How much protein you need to eat every day, and what the optimum daily recommended protein intake is? This is a really important topic, especially as we’re interested in building muscle and losing fat.
We have this idea that we should be eating more protein, that protein-rich foods are good for weight loss and muscle building, and they are! But there’s a lot of myth and misinformation around the ideal protein intake, so we are going to help you figure out exactly what you need.
The first thing we want you to know is that there is something called an RDA, which stands for recommended daily allowance for protein and sets guidelines that have researched the minimum amount of protein that humans need to maintain baseline health.
It is around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which is equivalent to 0.36 grams per pound. For a 200 pound person, this is roughly equivalent to around 72 grams of protein. For someone who’s 150 pounds, this is around 54 grams of protein. This is not a lot of protein – we’re talking like 50 to 70 grams to maintain baseline functioning.
We need this protein because our body has muscles made out of protein, so we need skeletal repair, our organs require amino acids from the protein to four building blocks.
Neurotransmitters in our brain and all these hormones and chemical signals also require these amino acids to basically reconstitute the cells that are constantly dying and turning over in our bodies.
That’s why we need protein in general. But, it turns out that these RDA recommendations are not optimal, these are baselines, but as a person who’s probably interested in health, fitness, and weight loss, you actually need more protein but not as much as you think.
This brings this is a section to what is the optimal amount of protein. The optimal amount of protein is actually around 1.6 grams per kilogram or 0.73 grams per pound.
This roughly equates for a 200-pound person to around 150 grams of protein per day, and for a 150-pound person, it’s around 110 grams per day.
So, in the fitness circles, many people say you should be eating 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound body weights. A lot of people, who are 150-pound and looking to gain muscle, eating 150 grams if not 200 grams of protein
It turns out that’s more than you need, so we want to show you the studies that actually back this up.
The first one is from a researcher Mark L. Wahlberg from Virginia Tech University, and he did some research comparing high protein diets.
He found that 0.73 grams per pound were enough protein to make sure that the weight lifters didn’t lose any muscle mass. So you don’t need to eat much more than 0.73 grams per pound body weight to maintain muscle mass if you’re losing weight.
Protein is beneficial for weight loss diets because it keeps you full, it gives you a slight metabolic boost, and it preserves your muscle mass.
That’s on the fat loss side of the equation, but what about muscle gain? Is there a benefit to eating more protein over these two recommendations? It turns out there’s really not.
Another great protein researcher Lukasz Pulaski compared 0.64 grams per pound versus 1.1 grams per pound. He was trying to see if the high-protein 1.1 grams per pound led to a higher muscle mass gains than the 0.6 for which is lower than our recommended optimal intake. As a result, he found that the 1.1 grams per pound produced no more muscle mass, no more positive nitrogen, and retention than the 0.6 for grams per pound.
So, basically eating above this figure will not lead to additional muscle mass. What actually happens is, and when you eat more protein than we need, our body just burns it. There’s something called protein oxidation, where we basically take the protein and convert it to glucose and can burn it off for energy.
What does this actually mean practically speaking?
Let’s say someone has a 2,500 calorie diet, which is one of the most popular baseline calorie diets for a lot of people out there.
If this person is around 200 pounds, that means they’re eating around 150 grams of protein per day, that means that they have around 30 to 40 grams across four meals.
Let’s just say they’re having three meals in one snack, then they can probably get away with having 30 grams of protein in breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a snack of like 20 grams. That gets you very close to that 150-gram figure.
It also means that 150 grams of protein of 2500 calories is roughly around 20 to 25 percent of your calorie intake per day. If we looked at your total calorie load for the day, you don’t need more than 20 to 25 percent of those calories coming from protein.
Again, if you make that number any higher, you’re just burning off that protein converting it to energy. It’s not giving you any additional benefit unique to the protein itself.
This is very important, so the practical advice here is that most people are going to want to look to get around 30 to 40 grams of protein across the meals.
This obviously is based on your meal timing setup. If you’re in minute fasting, for example, and you’re skipping one meal out of the day and having just like lunch and dinner, you might need more like 50 grams of protein in each of those feedings. That’s totally fine, and your body can process that it’s about your net protein intake for the day.
To give you a context of what 30 grams of protein in this is roughly around 4.5 ounces like a tiny portion like the palm-size forest portion.
It is any kind of animal protein, fish, chicken, steak, etc. So it’s not a lot of protein, the average chicken breast might be around 6 to 7 ounces, which is more like 50 to 55 grams of protein.
So you don’t need as much animal product to reach these numbers, and again it’s about your total calories, so if you’re choosing to eat way more protein than you actually need for these optimal figures, you’re just going to burn that protein off. It’s going to get converted to glucose via gluconeogenesis, and you’re going to oxidize that whole protein in a process, and it’s not going to give you any more benefit.
Protein is essential, but it’s not something we necessarily need to go overboard because there’s a lot of other great nutrients we need. We need healthy fats, we can very much benefit from fibrous carbohydrates and again looking at your total calorie intake for the day protein should make up around 20 to 25 percent of your calories.