There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how much protein your body needs. It depends on both your weight and level of activity.
You should know that protein is essential for muscle growth, but there are many questions. For instance, how much protein do you need? How often should you eat it? And what are the best sources of protein?
To get the most complete and research-based approach to eating protein, I teamed up with examine.com to help you figure out what is best for your body.
How Much Protein Should You Eat?
Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients and is most commonly consumed as a supplement. It is important to consume enough protein through a healthy diet, but it’s common for people to supplement their intake with protein powders.
Protein powders are popular supplements, and there is a lot of competition around various powders. Some supplement companies have highly unregulated practices, and their products may be of questionable ethics. This allows them to come up with the latest and greatest formula to keep sales high to stay ahead of competitors.
Different protein sources are used, various additives are used, and different processing techniques are used. These modifications can lead to varying results in terms of quality and efficacy. To answer this question, we need to understand what exactly protein is used for, how the various powders differ and then deconstruct the modifications and whether they hold up both clinically and practically.
Protein Uses and Sources
Protein is essential for building muscle. It helps to carry out many vital functions in the body, including supporting life and proper metabolism. Carbohydrates work as bricks, while fats are responsible for making sure the process runs smoothly. All three play an important role in staying healthy and fit.
What does it all mean?
Protein intake is a daily quota that must be met for optimum health. Many amino acids do many things, and most of them can be converted into one another (essential amino acids are those that cannot be obtained from conversion). The recommended amount of protein per day ranges from X to Y, depending on factors.
The recommended protein intake for adults is approximately 56 grams per day. This amount will help to support optimal body function and muscle growth.
Lesson #1: Protein is essential for maintaining body integrity and function. If you do not get enough protein, your muscles will not grow properly, and your organs may not function as they should.
The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for dietary protein is 50 grams daily. This amount is surprisingly low, but if you meet this intake level, it is unlikely that you will be deficient in dietary protein.
The RDA for protein was set based on the “average” person, a sample of sedentary people with a somewhat average body mass index (BMI), and a mixed diet of adequate calories.
If your goal is to live a healthy lifestyle without regularly engaging in physical activity, the RDA of protein is enough. This does not mean it is optimal, but 50 grams is at least sufficient.
It is difficult to determine the exact amount of protein a person needs, as it depends on their weight and activity level. While there is no one set of perfect guidelines, most scientists agree that the following ranges are about right:
The normal amount for a person with little to no physical activity and not looking to change their body composition is around 0.8g per kilogram body weight. More is not harmful, but this is the bare minimum.
An athlete or highly active person, or someone who is not very active but looking to lose body fat, between 1-1.5g per kilogram.
For the upper limits of protein consumption for someone looking to beneficially influence their body composition (lose fat and/or gain muscle) or a highly active endurance athlete, a range of 1.5-2.2g per kilogram daily.
The following recommendations should be used with caution because there are a few caveats:
If you are over 20% body fat for a male or 30% for a female, your protein requirements will be higher than if you were of average body fat percentage.
Most experts agree that consuming up to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is safe, but the evidence for its benefits is somewhat limited.
Lesson #2: The recommended amount of protein for most people is around 1g/kg body weight. A daily dose of 2 grams per kilogram (2g/kg) is a good target if you are active. If you are obese, calculate your target body weight based on your goal weight, not your current weight.
Complete Proteins vs. Incomplete Proteins
Protein requirements vary depending on the person’s activity level and muscle mass. The bare minimum recommendation for protein is based on complete protein sources.
Protein is a mixture of amino acids, which are essential for life. A protein source is considered complete if consuming the minimum amount (50g) would provide you with enough essential amino acids to sustain life.
Rice is not the best option if you’re looking for a complete protein source. It’s low in lysine, an essential amino acid.
So we have two options here:
You can combine two incomplete sources with essential amino acids to make a complete protein. For example, rice is low in lysine but high in methionine, while peas are high in lysine and low in methionine; this combination gives you the perfect level of all the essential amino acids.
Eating more rice can help you get your daily dose of lysine, which is essential for a healthy body. Consuming 100-150g of incomplete protein will provide enough of the deficient amino acids.
It is only a valid concern if your overall protein intake is deficient or you are not consuming enough complete protein sources to meet your needs. If you consume adequate amounts of whole protein sources, you’ll unlikely fail to meet requirements on a mixed diet of incomplete protein sources.
Lesson #3: Your body can convert some amino acids into other amino acids, but it cannot convert essential amino acids. A complete protein source has enough essential amino acids for your body to use.