Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Much Protein is Enough?

If protein were a professional boxer, I would be Don King (minus the crazy hair).

It's almost cliche for exercise professionals to promote protein consumption--so I may sound like a broken record--but adequate protein intake is critical for several fitness-related goals. This is not exactly ground-breaking news, but I often witness many strength training enthusiasts who consistently fail to reach the daily minimum suggested by research.

Benefits of Eating More Protein

As partly discussed in a previous post, here are some of the benefits of increasing protein intake:

  1. Diets higher in protein--versus diets higher in carbohydrates--lead to greater amounts of weight and fat loss, even when calorie intake is even [1, 2].
  2. Adequate protein intake allows for maximal muscle growth in a resistance training routine [3]. Considering that most of us are battling age-related muscle loss, attaining or retaining muscle tissue is critically important.
  3. During weight loss, eating higher amounts of protein helps retain lean mass (muscle, bone, etc.) more effectively [3].
  4. Extra protein consumed following a month of diet-induced weight loss leads to more regained lean mass [4].
  5. Meals high in protein increase satiety more than meals high in carbohydrates or fat [5]. 

 How Much is Enough?

Research has shown that eating a daily gram total equal to your body weight in pounds multiplied by .64 (or weight in kgs x 1.4) will allow muscles to grow to their maximum degree during a strength training program [3]. The table below features specific protein suggestions for various body weights.

Body Weight (lbs.)
Daily Protein Minimum (g)

To put the gram recommendation into more usable terms, consider that red meat, poultry, and fish typically have 5-7 grams of protein per ounce. A medium to large egg typically has six grams of protein. Here's my basic formula for ensuring adequate protein intake:

  1. Divide your daily protein minimum by the amount of meals you eat per day to figure out your grams per meal minimum.
  2. Divide the answer from #1 by six to figure out your minimal ounces per meal total.

Final Points

With all of this said, I don't want the point of added protein intake to concern you. I'm not suggesting that you consume half of your calories from protein and should start slamming protein shakes every two hours. If you attain the daily amount recommended above, you will likely consume about 25-35% of your calories from protein. At least two-thirds of your diet will still consist of carbohydrates and fats. Also, while supplements are necessary in some cases, I highly recommend attaining protein through natural sources such as red meat, poultry, and fish. 

Protein enables optimal muscle growth while helping weight loss goals in a number of ways. By reaching the suggested daily minimum, you will only get closer to your own training-related goals.

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