June 25, 2014

“How much protein should I eat?”

“How much protein should I eat?”

This is a common question, and it seems that you always get different answers to it. On one hand, you’ll get recommendations from some sources that say you you only need around 50 grams per day, while some bodybuilding publications (essentially published by supplement companies) will recommend up to 300 grams per day, or even higher. Too much protein can be hard on the kidneys, and as a recent study shows, may not even help in gaining muscle. However, while eating more protein will make you feel full, it also won’t make you gain bodyfat.

You won’t even get a solid answer by looking into some of the peer-reviewed nutrition journals on a specific amount, because there is no fixed number that everyone needs. Throw in different variables and opinions such as the source of the protein and meal timing, and this number is pretty much a moving target.

Lots of people overthink this number, but I find that shooting for about one gram of protein per pound of lean body mass seems to be good enough for the majority of people, and for really lean people I just tell them to shoot for about a gram per pound of bodyweight. This seems to be within the ballpark of most sport nutrition recommendations for athletes. It may not be spot-on, but it is close enough. Until I get some super-definitive (and consistent) number from the sport nutrition world, this is where I’ll stay.

Some of the confusion comes from most sport nutrition journals using kilograms to measure body weight, while most of us in the United States are more familiar with measuring our weight in pounds. Guidelines for protein are from 1.3-2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for athletes.

Hearing these numbers has probably confused a few people, who didn’t realize that a kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, and you fall right in line with some of the recommendations from bodybuilders to consumed 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. And, I’m sure companies that sell protein supplements didn’t do anything to dissuade the decision to consume way more than is needed.

When it comes to performance and body composition goals, the big gains are really to be found in the variables of meal timing, especially in the areas of carbohydrate and fat consumption.


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