How Much Is Enough When It Comes to Protein?

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When people in the strength training or weight loss communities hear the term “protein intake”, they might just think about building and retaining muscle. But protein is much, much bigger than that. 

Protein is an essential part of our bodies, a macronutrient that allows our bodies to work properly from head to toe. Getting the right amount of protein is vital to health and longevity, but that “right amount” will largely be different for every individual.

You can think of the protein macronutrient as a collection of the worker bees of your body. The body doesn’t store protein in any way. 

The proteins found inside your body are made up of components called amino acids. They act as the manpower of movement, the immune system, the carriers of oxygen in your blood, and so much more. Each protein and amino acid have their own job and they’re doing them pretty much all the time. Protein doesn’t tend to sit around idle inside your body and your muscles aren’t “stored” protein in any way. 

When it comes to the muscles inside your body, they require dietary protein to ensure that your body has the necessary building blocks to maintain and even build lean muscle mass. Without a surplus of available amino acids, it will be difficult for your muscles to grow in size or strength. 

And of course, having enough protein inside your body isn’t enough to build muscle on its own. You need to include resistance training inside your daily routine if you want to get on the fast lane to muscle growth. 

Nine out of the twenty amino acids are essential – this means the body cannot make them on its own. You must consume them through your diet. Animal proteins are called “complete” proteins because they contain all nine of these essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins such as legumes, for example, are not all complete proteins, however, they can be paired together to meet your protein needs. One example could be eating beans with brown rice. You also have options such as tofu, a plant-based complete protein.

So how much protein do I really need in my diet?

Generally, health and wellness authorities have set a recommended daily intake of about 0.8g per kilogram of body weight. However, this could technically be seen as the minimum daily average intake required to meet the requirements of pretty much 99 percent of people out there.

And while this is a great place to start, there’s a ton of wiggle room left based on individual lifestyle and fitness goals. 

For example, athletes may consume more than twice this amount. People who are trying to decrease body fat (but maintain muscle) could possibly consume even more. 

Before you even ask the question “how much protein should I consume,” you probably realize you have to track your intake to begin with. That’s why it’s advisable for you to use an app or a notebook where you can record your daily protein intake and adjust per your needs from there.

A few eating styles actually suggest that a percentage of your total calories will determine whether or not your protein needs are sufficient. This doesn’t, however, account for individual bodies and goals. 

Therefore, determining your overall protein intake (and needs) would be best defined by using your weight as a starting point.

Most formulas use kilograms as their unit of measurement. 

You can easily convert your weight to pounds by using this formula:

Your weight in pounds / 2.2 = your weight in kilograms

For example: if you weigh 150 pounds / 2.2 = about 68 kilograms

Determining your daily protein needs.

The range of recommended protein intake will vary throughout different populations. You should always consider protein intake as a range for you to experiment with, not a number that’s set in stone.

Working inside a range will give you more flexibility based on your current hunger, activity levels, your goals, and how you’re currently feeling.

These guidelines are based on sources provided by health and wellness associations. While this is a useful place to start, it’s best to consult a physician or registered nutritionist if you want to determine an ideal protein intake range. 

Recommended Protein Intake by Average Dietary Guidelines0.8 g/kg of body weight

Average healthy adult1.0–1.4 g/kg of body weight

Active adult who exercises regularly1.1–1.5 g/kg of body weight

Active adults who want to lose weight1.6–2.1 g/kg body weight

Endurance athletes1.3–1.7 g/kg of body weight

Weightlifters looking to gain muscle1.2–2.1 g/kg of body weight