We all know the importance of protein, especially when you’re trying to build muscle. When your body isn’t getting enough, your health and body composition can take the brunt – near enough wasting your fitness efforts.
It’s not uncommon to wonder, ‘how much protein should I eat?’ However, the problem is, everyone has a different opinion on daily protein intake.
If you look to official nutritional organizations, daily protein intake is pretty modest. So when you’re trying to get stacked and cut fat, you wanna know how many grams of protein per day, right?
Of course, you do.
How much protein should I eat?
If we look at DRI (Dietary Reference Intake), it’s recommended you consume around 0.36 grams of protein per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight.
But what does that mean in terms of daily protein intake? It amounts to:
- 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man
However, as we already mentioned, this daily protein intake is somewhat the bare minimum. In order to understand how many grams of protein per day you need, there are a variety of factors to consider, including:
- Physique goals
- Overall health
- Activity level
- Muscle mass
Whether you’re cutting or muscle building, we’re about to tell you everything you need to know regarding daily protein intake.
Why is protein so important?
We consider protein the main building blocks of the body. Whether it’s to make muscles, tendons, organs or skin, protein is crucial and serves many important functions.
When we have a greater understanding of how important protein is, we are well equipped for managing our daily protein intake – amongst other crucial vitamins and minerals.
Consisting of smaller molecules – called amino acids – these proteins link together similar to beads on a string. If you then think of these links forming long protein chains, which then fold into complex shapes.
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Although our bodies produce some of these important amino acids, others must be obtained through food – otherwise known as essential amino acids.
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How can we get our daily protein intake?
Typically, we look to animal protein, which provides all essential amino acids. This somewhat feels like an obvious choice, since animal tissues are similar to ours.
But it isn’t just the tissue itself – such as meat and fish – necessarily, as it can also be found in eggs and dairy, too. Getting enough of these foods? You’re likely hitting your daily protein intake.
However, if you’re a plant-based eater or follow a vegetarian diet, it can be a little trickier to hit the right amount of protein.
Daily protein intake for vegans
While a protein supplement is a potential option for bodybuilders, many simply look to food in order to hit their protein goals.
If you’re a plant-based (or vegetarian) bodybuilder, however, we’ve put together a quick list of foods that are packed with protein.
- Tofu, tempeh and edamame
- Chickpeas and most beans
- Nutritional yeast
- Spelt and teff
- Green peas
Supporting weight loss and preventing weight gain
If trying to cut fat, protein can play a crucial role in helping you lose weight. As we all know by now, in order to lose weight we need to be consuming fewer calories than we are burning.
So how can getting your daily protein intake support weight loss? According to research, protein can boost your metabolic rate, helping to increase calorie burn. With the ability to reduce your appetite, protein can curb those urges to snack.
So, how much protein per day is enough?
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, making 25 to 30% of your daily calories come from protein can rocket your metabolism by up to 80 to 100 calories per day.
However, when we look at the importance of hitting your daily protein intake in relation to weight loss, it’s all about feeling full. Since protein has the ability to reduce appetite, you’re likely to eat fewer calories – therefore losing weight.
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When we compare protein to fat or carbohydrates, protein has been shown to keep you feeling fuller for longer. If you’re a frequent snacker, or find it particularly hard to stay away from late-night eating, protein has been shown to reduce these desire by some 50%.
But as well as trying to lose weight, hitting your protein goals can also prevent weight gain. One study has shown that a slight protein increase (from 15% to 18% of calories) reduced the amount of fat participants regained after weight loss by 50%.
If you’re cutting fat and looking to preserve muscle mass, a high protein diet can do just that.
How protein can help you gain muscle and strength
Like most body tissues, our muscles are pretty adaptable, having been constantly broken down and rebuilt. So in order to gain muscle, our bodies must synthesize more muscle protein than it breaks down.
Let’s look at it another way. In other words, there needs to be a net positive protein balance in your body – often referred to as ‘nitrogen balance’, since protein is high in nitrogen.
Therefore, if you’re looking to get hench, you’re going to need a combination of exercise and a higher daily protein intake in order to build strength (and muscle).
This also means that during a cut, in order to maintain your muscle mass you may also need to increase your daily protein intake – as this can prevent muscle loss. Studies typically don’t look at the percentage of calories coming from protein, however, but instead, review the daily grams of protein per kilograms or pounds of body weight.
In line with this, a common recommendation to gain muscle is:
- 1 gram of protein per pound (2.2 grams per kg) of body weight
What else encourages protein increase?
Aside from weight loss and maintaining muscle mass, there are other circumstances that can increase your protein requirements.
This includes those that are physically active. Whether you have a physically demanding job or you run, swim or walk frequently – or do any type of exercise – you’re going to need to up your daily protein intake.
‘But how much protein do I need?’ I hear you say…
According to research, endurance athletes require significant amounts, around 0.5 to 0.65 grams per pound of body weight.
While older adults also require a significant increase in protein intake – some 50% higher than their DRI. But why so much? Since osteoporosis and sarcopenia are both common concerns among older adults, a high daily protein intake can help prevent them.
Are there any side effects of protein?
It’s pretty unfair to place blame on protein for any health concerns. While some have argued that a high protein diet can cause kidney damage and osteoporosis, there is a lack of science to back these claims.
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However, if you have preexisting kidney concerns, protein restriction may be beneficial.
How much protein should I eat? And where from?
Some of the best sources of protein are:
Since they all contain the essential amino acids your body needs. We mentioned earlier how those that follow a plant-based diet can also get protein from other food sources, including:
- Tofu, tempeh and edamame
- Chickpeas and most beans
If you know that your diet is lacking in protein, tracking your diet can be beneficial to ensure you’re hitting your macro goals – including your daily protein intake.
“Grams of protein” explained
Now, this is where protein intake can feel a little confusing.
In nutritional science, “grams of protein” refers to the number of grams of the macronutrient, protein. This isn’t the same as measuring the number of grams of the food that contains protein – such as meat or eggs.
For example, an 8-ounce serving of beef weighs 226 grams, yet the protein it contains is only 61 grams. Much like a large egg weighing 46 grams and containing 6 grams of protein.
‘How much protein do I need?’ The bottom line
If you’re at a healthy weight, don’t exercise regularly and don’t lift weights, aim for:
- 0.36 to 0.6 grams per pound.
But wait, what does that mean? How much protein per day?
- This equals around 56 to 91 grams per day.
Since there’s no research to back up the potential side effects of a high protein diet, you’re better off consuming more protein over less.