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