How much protein per day?

Kris 6
How much protein per day?

I’ve had friends who work out tell me that they only need protein post-workout, and whatever else they get throughout the day is more than enough. I’ve had others tell me that every meal needs massive amounts of protein, or you’re wasting your time in the gym. The question of how much protein per day is necessary to grow and repair your muscles or prevent a catabolic state (if you’re trying to lose fat but you eat too little and your body begins to break down muscle for fuel) has many answers, from many sources. Of course, we’ll have to follow that up with the fact that most of these answers are bogus, either coming from extremists or those who lack even the most rudimentary knowledge of fitness but claim they know what they’re talking about (you’ll find tons of these). Therefore, it’s important to set the record straight on how much protein per day you really need, so let’s get right to it.

Well then, how much protein per day is really necessary? I can’t answer that question for you straight off the bat, because it’s very misguided. There’s two ways your body can go, either you’re attempting to lose fat, or you’re attempting to gain muscle. Regardless of the goal, the amount of protein will be the same, as both processes make sure to keep your body in need of protein. However, I’d like to clear up the misconception first before we answer directly. When people ask how much protein per day they need, they usually assume that that is the only thing of importance. In some cases I’ll be preaching to the choir, but I’ve seen this problem more often than not so for those of you who know where I’m heading with this, bare with me.

If I told you that you need 100 grams of protein per day and you’re trying to gain muscle, and you wind up being super excited and get 120 grams to be extra sure, eating grilled chicken all day and restraining from other foods, but your overall caloric intake for the day is a fine amount below your daily requirement, you’re not going to grow. At that point, how will knowing how much protein you need be useful to your goal? Vice versa, if you know you need to eat 100 grams to retain your muscle mass, but you’re eating too much per day overall, you’re not going to accomplish your goal of losing fat, are you? Putting the examples aside, before we get to how much protein per day you need, you need to understand that that answer is only a part of the overall importance of total caloric intake per day. To understand how that works, or brush up on it if you’re not 100%, check out Maintenance Calories to put it in perspective. This is the key step most people ignore, but there’s no shortcuts in changing your body!

Now, the general consensus for how much protein per day an individual needs usually ranges from 1-1.5 grams per pound of lean body mass. Some even suggest to do it by actual weight, so this would translate to 1-1.5 grams per pound of overall weight. I don’t think that’s necessary, and am inclined towards the total regarding lean body mass. Since that requires you to calculate your lean body mass, it’s not exactly helping too much is it? We want a fast, simple answer, no extra work required. In that case, we can simply find a common ground based on the statistics given above. I’d suggest .75-.8 grams per overall weight (up to 1 if you feel so inclined, but not necessary). Many people grossly overestimate the amount required, and that total won’t help them any more than the lesser amount can. This is comparable to those who believe that the more they eat in a day, the more muscle will be grown by their body, but it doesn’t work that way.

To give some statistical examples, for an individual who weighs:

150 pounds – (150x.8) = 120 grams

175 pounds – (175x.8) = 140 grams

200 pounds – (200x.8) = 160 grams

Like I mentioned, if everything else is in place, and you feel that’s not enough, increase the amount to 1 gram per pound, but I doubt that’s going to be necessary (however, we have to account for individual differences, so we can’t exclude it). Let’s face it, some people might need more than others, so we never talk in absolutes. Make sure that you understand how to deal with maintenance calories so you can factor this amount into your overall ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fats per day necessary to achieve your goal (either taking your overall caloric intake a bit below maintenance, or a bit above). It’s simple, figure out your maintenance, throw in this protein amount, and then make sure you eat about twice as much carbohydrates as fats (40/40 – protein/carbs) and 20 – fat). That’s just a common example, you don’t have to follow it. Those who are cutting might opt to lower the carbohydrates and up the fats, but let’s save that for another article. Good luck!

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