Diet & Weight Magazine

How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day – Daily Protein Intake

By Barun K.

how much protein a day

While the nutrition world is filled with contradictions, there’s one thing all experts agree on: getting enough protein is crucial for optimal health and body composition.

Protein helps with the formation of bones, skin, muscle, and various other tissues. Besides, eating enough of it is essential for the production of hormones and enzymes.

Quite important stuff, that protein. But how much do you need each day?

For general physical wellness, a minimally active healthy adult needs 0.8 grams of protein daily per kg of body weight [1].

The amount increases to 1.0, 1.3, and 1.6 grams per kg of body weight for individuals engaging in some, moderate, and intensive physical activity, respectively.

Why We Should Care About Protein

Protein is a macronutrient that sits center-stage in diverse health-related areas. These include:

  • Repair and maintenance: Many tissues such as your bones, skin, and muscles are mainly made of protein. In these tissues, proteins are continually being built up and broken down. We call this the protein turnover rate. To maintain the quality and quantity of those tissues, you must consume enough of this macro.
  • Enzymes: Most enzymes are made of protein. They perform a wide variety of functions, including signal transduction and cell regulation.
  • Hormones: Those are molecules your body uses for communication, for example between organs. Many are made up of protein, and we call those “peptide hormones.” The best-known one is insulin, which allows your body to use glucose for energy.
  • Transportation: A transport protein is one that moves other materials within your body. Hemoglobin is such a protein, carrying oxygen through your bloodstream to your body cells.

Protein deficiency can lead to the exact opposite of what we stated above: it saps bone strength, impairs skin quality, and hampers muscular power.

On top of that, it interferes with hormone production, the work of transport proteins, and enzyme levels. This, in turn, can lead to anemia, edema, and inadequate immunity.

How Protein Help for Fat Loss

protein for fat loss

When it comes to losing fat, getting enough protein is one of the easiest – and tastiest – ways to get the job done. Why’s that?  Because protein is the most satiating macronutrient [5].

Research shows that a higher protein intake goes hand in hand with a lower calorie intake [6]. Great, because a negative energy balance is crucial for slimming down [79]:

  • You will lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn.
  • You will gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn.

To grasp the calorie-reducing power of protein, consider a study from the University of Seattle [10]. As part of it, the researchers increased the protein intake of their subjects from 15% to 30% of their daily calorie count.

As a result, their daily energy consumption dropped by an average of 441 calories. This caused an average weight loss of 12 pounds in 11 weeks!

Impressive results, right? And all it took was eating more protein! But why is protein so satiating? Because it raises the level of satiety hormones, including Peptide YY, GLP-1, and cholecystokinin [1113]. In addition, protein suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin [14].

But that’s not all. Besides helping you lose weight, getting enough protein also ensures that it comes at the expense of actual fat mass (not muscle tissue, as is the case with many “get ripped now” crash diets).

The reason is that protein prevents muscle loss while you diet [15]. This not only makes certain that your sex appeal remains intact, but it also keeps your metabolism in full gear. The explanation is that the more muscle mass you carry, the higher your metabolic rate is [16].

How Much Protein to Shed Fat?

As we’ve seen, getting enough protein supports your fat loss efforts. It helps you hold onto muscle mass and keep your hunger in check. But this doesn’t mean that more is better. There’s one very compelling reason why you shouldn’t over-consume protein.

If you eat too much of it on a fat loss plan, there won’t be enough room left for carbs and fat. This, in turn, can negatively affect your health, performance, and results.

  • Not getting enough carbs impairs gym performance because glucose is your primary energy source during weight lifting [17].
  • Consuming too little fat stifles hormone production. For example, low-fat diets significantly decrease testosterone levels [1819].

Here’s what to do:

If you’re on a fat loss plan, consume 2.3 – 3.1 grams of protein daily per kg of lean body mass [20].

(This number is based on lean body mass. It represents your body weight minus your fat mass. So, if you weigh 80 kg and your body fat percentage is 20%, you have a lean body mass of 64 kg. In case you’re unsure, this calculator will help you determine your lean body mass: [].)

So, if your lean body mass is 64 kg, get between 147 and 198 grams of protein per day. If you have much body fat to lose, the lower end of the range is enough. In case you’re already fairly lean, go for the higher end of the range [20]. That’s because lean individuals need more protein to prevent muscle loss when shedding fat.

How Protein Help for Gaining Muscle

protein for muscle building

You often hear protein called the be-all and end-all solution for gaining muscle. Hence, take away the protein from bodybuilders, and they’ll get the mood swings of a pubescent girl whose iPhone has gone kaput.

And it makes sense. Well, not the mood swings part, the one about the importance of protein for muscle gain. After all, protein balance is what muscle growth is all about [21]:

  • If your body builds up more protein than it breaks down, you gain muscle.
  • If your body breaks down more protein than it builds up, you lose muscle.

Therefore, it is crucial to get enough protein. It helps you build strength and muscle mass [22]. But how much do you need?

How Much Protein to Build Muscle?

If you flip open a bodybuilding magazine, you’ll get bombarded with claims that you must eat truckloads of protein to gain new muscle mass.

But do you really need such hefty amounts of protein? Or will this strip your bones of calcium and cause your kidneys to explode?

First off, protein in large quantities isn’t damaging to your kidneys. There is zero evidence to suggest this is true. And when it comes to your bones, research has shown that protein does not harm but actually strengthens them [23].

So, how much protein do you need to optimize muscle growth? That’s a question recently tackled by some of the world’s best fitness researchers, including Brad Schoenfeld, Eric Helms, Menno Henselmans, and Alan Aragon.

They did a meta-analysis, looking at data from 49 studies with a total of 1,863 participants. What they found is that the strength and muscle-gaining benefits dry off at exactly 1.6 grams of protein daily per kg of body weight [24]. Anything beyond that does not lead to faster gains.

So, you need much less protein to gain muscle compared to what you’ll require if want to lose fat. This makes sense. After all, your body has more nutrients available because of the higher calorie intake.

Here’s what to do:

Get at least 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight every day. So, if you weigh 75 kg, consume 120 grams of protein daily or more. This helps you take full advantage of the muscle-building powers of protein.

If you’re used to consuming the ridiculous amounts touted in bodybuilding magazines, then this number may seem low. Well, you can go higher, but it doesn’t have any added benefits for building muscle. This is shown by many studies on subjects ranging from regular gym-goers to hard-training bodybuilders [2527].

The Truth About Protein Timing

Timing is everything, or at least that’s what many bodybuilders claim. They believe that consuming specific nutrients at the right time helps you shed fat and build muscle.

That’s why many trainees gulp down a protein shake the minute they finish their workout. In other words, they rush to take advantage of the “anabolic window.”

But is it really necessary to do that? Or is scheduling protein around your workouts a myth?

Well, if we look at scientific data, we see that nutrient timing isn’t as critical as often claimed. Here’s what scientist Eric Helms and his colleagues concluded in a review study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [28]:

“…alterations in nutrient timing and frequency appear to have little effect on fat loss or lean mass retention.”

A recent meta-analysis by Schoenfeld and his colleagues ended with similar results. The team evaluated 20 studies and found that when calorie and total protein intake are matched, consuming protein around your workouts doesn’t have many extra benefits, if any at all [29].

In other words, it’s far more important to get enough protein than when you get it. So, your first step is making sure you get the right amount.

Once you have that nailed down, it can be beneficial to consume some protein around your workouts. It likely doesn’t speed up your results by much (if at all), but it doesn’t hurt either.

That said, there is a specific time when it’s beneficial to consume some protein, and it is before going to bed. The reason is that you supply your body with the nutrients when you’re most “anabolic.” This increases protein synthesis, thus speeding up recovery and muscle growth [3031].

Circumstances That Increase Protein Needs

There are three major cases where protein needs become greater. The first one is getting older. This has to do with the fact that aging weakens the anabolic response of muscle to dietary protein. Elderly people should aim for a daily protein intake of 1.0 to 1.3 grams per kg of body weight. [34]

Secondly, your protein needs grow if you’re injured. The reason is that damaged tissues need extra amino acids to recover. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Most studies suggest that 1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight are enough to support recovery although a higher intake might further speed it up [2].

The third scenario revolves around athletes, and the reason is twofold. First off, your muscles and tendons get highly stressed due to the physical activity. This leads to microdamage in those tissues. To repair it, you require enough protein. Secondly, athletes burn more calories, part of them from amino acids. If you’re an athlete, consume between 1.3 and 1.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight daily [34].

How about females? It’s widely believed that men need more protein than women. But while this tends to be the case for total protein intake, it’s not true in relative terms. The reason men usually need more protein is their higher lean body mass, not any difference between the protein metabolism of males and females.

The Best Protein Sources

Protein is like a 401(k) plan: you know you need it, but you might be unsure about the best pick. After all, there are so many choices laid out before you.

You can get your protein from foods such as meat, fish, grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, and more. Besides, there are many replacement products like whey protein, soy protein, BCAAs, casein…The list goes on and on.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of human studies examining the difference among various protein sources for muscle growth [32]. Some research, however, shows animal protein to be better at stimulating muscle growth than plant-based sources [33].

This is attributed to the fact that animal protein has a better amino acid profile. Thereby, it might be helpful to use a few animal protein sources each day. Good ones are meat, milk, whey, and eggs.

However, the most important thing is that you hit your daily protein intake. So, in this case, quantity (up to a certain point) is more important than quality.

What One Gram of Protein Means

Some trainees believe that the total gram count of a high-protein food represents the protein content. This is not true! For example, 44 grams of eggs do not contain 44 grams of protein. In fact, the specified quantity contains 5.7 grams of actual protein.

To figure out the protein content, either read food labels or do calculations with a tracking app. There are various apps on the market that make it easy to measure your protein intake. Examples include MyFitnessPal and Cronometer .

The Bottom Line on Protein Intake

Whether you wish to become healthier, shed excess fat, or gain new muscle mass, eating enough protein is crucial for getting the job done.

Here’s your answer to how much protein you need based on your situation and goals:

  • General health: The recommended daily protein intake for a healthy adult with minimal physical activity is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. This increases to 0.1, 1.3, and 1.6 grams of protein per kg of body weight for individuals doing some, moderate, and intensive physical activity, in that order.
  • Muscle gain: at least 1.6 grams of protein daily per kg of body weight.
  • Fat loss: 2.3-3.1 grams of protein daily per kg of lean body mass.

When you consume this amount – such as around your workouts – isn’t nearly as important as getting enough protein. One exception is consuming protein before you go to bed. This has been shown to aid recovery and muscle growth.

Aim to get a portion of your protein from animal sources, examples including meat, milk, whey, and eggs. The reason is that those foods have a better amino acid profile than plant-based foods.

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