Breaking The Golden Rule of Nutrition: Why I’m Eating Just 0.5g of Protein Per lb Bodyweight

April 8, 2019 | 27 Comments

0.5g protein

In the startup/business world, there’s a term called MVP which stands for minimum viable product.

Basically, it’s when you launch product with the minimum amount of features to satisfy a customer.

For the past year, I’ve been toying around more with my own version of MVP.

Except I call my MVP, Minimum Viable Protein.

Clever, I know.

Hear me out.

I’ve been on a quest to see just how little protein I could get without impacting my physical/mental health.

I’m not anti-protein

I just don’t like focusing so much of my time and energy stressing over whether or not I’m going to hit this crazy high daily protein intake that every fitness guru is peddling.

I’ve spent years obsessed with protein.

Getting enough protein, timing my protein, making sure I get the right type of protein.

In traditional bodybuilding circles, it’s recommended that you need to get at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

So if you weigh 200 lbs, you’re encouraged to eat 200g of protein.

The hardcore guys go even higher, 1.5g protein per pound of bodyweight, which is just fucking insane.

A light at the end of the tunnel?

These days there’s a segment of the fitness industry that’s breaking away from the protein obsessed bodybuilder juice train.

There are more fit pros who see that even following the 1g protein rule is a bit much and recommend something along the lines of 0.8g of protein per lb of bodyweight.

So if you’re 200 lbs, you would eat 160 grams of protein per day.

Definitely not as much as before, but still, eating 160 grams of protein per day isn’t easy to accomplish if you don’t focus on getting protein every meal.

And yes, 0.8 was something I’ve recommended in the past, and if you can do it, then awesome, but here’s something I wanted to share with you…

My experiments with 0.6g of protein per pound of bodyweight.

In 2017, I published an article about my experiments dropping from 1g to 0.6g of protein per lb of bodyweight.

You can read it here.

Summary: Noticed slight muscle loss, slight increase in body fat (but probably from being more flexible with my calories than anything else). Strength, energy, and recovery not impacted. 

Forbidden fitness territory: Eating just 0.5g of protein per lb of bodyweight per day

0.6g protein was fine, but I wanted to see if I could go even lower.

Somewhere in early 2018, I decided to experiment with 0.5g.

I went from getting around 115-120g protein per day to now just 100g of protein per day.

I’ve been at this level ever since.

And the results of dropping my protein intake to a level that would have most bodybuilder’s balls shrivel up?

One word, shocking.

And by shocking, I mean nothing has fucking changed.

My energy, recovery levels, and strength are the same.

Note: I’m maintaining my weight right now, so that’s important to know.

My goal is to get 100g of protein per day.

That’s it.

If I get more protein , cool.

But following the 0.5g rule has worked amazingly well so far.

Oh yeah, ​I’m training 6x per week.

  • 3 weight lifting sessions (alternating between upper and lower workouts with varying rep schemes).
  • 3 Brazilian jiu jitsu sessions (basically super intense cardio where I try to prevent other dudes from tearing my limbs off).

Calorie intake is higher on some days and lower on others, but it probably balances to around my maintenance intake by the end of the week.

Don’t you need a high protein diet to lose weight and/or build muscle?​​​

​​This depends on the person and their goals.

  • Someone who is 100 lbs overweight and has never weight trained before doesn’t need to focus on protein. They just need to be in a deficit and can probably go as low as 0.4g of protein.
  • Someone who is 190 lbs, has been lifting for 10+ years, has tapped out 99% of their natural muscular potential, and wants to get down to 5% body fat while maintaining every ounce of muscle they have? I wouldn’t recommend them ​​​​foll​​owing the 0.5g rule.
  • Someone who is a beginner, underweight, and trying to build muscle? I’d recommend 0.8g. But this would be easier to get since they’ll be eating in a surplus anyways.
  • Someone who’s an intermediate, has some muscle, and wants to lose 20 lbs but doesn’t really care about getting shredded? 0.7g is a realistic number to hit.

There are too many scenarios to list, but in the end, your protein intake depends on your end goal.

Does your diet support your end goal?

My end goal is to structure my nutrition and training so I never have to stress about it and can eat whatever I want whenever I want.

I’m not telling or forcing anyone to follow the 0.5g protein rule.

But if you’ve been stressed about hitting your protein numbers, don’t care about being the most muscular person in the room, and want 10x more freedom with your diet, then give this shot.

It won’t kill ya.

If you do try it out, let me know how it goes in the comments.

27 Comments - Leave Your Thoughts

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  1. Interesting experiment. I love the challenging of assumptions. Was there anything specific that sparked the idea? Did your balls shrivel up?

    1. it’s not impossible. But if you weight 180 lbs for ex, 180g of protein per day rarely happens naturally. Plus every time you go out to eat, you need to focus on ordering the dishes that are high in protein. No thanks, I just want to enjoy my food and not just focus on finding something that has chicken breast in it. Either every meal you eat needs to have a fuck ton of protein or you need to supplement heavily with protein powder (or some equivalent).

      1. I think the big deal has been made for years by the 1g+ guys. I took Keith’s point to be that it’s not a big deal after all. Good article.

  2. Interesting stuff, do you count incomplete protein in your 0.5g?

    There’s a typo in the “tunnel” section, a 200lbs guy eating 0.8g would eat 160g, not 180g.

  3. Hi Keith,

    Glad you’re posting again, and great experiment idea!

    It’s good to question and test these rules-of-thumb that get passed on like gospel, usually when it’s a round number, 1:1 or super basic, like 1 gram protein per pound it’s probably someones guess or what worked for them, not necessarily based on science or extensive testing.

    Maybe if it were 1 gram of protein per pound of muscle mass (based on body composition) it would “smell” more legit.

    I personally just try to eat enough so I’m not hungry and try to limit “what” I eat by sticking to good foods and not too concerned with “how much” or macros.

    Glad you debunked the myth for the average person that’s not looking to be a muscle superfreak and thanks for sharing your results.

    1. There is science and research behind the 1g “rule” but for my goals and lifestyle, it’s not needed 🙂

      1. Thanks for clarifying, I’m with you and my guess is that your lifestyle is closer to the average healthy persons, and that 1g “rule” 🙂 applies to a really small part of the population that want to be huge! Some numbers with my best guess

  4. Hi Keith,

    I came upon your article looking around the internet for posts on lowering protein intake without affecting current strength and energy.

    I am 6ft tall and currently weigh around 196 lbs. I started my weight loss journey when I was 384 lbs. It has been 3 years and I initially stuck to 1g per pound of bodyweight until recently when I got tired of trying to keep up with the protein supplements. Even then I decided to drop down only to 0.8g per lb of bodyweight.

    Although I wanted to go lower to somewhere around 0.6g as mentioned in your last post, I was scared of the results. Due to my 190lbs weight loss I have a ton of loose skin and I thought going lower would result in muscle loss leading to further sagging of my skin. What thoughts do you have on this ?

    Also this is a great post man. It is necessary to realize to not center your entire life and energy around how much of what you eat and how your body looks as long as you are fit and not dependent on earning from it.

    Your results truly highlight what needs to be done by everyone – Nutrition based on your goals

    1. hey man, nice we are the same height and weight.

      Sagging loose skin, when you have that much weight to lose is going to happen whether you go high protein or not. A lot of people find the skin tightens up over the course of a year or so once they settle down in their new weight.

  5. I like your viewpoint on this. I agree that you should do what your body responds to naturally. I recently lost 14 lbs from the keto lifestyle, which as most know is high in protein. People like me are having success from the 28 day keto challenge – Do you recommend strength training too for people on a keto or paleo diet? Because naturally, these diets will be high in protein, but even though I lost weight, I’m still flabby.

  6. I don’t understand way an article on health and fitness must be laced with so much expletives. As an Asian myself, I never liked the whole “gansta talk” shit. It makes an otherwise informative and helpful site feels cheap.

    1. i said “fuck” twice, in a 850 word article. If that offends you, I really don’t know what to say. I’m not a doctor, personal trainer, or medical professional. Just a guy who writes about his fitness experiences. Not gonna apologize for saying fuck or shit. This has nothing to do with being asian.

  7. Mike Mentzer said 25 percent of your calories should come from protein, and that carbs are vital for anyone training due to its sparing effect on muscle. He recommended like 60 percent carbs.

    He was juiced beyond belief, so he could’ve eaten tree bark and gotten jacked, but there is some logic to his beliefs.

    I’m going to try it for a month losing weight.

  8. I loved this. I recently decided to mix up my diet to work on gut issues and am probably getting .5g of protein relative to my body weight. Some days less. I’m the most jacked I’ve been in probably 10 years. I have nothing to back this up for anyone beyond me, so totally anecdotal here, but I feel a good well rounded diet and trying to avoid sugar has been more effective than when I guzzling a an extra protein shake or two a day.

  9. Hello, Keith. Great article!

    I am 5'-8", 170 Lb, probably around 18% BF, no visible abs. I want to maximize muscle growth. Do you think that I should consume 0.8-1g/LB protein, or (136-170g protein per day) if I want to maximize muscle growth? Or do you think that I could go lower maybe 100-120g protein and still maximize muscle growth?

  10. Great post and very timely for me! I recently learned about the need for 0.8-1.0 grams of protein on my weight loss and fitness journey and even though I’m getting protein in every meal, I’m still falling short, typically coming in around 0.5-0.6. I don’t want to overload on calories to get it in and want to actually enjoy my meals and not have to be protein obsessed all the time so I am feeling very encouraged now. Thanks so much for your insight!

    1. You need 0.8-1 if you’re cutting and have lower body fat to preserve muscle. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose or maintaining, then you can get away with 0.6g/lb per day.

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