How Much Protein Do I Need? (And 11 Other Protein Qs You Were Dying To Ask)
Isn’t that the thing where if I eat too much my kidneys will explode?
But that super ripped dude at my gym eats 300 grams of protein per day, and he seems healthy and bangs like seven girls a night.
But is consuming so much protein natural for humans?
I should probably just eat pumpkin and almonds. That’s much more natural.
But I heard you need protein to build muscle….
Okay, fine. I’ll eat some protein. But how much should I take?
Is that one gram rule thing legit? Is chicken better than steak?
Maybe I should order the new Xtreme Nanotech Whey Complex, Sujan “Swoller Flexxx” Patel promoted on IG.
He seems nice, and he’s ripped. Whatever he promotes must work.
2 weeks later…
Fuck you, Patel.
Here’s every question you have about protein answered (and the no BS truth)
Protein can be complex subject, but only if you let it be.
There are dudes who get PHDs in studying protein.
There’s also BIG money behind selling anything even remotely related to protein.
A lot of gullible 16 year olds will jump at the chance for a new protein supplement if they are told can look like Zac Efron in thirty days.
But when it comes to losing fat, building muscle, and looking good naked, learning how to properly utilize protein is very simple.
I’m not here to get into the nitty gritty science surrounding protein.
I’m here to dispel the BS myths around protein and give you all the answers you need to use it to build the body you want.
Why do I need protein?
- Protein is needed for protein synthesis (which helps repair and grow your muscles).
- Protein prevents muscle loss while dieting.
- Protein helps you stay full longer.
- Protein increases thermogenesis (which means you burn more calories by eating protein, although the amount is super low and not nearly as high as the media brags).
- Protein helps improve body composition. In this study, lowering carbs and increasing protein helped improve body composition. This isn’t my recommendation to go low carb, but it shows how replacing those mashed potatoes with some chicken might not be a bad idea.
- In short, protein is very important if you want to look good naked, which is why you’re here, right? What is that? You know a ripped fitness model that eats nothing but fruits, veggies, and wheatgrass. Well congrats. You just found yourself a unicorn.
How much protein do I need to lose weight?
There are two circles of people when it comes protein requirements.
Circle 1: The “US Food Pyramid is God” crowd that says you only need 50 grams of protein per day.
Circle 2: The hardcore bodybuilder crowd that says you need 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
So who’s right?
Now you might be expecting me to say Circle 2.
Truth is, it depends.
The current DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) is 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight (0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight).
Now if you told a bodybuilder to get this much protein, he would shit in your cereal.
And he has good reason to.
That’s because these incredibly low protein recommendations weren’t designed for bodybuilders or fitness models.
They were designed for the average person who doesn’t even lift.
If you’re 50 pounds overweight, don’t lift weights, and don’t care about building muscle….
…you’ll be just fine getting this little protein.
If you lift weights, and your goal is to maximize muscle growth and minimize muscle loss while dieting, then you need definitely need to ramp up your protein intake.
So don’t bash those low protein recommendations without knowing the context.
Protein requirements for fat loss (if you don’t lift and don’t care about building muscle)
0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Note: You should lift if possible, but there are situations where you simply need to lose weight for health reasons, and therefore should just focus on your diet.
This is the absolute bare minimum. Chances are, if you eat a semi well-balanced diet, you’ll naturally go over this amount.
Protein requirements for fat loss (to minimize muscle loss)
As this study shows, protein requirements are significantly higher in people who lift weights.
This is to protect yourself against losing muscle mass.
As a general requirement, I recommend a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight for fat loss.
This number would increase to 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight as you get much leaner and dip into the single digit body fat range.
Update Feb 2017: I have recently been running an experiment on myself where I went from getting 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day down to 0.6 grams. Surprisingly I’m not dead. Find out what happened.
How much protein do I need to build muscle as a beginner?
If you’re a complete newbie lifter (meaning you have never lifted weights), and you start lifting, you will gain muscle regardless of your protein intake.
You could be consuming only 30 grams of protein per day, but if you’re lifting 3x per week, you’ll still gain some muscle (albeit not a lot).
The stimulus from lifting alone is enough to ignite a certain amount of muscle growth.
Note: For a battle tested workout routine to help you build muscle, check out Superhero Shredding 2.0.
Of course, if you really want to optimize muscle growth, you should aim to get 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight as a beginner.
How much protein do I need to build muscle if I’m an advanced lifter?
If you’re an “advanced” lifter (meaning you have more than 5 years of lifting under your belt), building more muscle is secondary to getting enough protein.
At this point, you’re fighting to put on even half a pound of muscle in a month.
You’re so close to your genetic muscular potential that you can’t just “eat more protein” in hopes of gaining more muscle.
I would actually recommend keeping protein the same as a beginner and focusing on your training.
Focus on increasing the intensity of your workouts, adding more sets, reps, and volume.
That’s the only way you’ll grow.
Or do steroids.
Can I build muscle without protein?
But only as a beginner.
Like I said, the stimulus from lifting alone is enough to help total beginners build muscle, but it’s far from enough to maximize growth.
How much protein do I need to maintain my weight?
I’m not a huge fan of the word “maintenance” because it implies you’re going to stay at a certain weight for a set period of time.
This never happens.
Let’s say you lost some fat and you’re now happily sitting at 175 pounds.
You’re not going to stay at 175 forever, no matter how hard you try.
You will have days you go up and down.
Water, sodium, carbs, stress, and sleep patterns can all affect your weight on a daily basis.
You have a greater chance of sleeping with Margot Robbie than maintaining the same weight every day.
You’ll be much better off if you aim to be within 5-7 pounds of 175 pounds.
About how much protein do you need to maintain weight? Again, aim for a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Can I lose weight without eating a lot of protein?
If you don’t get enough protein, you will lose fat, but you’ll also lose muscle.
If you want to pull off a perfect cut, and retain the max amount of muscle, you better be getting at least 0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Isn’t eating a lot of protein bad for your kidneys?
In short, no.
As long as you don’t have any existing kidney problems, high protein diets are 100% fine.
What are the best sources of protein?
The best sources of protein are those that contain all 9 essential amino acids.
Luckily, if you’re getting protein from traditional sources like meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood, you have nothing to worry about.
These sources will contain all the amino acids you need.
What’s the lowdown on protein powders? Should I even use them?
Yes and no.
Yes, if you have trouble getting enough protein via “regular” foods like meat, seafood, and dairy. Then supplementing with a whey protein powder can definitely benefit you.
Yes, if you are lazy and want to use whey for convenience sake.
No, if you already get enough protein through other sources. Protein powder provides no benefits over other protein sources.
What’s the best protein powder? I recommend MTS Whey.
Is chicken a better source of protein than steak?
What about post workout nutrition and the “anabolic window?” Do you really need to get protein within 5 minutes of finishing training?
Fortunately you do not need to rush home and run over a dozen children to chug down your whey shake.
In fact, research has shown the “anabolic window” is much longer than 1 hour.
What’s important is that you hit your daily protein goal for the day. Don’t worry about timing as much.
Focus on the big picture.
Optimizing your post workout protein timing isn’t going to be what makes or breaks your physique.
But I’m a vegetarian. How do I get more protein?
No you definitely do not need to eat meat to get enough protein.
Here are a few popular sources of vegetarian friendly protein sources:
- Kidney Beans: 24g protein per 100g
- Greek Yogurt: 18g protein per 170g
- Peanuts: 25g protein per 100g
- Buckwheat: 15g protein per 100g
- Tofu: 8g protein per
- Chia Seeds: 4g protein per 2tbsp
- Eggs: 12g protein per 100g
- Plant based protein powders: Varies (Here’s a good brand I recommened)
Time to protein up, guys!
There are virtually zero downsides to upping your protein intake.
Unless you think losing more fat, building more muscle, and looking sexy as hell are downsides…
If you haven’t already, look at the protein requirements as they apply to you, and do your best to bump them up.
I promise, you won’t regret it.