Giving yourself a daily target for your protein intake is helpful. However, it’s difficult to give one blanket protein recommendation to everyone. In this article we’ll give you a general guideline, then we’ll talk about things that cause your protein needs to change.
If you’re reading this article, chances are that you exercise regularly. This already changes your protein recommendations. The most common protein recommendation for the average adult is .8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
To find your protein needs, use this formula:
Bodyweight in lbs / 2.2 * .8 = grams of protein per day
So, if you’re 150 pounds, your recommended intake would be 55 grams per day. However, those numbers are based on sedentary people. The minute you start to exercise, your needs increase.
An August 2016 study published in Nutrition Bulletin found that active adults should consume between 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. If you weigh 150 lbs, that puts your range between 82 and 136 grams per day. As you can see, this is already a big increase from .8 grams per kilogram per day.
Active people put more demands on their body, particularly their muscles. The more your muscles work, the more they break down. Eating protein helps them recover and come back stronger.
To figure out where you fall in this spectrum between 1.2 and 2.0 grams per kilogram per day, consider a few factors. The first is experience level. People who are new to exercise (1 year of experience or less) actually need more protein than people with experience.
That’s probably due to the fact that a novice doesn’t have much muscle mass. When you first start a weight training routine, you gain muscle very quickly. The more your workout, the slower you gain muscle.
That means people who’ve lifted weights for 3 years or more actually need less protein, which puts them closer to 1.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
Another factor is age. The older you get, the more protein you need. That’s because muscles waste away faster as you age. This process begins slowly at age 30 and gradually increases as you age. However, with a weight training program and adequate intake of protein, you can mostly prevent loss of muscle.
That means older people, in their 60’s and beyond, should be closer to the 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day mark. Younger people don’t need to worry about it as much, and can afford to eat less.
Injuries, surgeries or illnesses increase your protein needs. That’s because the body is in repair mode and needs more resources. Eating more protein will not only help you recover, it’ll preserve muscle mass.
It might seem counterintuitive, but losing weight increases your protein requirements. When your body is in a caloric deficit, you’re more likely to lose muscle mass. If you want to lose fat but not muscle, you should eat more protein than normal, which means that you should be closer to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, rather than 1.2.
These are rough guidelines, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how much protein you eat. The average person most likely should increase their protein intake. If you’re losing weight, beginning a weight training routine, recovering from surgery or are older, you should focus on hitting your protein goal every day.