Protein requirements have been the subject of debate for decades now. Because of all the conflicting opinions, many still don’t know how much protein they really need to support their training goals.
In this article, you’ll get a science-based answer to the common question ”How much protein do I need to eat per day?”. So, if you’re tired of all the guesswork, I encourage you to read on.
What Is Protein, Actually?
Your muscles are made of the molecule, protein, in this case, also known as “muscle proteins.” These muscle proteins are made up of something that probably sounds familiar: amino acids.
You need a great variety of amino acids to build muscle proteins. Your body produces some of these amino acids but not all of them. The amino acids that your body cannot synthesize need to be consumed through your diet and are known as “essential amino acids.” There are 9 essential amino acids:
5. Phenylalanine 6. Threonine
These essential amino acids are also found in your everyday protein sources, like chicken and eggs.
Amino acids are used to build muscle proteins (through muscle protein synthesis). So, if you do not consume enough essential amino acids, your body’s ability to build muscle proteins is limited.
That’s the main reason research shows a low-protein diet simply builds less muscle than a high-protein diet.
So, consuming enough protein is definitely important.
How Much Protein Is Enough?
Just because sufficient protein is important, doesn’t mean that you need to stuff yourself with it. Your favorite 250lb. bodybuilder may eat 300 grams of protein a day and builds massive amounts of muscle, but as a natural trainee, you won’t get similar results by simply mimicking his protein intake.
The FDA recommends a minimum daily protein intake of 0.8g/kg (0.36/lb). This recommendation is for the “average Joe” who doesn’t lift weights and is mostly sedentary.
Considering you’re reading this article, you are no average Joe. You train and want to build muscle and burn fat. The FDA’s recommendation does not take your training goals into account, this is recognized in science. Research shows that active individuals need a higher protein intake than the general population.
Typically, we’ve been told to maintain a protein intake of 1 gram per lb. (2.2g/kg) of body weight. If we take a look at different studies that investigate the protein needs of athletes, we see that this recommendation isn’t very off, but it seems to be a bit on the high side for most people.
On July 2017, a large meta-analysis came out that gathered the data of all relevant protein studies to provide evidence-based protein intake recommendations. The researchers found that a protein intake as low as 0.7g/lb. (1.6g/kg) of total body weight is sufficient for maximizing muscle growth.
Now, this is all research on trainees when they are in a non-dieting state. When in a caloric deficit, protein requirements may increase due to an increase in protein breakdown. So as a safety net, going a bit higher in protein, say around 1g/lb. of body weight, can’t hurt.
So, based on the currently available scientific data, having a protein intake in the range of 0.7-1g/lb. (1.6-2.2g/kg) will ensure that you are consuming sufficient protein in a day.
How About If I Want To Eat More?
Contrary to commonly voiced concern, high-protein diets are not detrimental to your health.
A 2016 study led by Dr. José Antonio made 14 healthy resistance-trained men maintain a very high protein intake of 1.1-1.5 grams per lb. of body weight for 12 months. No negative health effects were found.
Plenty of other studies, including literature reviews, have also shown that a relatively high-protein intake does not harm overall healthy individuals. So, unless someone has pre-existing health issues, there’s no need to fear a high-protein intake if it’s part of an overall nutritious diet.
Therefore, eating more than the recommended daily protein intake for optimal muscle growth is not necessarily a bad thing if it helps you stay more consistent with your diet.
That’s it regarding protein intake. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
Also, if you’re planning on doing a fat loss phase soon, I highly recommend you check out my free “Fat Loss Checklist.” It covers the essential points you need to consider before you start your fat loss phase. You can download the checklist by filling in the form below.