How Much Protein Do You Really Need - Taking out the guess work

Written By Robert Forney ISSA CFT Articles written for the beginner and advanced!

You can use the form below to calculate your daily protein needs.

Protein Sources

Meat is an excellent source of Protein

Body Weight:

Measurement:

A question I hear fairly often from my clients and on this webiste is "how much protein do I need". Since I have heard many different answers to this question, I have decided to dig into the subject and find out the truth. The US RDA is .8 g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. I have reviewed the studies on the subject and found you need nearly two times the US RDA. Now you will not only learn how much you need, but also the best time to take it, and I have revised this article and actually added a calculator to the end of this article to make it easy for you calculate your own specific protein intake needs.

First of all, the studies found that protein requirements ranged from 1g per kilogram of bodyweight to 2.8 grams per kilogram. In addition those who perform endurance exercise need more than those who are resistance trainers (weight lifters), and anaerobic athletes.

Here are the ranges I have found. On the low side of the scale is 1 gram per kilogram or .45 grams per pound and on the high side is 2.8 grams per kilogram or 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. I rounded the number off to make it easy to calculate. The majority of studies found you needed over 1.5 grams per kilogram or .7 grams per pound. Since it would be far better to take in a little extra, rather than not taking in enough, I will round these numbers up. Here is what I recommend. For strength athletes and endurance athletes 2.2 grams per kilogram or 1 gram per pound should be more than enough. (8).

Some people suggest that too much protein may be dangerous or unhealthy, but I did not find this to be the case in the studies I reviewed. I actually found that protein intake up to 2.8 grams was found to be a safe and had no harmful effects (13).

So, when is the best time to take your protein? Some studies suggest that taking your protein before exercise is best for muscle growth and to prevent muscle catabolism (14). Although this study has several limitations since the sample size was so small, I would personally take my protein before and after exercise. Now you are ready to get on track.

Now you can make sure you get enough protein in you diet. Make sure you get at least 1 gram per pound of body weight. Take your protein before and after you exercise. Now get out there and lift.

References:

  1. Protein metabolism during intensive physical training in the young adult. Consolazio CF, Johnson HL, Nelson RA, Dramise JG, Skala JH.
  2. Effect of isometric exercises on body potassium and dietary protein requirements of young men. Torun B, Scrimshaw NS, Young VR
  3. Influence of protein intake and training status on nitrogen balance and lean body mass. Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA.
  4. Dietary protein requirements and body protein metabolism in endurance-trained men. Meredith CN, Zackin MJ, Frontera WR, Evans WJ.
  5. Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice bodybuilders. Lemon PW, Tarnopolsky MA, MacDougall JD, Atkinson SA
  6. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Tarnopolsky MA, Atkinson SA, MacDougall JD, Chesley A, Phillips S, Schwarcz HP.
  7. Reexamination of protein requirements in adult male humans by end-product measurements of leucine and lysine metabolism. Zello GA, Telch J, Clarke R, Ball RO, Pencharz PB.
  8. Protein and amino acid needs of the strength athlete. Lemon PW.
  9. Macronutrient content of a hypoenergy diet affects nitrogen retention and muscle function in weight lifters. Walberg JL, Leidy MK, Sturgill DJ, Hinkle DE, Ritchey SJ, Sebolt DR
  10. Protein intake and athletic performance. Lemon PW, Proctor DN.
  11. Is increased dietary protein necessary or beneficial for individuals with a physically active lifestyle? Lemon PW.
  12. Do athletes need more dietary protein and amino acids? Lemon PW.
  13. Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes? Poortmans JR, Dellalieux O.
  14. Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to resistance exercise. Tipton KD, Rasmussen BB, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Owens-Stovall SK, Petrini BE, Wolfe RR. Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas 77550, USA. ktipton@utmb.edu