How Much Protein Should You Have?
How much protein should you have and how much does your body actually need?
This is going to be a fun one.
Pretty much every diet, when it becomes popular or first became prominent, has raised controversy at some point somewhere.
And this can lead to a weird kind of diet tribalism, where people make whatever diet they follow an integral part of their identity.
And this of course has led to plenty of shouting matches over social media about which diet is better, which one is idiotic, and which one’s stupid. That whole thing – which to be fair happens across social media for pretty much everything.
Why Does Protein Intake End Up Being Controversial?
Between the increasing prominence of veganism or vegetarianism, and at the same time, the rise of paleo and low carb, I think protein’s probably the one food group or one macronutrient that’s been at the forefront of that kind of divide.
From keto and paleo and low carb to vegans to the fitness industry to bodybuilders to pretty much all the food brands that seem to have decided to just slap the word protein onto their packaging and double the price.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on protein these days.
I’m going to try and dispel some of the myths and misinformation around protein intake and look at how much you need and how much is ideal.
What Is Protein And What Are Common Protein Sources?
Protein is one of the three main macronutrients alongside fats and carbohydrates.
It’s the key macronutrient for building and repairing muscles. And to be fair for the purposes of this, that’s all we really need to be aware of.
In terms of protein food sources, meat, poultry, egg, and seafood are great. Some dairy – yoghurt and cheese in particular – are also good choices.
And then there are some plant-based sources as well, like beans, legumes, and nuts, although the protein content per hundred grams of most plant sources is going to be lower than what’s in animal sources.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that most plant sources on their own aren’t what are called “complete” proteins, where they have all of the essential amino acids.
So when you are looking at plant proteins, you also sometimes need to combine them. I’m not going to go too much into details on that, but that’s just something to be aware of.
You can also get supplements. Things like protein powders and protein bars.
Whey protein derived from milk tends to be the most popular one.
In terms of plant-based, you’ve also got pea protein, soy protein, and hemp protein. I’ve also seen fava bean protein and sunflower seed protein as well.
So there are plenty of choices out there.
How Much Protein Do You Need According To Government Guidelines?
When looking at how much protein we need, the official answer depends 100% on where you look.
And also just emphasise, the sources say that’s what your body needs.
That doesn’t automatically mean it’s optimal for your body’s function.
And it’s also not specific to any one person’s goals or background or biology.
Protein Intake Recommendations In The UK
In the UK, the British Nutrition Foundation says that an adult should get 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. So for men, they work that out on an average weight of 75 kg to be 56 grams a day.
And for women with an average weight of 63 kilograms, for that to be 45 grams a day.
Protein Intake Recommendations In The USA
When looking in the AS, I looked at the USDA’s website and they didn’t have this protein daily target as such.
The way the USDA’s recommendations work is that they classify foods into protein foods. So that includes meats, poultry, seafood, and nuts and seeds.
And then based on how many calories your daily intake is, they gave guidelines for from 1600 to 3000 calories a day as your total calorie intake. They said from five ounces of these protein foods up to seven ounces.
So that works out to somewhere between 140 and 200 grams of those foods.
Hypothetically an uncooked 200g chicken breast is going to have 40 to 50 grams of protein.
When you look at it that way, the recommendation is not that drastically different from what’s recommended in the UK.
Maybe actually a little bit lower, but I had to do some mental arithmetic to get to that and I can’t 100% say did that right.
So that’s worth bearing in mind.
But from what I can see the recommendation’s fairly similar.
There are a couple of other sources of information as well.
How Much Protein Do You Need If You Workout Or Do Sports?
The American College of Sports Medicine, based on your lifestyle, your activity level, and any specific training goals recommends between 10 and 35% of your total calorie intake for the day comes from protein.
If you’re active and lifting weights, they recommend between 1.2 and 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. So for a 75kg person that would put you in the ballpark of 90 to 130 grams of protein.
In a 2019 study, a research Institute in Switzerland suggested that for higher muscle mass (they specifically use the example of bodybuilders) suggested between 1.6 and 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.
Other Things To Consider About Protein Intake
There is a lot of variation and a lot of it does come down to you, your goals, and your lifestyle.
And then there are a few other things which I want you to consider yourself as well.
I talked about diet, I talked about goals and I think your food preferences come into play here as well a little bit.
If you find you’re struggling with recovery from your training sessions, then either you may be training too much, or you’re not fueling your recovery right. In which case maybe you do need to increase your protein.
If you don’t enjoy most traditional protein sources or the protein sources that are in your diet, then maybe you can reduce them if it’s not going to affect your health, and as long as you’re getting what your body needs.
If you’re on a specific diet, for any reason, I’m specifically thinking paleo or keto or low carb as good examples, then you might need a bit more just to make sure you’re getting enough actual food in.
How Much Protein I Have
In terms of how much protein I have, I don’t really have a set daily target, but if I look through my MyFitnessPal history, it’s usually between 100 and 140 grams of protein per day.
I try and get some protein with each meal throughout the day.
And I do lean towards the higher end of the range that’s recommended from all those various sources.
But a lot of that comes down to my own food preferences as well.
Protein does take a bit longer to break down the carbohydrates in the body. So you ended up feeling a bit fuller for longer, and also for me to gain pretty much any muscle mass, I need all the help I can get. So at the very least, I need to make sure I’m getting enough protein in.