Optimizing Protein Intake in Adults: Interpretation and Application of the Recommended Dietary Allowance Compared with the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range

Adv Nutr. 2017 Mar 15;8(2):266-275. doi: 10.3945/an.116.013821. Print 2017 Mar.


The adult RDA is defined as the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy people. The RDA for protein for adults ≥18 y of age (0.8 g/kg) has been essentially unchanged for >70 y. In practice, the RDA for protein was derived to estimate the minimum amount of protein that must be eaten to avoid a loss of body nitrogen. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) (10-35% of calories as protein) was developed to express dietary recommendations in the context of a complete diet. It is noteworthy that the lowest level of protein intake reflected in the AMDR is higher than that of the RDA. Furthermore, recent studies, particularly in older individuals, suggest specific health benefits at levels of protein intake that significantly exceed the RDA. Translation of protein intake recommendations for the general adult population into dietary guidance for individuals requires an understanding of the derivation and intended use of both the protein RDA and AMDR. The following discussion will describe limitations to the derivation and practical application of the RDA compared with the use of the AMDR to help maximize health benefits associated with higher protein intake by using flexible calories inherent in different dietary patterns.

Keywords: AMDR; RDA; dietary pattern; nitrogen balance; protein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances*


  • Dietary Proteins