How much protein per day to gain muscle and optimal health

This article is about how much protein per day to gain muscle and optimal health.

Short answer:

  • Sedentary: 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.36g protein/pound)
  • Highly Active or Athletes: 1.8grams per kilogram of body weight (0.82g protein/pound)

Proceed for the longer, more detailed answer

Proteins are the building blocks of the body and form enzymes, hormones, cell receptors, muscle fibers, connective tissue fibers, and many other structures.

They are in every tissue, in every cell, and life as we know it needs protein to function.
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What is protein?

Before I get into how much protein per day then I am going to explain, in a few words, what proteins are.

Essential Amino Acids

Isoleucine
Leucine
Lysine
Methionine
Phenylalanine
Threonine
Tryptophan
Valine

Non-essential

Alanine
Arginine
Asparagine
Aspartic Acid
Cysteine
Glutamic Acid
Glutamine
Glycine
Histidine
Proline
Serine
Tyrosine

Proteins are assemblies of smaller molecules known as amino acids, that are linked together. You can imagine a protein as being beads of amino acids on a string, kind of like a pearl necklace.

Proteins can be very small or extremely large, with thousands of amino acids. Several proteins can also be linked together to form complex structures.

There are 20 different amino acids that human beings use in their own proteins. 8 of them are essential, and must be obtained through diet. The other 12 are non-essential, and the body can produce these out of other substances.

When wondering about how much protein per day, the amino acid composition matters. That is because the amino acids must be assembled in ratios that the human body can use to build its own proteins.

For example, if a protein lacks an essential amino acid then the human body will have trouble using it. It is missing a critical link in the chain, so to speak.

A number known as the biological value indicates how much of an absorbed protein is actually incorporated into the body.

Animal foods tend to have a high biological value, while plants tend to be low.

How many grams of protein per day?

When discussing how many grams of protein per day, it should be noted that this varies greatly between people.

How much protein per day differs by gender, height, activity level, muscle mass and a number of other factors. The requirement goes up during times of sickness and stress.

The body breaks down its own proteins all the time, and dietary protein is used to replace it.

Sometimes the body will build even more protein than it breaks down, such as when gaining muscle mass.

All excess protein consumed is broken down into its amino acids, and if the body doesn’t need them to build its own proteins, then the amino acids are used for energy or turned into body fat.

This is why it isn’t beneficial for muscle gain to eat a large excess of protein, because the excess amino acids will not be turned into muscle but used as any other energy source. The body has no “protein stores” such as it has for glucose and fat.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) on how many grams of protein per day:

  • Women age 19-70: 46 grams
  • Men age 19-70: 56 grams

This is the daily amount of protein recommended by nutritional authorities as a bare minimum for a 70kg sedentary individual. 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight is recommended for those who don’t exercise.
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To calculate:
Divide body weight in pounds by 2.2 to find body weight in kilograms. Multiply that number by 0.8 and then you have the daily number on how many grams of protein per day.

200 pounds / 2.2 = 91kg
91kg * 0.8g protein/kg = 73g protein per day

Please note that these numbers are minimum amounts, those who need to gain muscle need more protein per day.

The amount of protein also goes up during exercise, and athletes may need more than twice as much as sedentary people to ensure optimal recovery. A good estimate is to multiply body weight in kg by 1.8.

200 pounds / 2.2 = 91kg
91kg * 1.8g protein/kg = 164g protein per day

It is important to realize that these numbers are only estimates, and the required amount of protein a day can vary greatly.

For those unfamiliar with the metric system and kilograms:
0.8g protein/kg is the same as 0.36g protein/pound of body weight.
1.8g protein/kg is the same as 0.82g protein/pound of body weight.

Elite athletes may need even more than this to ensure optimal performance, and bodybuilders using synthetic hormones may need more too.

The requirement also goes up when on a low-carbohydrate diet, because then the body will need some amount of protein to make glucose.

As you can see, these numbers are much lower than what you may have read in a fitness magazine.

There was a research study done on this, and it turned out that a high-protein diet didn’t have any benefit whatsoever over a moderate-protein diet in strength athletes.

That is, eating a moderate amount of protein was better for muscle gain than a small amount of protein, but eating a very large amount had no additional benefit.

This implies that it is not at all necessary to consume large amounts of protein supplements, the numbers above are easily achieved by eating real and wholesome foods.

How much protein is too much?

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I have often heard people claim that too much protein is bad for you.

It is a fact that excessive protein causes strain on the kidneys, because they need to rid the body of the protein metabolites.

I don’t think this has any real consequences for healthy people, but those with kidney disorders should be careful.

Excessive protein may increase risk of kidney stones, and some evidence shows that high protein intake can contribute to calcium loss from bones.

The way this affects protein intake is that everything in moderation is fine, such as eating a variety of healthy animal foods.

However, this does make me wonder if consuming large doses of protein supplements is a safe choice.

Conclusion

It is clear regarding how much protein per day that a decent amount is needed to ensure optimal muscle gain but definitely nowhere near as much as advertised by supplement manufacturers.

I don’t believe there is any need to eat protein every 2-3 hours, but eating a few meals per day (such as breakfast, lunch and dinner) with high quality protein sources should be sufficient.

I do recommend getting protein through animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and full-fat dairy (for those who aren’t lactose intolerant).

The body can make better use of animal proteins due to their high biological value.

7 Comments

  1. Hey Kris, great post man! ;-)

    Or is it gonna be a book? LoL!

    I personally find that the required 80-120 gram, with an average of 100 per day are really quite sufficient, like you point out, and that with a balanced diet you really don’t need to worry about covering that amount regular.

    If you then maybe throw in some Glutamine, or BCAA’s for example, things like that, you got more than an adequate amount even for build-up.

    Thanks for the Good Work Dude! :-)

    Mark

  2. I also agree that the recommended protein for someone who works out is exaggerated. I think this started when the supplement and media industries were working together to market hard nutritional supplements (protein shakes). The 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is a little ridiculous if you ask me. I eat between 100 -150 grams per day and weight 180 pounds and i’ve never had a problem putting on as much muscle as I want

    Tim

  3. Kris,

    Active people and athletes definitely need more protein, but I think 100g per day is more than enough for most people. The tricky part for me is keeping calories low while getting sufficient protein. This is why I do a lot of protein shakes with whey protein powder as meal replacements and also take BCAAs on my fasting days.

    Alykhan

  4. Is one gram per pound of body weight enough for a weight trainer?

  5. Peanut Butter Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies

    1 Tbl Smuckers (or home made) Peanut Butter with oil drained out.
    1/2 Tsp (or less) Nutello (Optional)
    Chocolate Protein powerder (I prefer Nectar brand)

    Take about a tablespoon of drained peanut butter and smash it into a flat disk
    Take back of a teaspoon. Gather Nutello and spread it on the disk.
    Fold it on itself, so that the Nutello is in the middle.
    Roll it in the Chocolate Protein powder
    Roll it into a ball
    eat

    Approx nutrition info
    Carbs: 4.1 g
    Cals 115
    Sodium 62.8
    Protein: 4.9g
    Fat .6 g

  6. I disagree! 1 gram per pound is the right amount for everyone. protein which is really amino acids after the body breaks it down is what fuels every single part of the body. from skin cell growth, hair, organ/ cell growth ect… so if you are 180 lbs to maintain your weight you must match your weight its like fueling a car if u have a 2o gallon tank and are going on a road trip would you fill your tank with only 10-15 gallons? even if your trying to loss weight this is still where you should be. protein with the right diet n exercise will build muscle. and muscle is the best fat burner their is! 1 lbs of muscle uses 69 calories to be maintained fat only uses 9 calories. so i would say if your goal is to be healthy and maintain where your at 1 gram per pound. if you are training, lifting,sports 1.5 per pound!

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