Minimum Standards for Health

Minimum Standards for Health

If you have read my articles and books in the past, you will see a common thread in all of my writings: Surpass the minimum standards in physical fitness testing if your profession (or life) is physically demanding. This mantra holds water with military, law enforcement, fire fighting and other public servants whose daily job requirements have physical challenges that may mean life or death.

I often get asked, "How much of this or that should I do or eat?" Here are a few of those answers according to many health professionals around the country. No matter if we are active or not, we all should strive to hit at least the minimum standards in areas below:

The standards below are gathered through research of a variety of organizations ranging from the Food and Drug Administration, the National Academies Newsletter to Harvard School of Medicine studies.

Daily Water Intake

Minimum standards for daily water intake are universally recognized and set at 2.5 - 3 liters per day (or approximately 85 - 101 fluid ounces). Personally, I like to push that a little higher if you are physically active and sweat during your average day. I round it up to a gallon a day minimum.

Exercise Sessions

Minimum standard for weekly exercise sessions per week is FOUR that last at least 30-45 minutes. This standard is a minimum requirement to decrease the chances of having diabetes as you age.

Daily Fruits / Vegetables

Minimum daily recommended standard for fruits and vegetables consumed is FIVE servings. If active, I recommend FIVE servings of both fruits and vegetables.

Body Mass Index

Maintain a BMI of less than 25. To determine BMI:

BMI = (

            Weight in Pounds              (Height in inches) x (Height in inches)

) x 703

This standard of measure is fairly controversial as it does not take into account a low body fat and above average muscle mass.  So a 200 lb man who is less than six feet tall with less than 7% body fat is considered overweight.

Minimum Protein Amount Per Day

The standard method used by nutritionists to estimate our minimum daily protein requirement is to multiply the body weight in kilograms by .8. (convert pounds to kilograms by dividing 2.2 into bodyweight in pounds) So using this formula, a 200-pound person should get 74 grams of protein a day. 

It has been recommended that endurance athletes weightlifters, and highly active people get more protein grams per day to assist with repairing of muscle tissue and increasing caloric intake to help maintain weight. Some estimates have been in the range of multiplying bodyweight in kilograms by 1.4 to 1.7 for daily protein recommendations thus increasing the range from 127gm to 154 gm protein per day. See a nutritionist if you decide to go higher than the recommended amounts as high protein amounts can leach calcium from bones and challenge the kidneys to work overtime. Of course, add more water to your diet as you add more protein too.

Daily Carbohydrates

There are many variables for carbohydrate intake depending on physical activity level and dietary goals:

- Weight loss goals and performing low intensity exercise: 100 grams per day - Weight training: 100 grams per day 2.5gr/set of exercise done - Moderate, longer duration activity: 2-2.5 grams/lb bodyweight of carbohydrates per day - High intensity / endurance sports: 3-4 grams/lb bodyweight of carbohydrates per day Daily Fat Grams

Calories from fat should not exceed thirty (30) percent of total daily caloric consumption. Calories from saturated fat should not exceed ten (10) percent. For optimal health, you should try to avoid as much saturated fat as possible by trimming fat off of meat, avoiding whole milk, butter, etc.

Salt Intake

Healthy 19-to 50 year-old adults should consume 1.5 grams (1500mg) of sodium and 2.3 grams of chloride each day - or 3.8 grams of salt - to replace the amount lost daily on average through perspiration and to achieve a diet that provides sufficient amounts of other essential nutrients. Canned vegetables, soups, and sodas are American\'s biggest contributor to sodium in out diets.

Striving for the minimums is not a bad thing if you are nowhere near the daily recommended amounts of water or nutrient intake or exercise sessions. These were several of the questions that readers have emailed me in the past so it is not a total and comprehensive study of what you need to do and eat to stay healthy.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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