The amount of protein an individual actually needs varies widely depending on age, lifestyle, genetics, and more.
Why It Matters
Proteins are the building blocks of the body and if we do not consume enough proteins in any form then our body will suffer the consequence.
- Aim to eat at least 0.8 g/kg/d of protein daily with increased intake as you age.
- If you are specifically trying to increase muscle mass an overall daily protein intake of 1.4–2.0 g/kg/d is recommended.
- If you are aiming for fat loss consume a higher protein intake (> 3.0 g protein/kg/day).
The amount of protein an individual actually needs varies widely depending on age, lifestyle, genetics, and more. For example, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 to 1.0 gram (g) per kilogram (kg) of bodyweight daily (d) for children, adolescents and adults.
However, if you are an athlete research shows you need to consume two times the RDA amount from 1.4-1.8 g/kg/d to maintain protein balance within the body. If an athlete does not consume enough protein they run the risk of inhibiting recovery and limiting performance, among many other things. Moreover, these two studies, study 1 and study 2 found that athletes involved in moderate amounts of intense training should consume 1.2–2.0 g/kg/day of protein (60–300 g/day for a 50–150 kg athlete) while athletes involved in high volume, intense training should consume 1.7–2.2 g/kg/day of protein (85–330 g/day for a 50–150 kg athlete).
For the general population and individuals participating in general fitness there is evidence that indicates optimal protein intakes in the range of 1.2–2.0 g/kg/day should be considered, which is still above the RDA. Additionally, recent research shows older adults (50+ years old) may benefit more from a higher amount of protein 1.0–1.2 g/kg/day to help stave off significant muscle loss, osteoporosis, a suppressed immune system, and more.
If you are specifically trying to increase muscle mass an overall daily protein intake of 1.4–2.0 g/kg/d is shown to be sufficient for most exercising individuals. Conversely, if you are aiming for fat loss higher protein intakes (> 3.0 g protein/kg/day) when combined with resistance exercise is shown to have a positive impact.
So, how much protein do you really need?
As you may now realize, this varies greatly from person to person and it is important to understand that the amount of protein you take in daily is dependent on your specific goals, body type, lifestyle, etc.
The bottom line?
Aim to eat at least 0.8 g/kg/d of protein daily with increased intake as you age and become more physically active. Moreover, you should try to get this protein through whole food sources incorporated into a well balanced diet. The best dietary sources of low fat, high quality protein are light skinless chicken, fish, egg whites, very lean cuts of beef and skim milk (casein and whey).
Lastly, protein sources and amounts for vegans and vegetarians also varies significantly but will be addressed in a future article.
Jon Esposito MA, CSCS, CISSN, USAW