“How much protein do you need?” It is one of the most common questions I hear from my clients and on the gym floor.
The debate on how much protein a person needs continue to rise among health and fitness experts as many factors have been found to affect how much protein a person needs in a day.
The aim of this post is to give you an idea of not only how much protein do YOU need, but also WHY it matters and what other factors to consider.
Protein is crucial for functioning of your body. Forget your six-pack abs and bulging muscles for a moment. You need protein for survival. Your muscles, connective tissue, hormones all rely on protein,more specifically the building blocks of protein the amino acids.
Unlike fat, we can’t really store amino acids in our bodies that is why it is so important to get it from our diet. If our body doesn’t have enough protein it will literally start cannibalizing your own body (think breaking down your own muscles…ouch).
So how much ?
Well it’s not as simple as it depends on many factors.
The amount of protein a person requires changes with age and with the level of physical activity . The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) suggests a protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. ( 0.36gr/lb).
So for a 170 lb male that would be whopping 61 gram protein per day!! Well at least you save money on supplements.
So, why RDA suggestions may not be ideal for active individuals who are pursuing body composition changes (think build more muscle, lose fat)?
First of all RDA was designed to establish a MINIMUM amount of protein to avoid malnutrition or starvation. If you’re reading this post you are most likely not concerned about starvation and want to rather thrive.
For an active individual, the range is somewhere between 0.6-1.2 grams/lb of bodyweight.
For our muscle building clients we recommend a range of 0.7gr -1.1g/lb
For our fat loss focused clients we recommend 1–1.4 g/lb
One of the reasons why “fat loss focused” clients need more protein is because they are in a caloric deficit and some of the amino acids will be used as a source of energy.
WHY QUALITY MATTERS
Now that you know how much to consume, let’s talk about type and quality of protein.
When we are talking about quality it is more specifically about two things:
- digestibility (how easy is to digest and how much you absorb)
- amino acids profile (what types of amino acids does it contains)
Not all amino acids have the same value. Some of them (essential amino acids for example) your body can’t create and has to be sourced from food.
Another term used is “complete and incomplete” proteins referring mainly to animal-sourced (complete) to a plant-based sourced (incomplete).
You can still get a complete protein, meaning containing all essential amino acids from an incomplete aka plant-based source as long you have a wide variety of sources.
The takeaway points
When it comes to how much protein a person needs per day, one thing is clear—there is no definite answer. The amount YOU need per day varies and depends on your current state of health, age, workout frequency, physique and fitness goals, body composition, and many more.
So where do you start?
- step 1: how much are you eating now?
First, actually figure out how much protein you’re eating now. Track all your food using any diet tracking app or measure your food and calculate your total intake
- step 2: adjust
Compare your number to the general recommendation above. If you’re on the lower end increase your protein intake, if on the higher end or over decrease it.
- step 3: observe
Observe how you feel, perform at the gym, how is your digestion and overall sense of being. If you’re feeling better keep with your new intake, if not adjust it again.
Only through the process of experimentation, assessment and observation you will find out your ideal protein amount and what works the best for you.
If you need any help figuring out where to start don’t hesitate and reach out to us. We are here to help.