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How Much Protein Should I Eat Per Day? (From a Nutritionist)

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: September 28, 2022

Protein can help you achieve your fitness goals and keep you healthy.

But there’s a flip side to it. Excessive protein intake can actually damage your health.

So how can you find the right balance between too little and too much protein? We set out to discover just that.

We’ve partnered with a dietitian who shared two methods of calculating your ideal daily protein intake. You’ll find them both below, along with other crucial insights.

Summary Of Our Key Findings

  • Average adults should consume 0.36 g of protein per pound of body weight.
  • You may need extra protein under specific circumstances.
  • Start with a high-protein diet and use supplements only if necessary.

2 Methods To Calculate How Much Protein You Need

woman checking his waist size and a man using dumbbells

In general, it’s recommended that you consume 25-50 grams of protein every day [1].

But you might need more or less depending on two factors:

  • Your weight
  • Your physical activity

We’ll show you two methods you can use to calculate your ideal daily protein intake based on both factors.

Ideal Protein Intake According To Your Weight

A general rule says that you need 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight – or 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram – if you’re an adult [2].

So, you can simply multiply how much you weigh by 0.36 or 0.8 to calculate how much protein you need every day.

For example, an adult that weighs 180 pounds should eat around 65 grams of protein per day: 180 pounds x 0.36 = 64.8.

But, you also need to consider how much protein you can absorb in one meal before planning your daily protein intake.

Ideal Protein Intake According To Your Physical Activity

man flexing his biceps

You can also calculate your ideal intake of protein based on physical activity.

First, calculate your lean body mass (LBM):

  1. Determine your body fat percentage. Use a BIA scale or DEXA scan to do so.
  2. Calculate total body fat in pounds. Multiply your body fat percentage by your body weight. For example, a person that weighs 170 pounds and has 25% fat has 43 pounds of fat (170 x 0.25 = 42.5).
  3. Calculate your LBM. Subtract body fat weight from the total weight. The person from our example has an LBM of 127 (170 - 43 = 127).

Now that you’ve calculated your LBM, you can multiply it by the amount of protein you should eat per pound based on how active you are [3]:

  • Sedentary (generally inactive) = 0.5 g
  • Light (practicing activities like walking and gardening) = 0.6 g
  • Moderate (30 minutes of physical activity three times a week) = 0.7 g
  • Active (60 minutes of exercise five times a week) = 0.8 g
  • Very active (10-20 hours of exercise per week) = 0.9 g
  • Athlete (20+ hours of exercise per week) = 1.0 g

Protein needs may differ greatly based on how active you are.

For example, let’s assume that you have a lean mass of 127. You would need:

  • 64g of protein per day if you’re sedentary
  • 102g of protein per day if you’re active
  • 127g of protein per day if you’re an athlete

When Do You Need More Protein?

man holding up a protein drink thinking

Your weight and physical activity are important in determining your ideal intake of protein foods for muscle gain.

In most cases, you should stick to it religiously because too much protein may lead to health issues, such as kidney disease.

But there are specific circumstances in which your body needs more protein.

We’ve compiled a list of such situations. If you fit the description, consider adding more high-protein foods to your diet.

You Want To Lose Weight

Eating protein may burn fat by accelerating your metabolism and reducing your appetite.

Fast metabolism leads to faster burning of calories. So, you can actually eat more without putting on pounds. Also, protein will keep you feeling full and curb your cravings at the same time [4].

So, you might want to switch to a high-protein diet if you’re trying to shed a few pounds.

Some studies have shown that protein intake that makes up 30% of your total calorie intake is optimal for weight loss [5].

You can combine protein-rich foods with protein supplements for faster results. Just remember that some supplements may contain excess calories that could lead to weight gain in the long run.

Related: Do You Lose Muscle or Fat First?

You’re Building Muscle Mass

man using resistance bands outdoors

Protein is vital for muscle gain. In fact, muscles mainly consist of protein.

And if you were struggling to build muscle until now, that’s probably because you didn’t consume enough protein.

Muscle protein is constantly being broken down and rebuilt.

So, to gain muscle, your body needs to synthesize more protein than it breaks down [5].

To get maximum results, CheckMeowt founder and editor-in-chief Joseph Gregorio advised consuming one gram of protein per pound of body weight. He said that this is a good benchmark to follow when one is looking to build muscle mass.

Anything above this is typically overkill — as your body will take whatever protein it needs and excrete the rest as waste which could cause more harm than good in the long run.

You can help it do so by eating protein-rich foods or consuming protein supplements, such as whey protein powder.

Related: Is It Okay to Drink Whey Protein Everyday?

You’re Pregnant

During pregnancy, your body needs more protein to develop and grow tissue.

According to one study, you should ingest 0.55 – 0.69 g of protein per pound, or 1.2 – 1.52 grams per kilogram [6].

To calculate your ideal protein intake, multiply your weight with the recommended dosage.

For example, you should consume around 96 g of protein per day if you weigh 160 pounds and are halfway through your pregnancy (160 x  0.60 = 96).

You’ll also need more protein if:

  • You’re recovering from an injury: When you suffer an injury, your muscles may deteriorate because you can’t move the body parts that have been hurt. And since muscles mainly consist of protein, you should consume it more to prevent losing significant muscle mass.
  • You’re older: Elderly adults should consume higher amounts of protein because they’re less responsive to amino acids. So, they need more amino acids to benefit from them. The ideal daily intake of protein for the elderly seems to be between 1.2 and 2.0 g per kilo of body weight [7].

Related Article: What Is The Best Protein Powder for Seniors?

What To Eat To Get More Protein

dairy products and a plate of cooked fish

High-protein diets are often the best way to increase your intake of protein – although you can opt for supplements, too.

But we wouldn’t recommend taking supplements without exercising.

So, if you’re not getting a lot of physical activity, try adding protein-rich foods to your diet instead.

Here are four examples of such foods:

  • Fish and seafood (e.g., fish, crabs, lobster, clams)
  • Poultry (e.g., chicken breast, turkey)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, and yogurt)

If you switch to a higher-protein diet and still don’t meet your daily requirements, you can try adding a few protein shakes to your daily meal plan.

Protein Intake Is Not A One-Size-Fits-All

The exact amount of protein you need will depend on your weight, physical activity, and current life situation. So, we can’t give you a one-size-fits-all type of answer.

But what we did give you is two methods you can use to calculate your ideal intake of protein.

If you stick to it – and consider your current circumstance and goals – you’re bound to get the results you’re looking for.

Getting the right amount of protein will surely keep you healthy, make you feel stronger, and help you achieve your goals faster.


References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/whey-protein-101
  2. https://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx
  3. https://www.verywellfit.com/how-to-calculate-how-much-protein-you-need-3955709
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4258944/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732256/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4942872/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924200/

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