt will boost gut health, which is essential to long lasting health. Yogurt also contains important nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. One cup yogurt will give almost 9-12g or more depending on the type. Greek yogurt will double that protein amount.

10. Cheese

Hard or soft, cheese adds a delicious flavor to most foods. Known to support skeletal health, some cheeses also contains conjugated linolic acid which may reduce risk for obesity, heart disease and inflammation. One ounce of cheese provides about 7g protein. 

How Much Protein Is Too Much For A 14-Year Old?

Despite all that protein can do for the body, consuming it in excess can lead to negative consequences. Primarily too much protein can replace foods with other important nutrients. A teen should avoid eating less or more than 10-30% of their diet as protein. The following are signs a 14-year old may be eating too much protein.

  • Gut distress 
  • Dehydration 
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

Teenagers should avoid consuming more than 2g protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 pound teenager that equals 136 grams of protein per day.

How Often Should A Teenager Eat Protein?

The body uses protein for many incredible functions and structures. However, the body can only use a certain amount of protein at one time. The extra protein gets dismantled and is essentially “wasted”. The body will store any excess protein and calories as fat tissue for energy storage.

This principle explains why a teenager should consume protein with each meal and snack rather than a massive amount all at once. Usually 15-30g of protein at one time allows for the best use of protein by the body. This amount of protein can easily be obtained in a 3 oz serving of meat or a bean and cheese burrito.

Can 14-Year Olds Take Protein Powder?

A 14-year old can easily obtain adequate protein from a balanced diet without the need for expensive protein powders or supplements. Protein powders are considered a supplement, which are not well regulated. They may contain contaminants or inaccurate amounts of ingredients. These inaccuracies and contaminants can cause harm to a growing teenager. 

If teenagers choose to use a protein supplement, they should look for a third party tested supplement (NSF, UL, USP, CL). These labels means the supplements are tested for accuracy and purity. Teens will also want to continue to include food protein sources in order to meet all nutrient needs.

What Should A 14-year Old Eat To Gain Muscle?

Protein does not build muscle on its own. Muscle growth comes from a variety of factors including hormones, physical activity, sleep and eating a balanced meal pattern with adequate nutrients, such as protein. 

Generally a teen looking to build muscle should shoot for a higher amount of protein of around 1.6g per kg of body weight. For example, a teen weighing 150 lbs would want to eat about 109g protein. This protein should mainly come from food, not supplements.

Along with this increase in protein, a teen needs to participate in resistant type physical activity. This exercise creates tears in the muscle fibers. The body will then use protein to repair and build stronger muscle. This muscle synthesis occurs during recovery periods, especially during sleep.

Protein is not the only important nutrient in muscle building. Along with protein throughout the day, a teen should also consume adequate carbohydrate. Carbohydrates provide energy for the exercise and stimulate the release of insulin, which improves the uptake of protein into muscle.

Generally speaking, a teenager will not see much muscle building until puberty as testosterone is a necessary muscle building hormone. After puberty, males produce more testosterone than females, which is why a male can expect to see easier muscle synthesis.

Should Teenage Girls Eat A Lot Of Protein?

Teenage girls need protein to grow, develop and function well just like boys. Similarly, girls should strive to meet the recommended .85g of protein per kilogram of body weight or 10-30% of their calories.

In other words, teenage girls need around 4-6½ ounce-equivalents of protein foods each day. Teen boys need about 5-7 ounces of protein foods each day. One ounce equivalents equal 1 oz meat, 1/4 cup beans, 1 egg, 1 Tablespoon nut butter.

Female teen athletes need more calories and protein. They should find what calorie intake helps them feel energized and consume protein within the 10-30% recommended range. More individualized information can be found at

Katherine Harmer, RDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a love for coaching others to success in their health goals, especially teenage athletes. Tennis was my sport of choice in high school. Now I'm a little bit older, a little bit smarter, and a little bit worse at tennis.

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