How Much Protein Do You Need?


Most gym-goers know that protein is important. But why? And how much should you be eating? Today, I hope to clear up some of the confusion by answering these questions.

 First, a little primer about what protein is, and why it is important:

  • Protein is one of the three main macronutrients that makes up the food we eat. (The other two are fat and carbohydrate.)

  • Protein itself is made up of amino acids.

  • Amino acids are the building blocks for most stuff in our bodies. They’re like Legos that can be broken down and re-assembled in different ways.

  • Unlike extra fat (which we can store very easily on our bums and bellies), we don’t store lots of extra amino acids. Protein is always getting used, recycled, and sometimes excreted. This is one of the reasons why people who are interested in fat loss do well on a high protein diet.

  • If we don’t get enough amino acids, our body will start to plunder it from parts that we need, such as our muscles. This is known as catabolism. If you participate in endurance sports, this is especially important to know about!

  • So we have to constantly replenish our amino acids by eating more protein.

  • I’m not just talking about muscle here, either. Our Lean Body Mass (LBM) also includes our bones, organs, and skin. I think we can agree that those are equally important!

As you can imagine, how much protein you need is dependant on your size, amount of physical activity, and goals. I’ll break it down below. Multiply the number below by your current body weight to find out how many grams of protein you should be eating every day:

  • 0.4 - You are a non-exerciser, who wishes to maintain your LBM (not atrophy and avoid catabolism). This is the minimum to prevent malnutrition. No one should be eating less protein than this.

  • 0.6 - You do exercise, but your goal is still just to maintain the LBM you already have.

  • 0.8 - You are an avid exerciser, and you hope to build LBM.

  • 1.0 - Your goal is body transformation - either to build lots of muscle, or lose lots of fat.

  • 1.3 - While an upper safe limit of protein intake has not been determined, this is the highest amount studied that has been found to have positive effects on the body.

Here is another way to think about it, in terms of what percentage of your diet should consist of protein based on your body type and type of exercise:

  • 25% - Endurance athletes, or those with a super high metabolism

  • 30% - Explosive athletes, like wrestlers and gymnasts, and those who build muscle easily.

  • 35% - Powerlifters, or those who are naturally strong but struggle to stay lean.

Know that this overview barely scratches the surface of the importance of protein, but it should get your started in the right direction If you want to learn more, I recommend checking out the following articles:

Roxy Turner
Nutrition Coach