2019 Update: I cut my protein intake even more to 0.5g. Read my update here.
The last 3 months, I did something I thought I would never do.
I did something that would make every bodybuilder, powerlifter, fitness model, and athlete want to shoot themselves.
I cut my protein intake.
And not just by like 5-10 grams.
I’m talking about a dramatic 35% decrease.
To be more specific, I cut my protein intake from getting around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to around 0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Why did I dramatically cut my protein intake?
2 main reasons:
- At this point, I just want to maintain a certain level of muscularity, leanness, and strength and be healthy. I don’t really care to build more muscle or lose more fat right now.
- Eating 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is impractical as fuck.
I’ve been getting between 0.8-1 gram for the better part of the last decade.
Part of it was because I wanted to constantly get stronger, build more muscle, and lose more fat (while preserving muscle).
But a much bigger reason was purely out of fear.
Fear that I would look “smaller.”
Fear that I would undo all my results.
Fear that others would judge me for not being as lean or muscular.
“Oh, just eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.”
I really do not understand how all these fitness guys say “Get 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.” like it’s no big deal.
If you’re a normal 180 pound guy who lives a typical life, getting 180 grams of protein per day doesn’t just happen naturally.
Every time you eat, the meal has to be protein centric.
Which is fine, but it also means you can’t hit up a ramen joint and just eat some fucking ramen without getting double meat or whatever.
Your “protein radar” needs to be one 24/7 which is stressful as fuck.
These days I really don’t have to think about protein at all. My protein powder intake has gone down dramatically and life is just so much more simple.
Is getting 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a myth?
No absolutely not.
This isn’t me trying to discredit people who go on super high protein diets.
In fact there are some people who should still eat more protein.
[thrive_text_block color=”note” headline=”Who should still eat a high protein diet?”]
If you are any of the following, you should still try to get 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight:
- Trying to maximize the amount of muscle you’re building
- Trying to maximize the amount of muscle you retain while cutting
- Any competitive bodybuilder, fitness model. powerlifter, or athlete who needs the maximize performance.
This post is geared towards those who already put in the groundwork to build their foundation of muscle and strength and just want to take it easier now and not obsess about their body.
You can still build muscle or lose fat on less protein, you just risk not being able to maximize muscle growth and retention.
What happened after I reduced my protein intake?
Surprisingly, not much.
I’m 6 ft tall and weigh 190 pounds.
I went from getting 160-190 grams of protein per day down to averaging about 114 grams of protein per day.
Here’s what happened to me:
- Even after 3 months, my overall weight hasn’t changed much. I flux between 188-192 pounds now depending on what I eat. But if you look at the pic above, it definitely looks like I gained some fat.
- I can definitely tell I lost some muscle but the amount is so small that it doesn’t affect my day to day life. If anything, my muscles just don’t feel as full.
- My desire to track my calories has gone dramatically haha. Probably explains the increase in body fat more than anything else. I’m definitely not eating like a dumbass, I’m just not tracking as tightly as I used to.
- Strength has stayed up across the board, with the exception of my main chest movement (incline dumbbell presses at a 30 degree angle). Those dropped from 120 pound dumbbells for 9 reps to 5-6 reps. Everything else has stayed exactly the same.
- Workout recovery hasn’t been impacted at all.
- Energy wise, I actually feel better since I don’t have to force myself to eat so much protein.
- The sense of freedom I now have with my diet beats the shit out of having slightly bigger shoulders. Instead of going to restaurants and forcing myself to get the chicken or steak, I can just order some fucking pasta without feeling guilty.
So what’s the takeaway here – should you go lower protein?
If you think I’m some weak fuck for cutting my protein, fine.
I’m not telling you to dramatically cut your protein intake.
Your life, your rules.
I’m just saying, if you’re sick and tired of all this protein talk and can live with being slightly less muscular, try cutting back to the 0.6 gram range.
But make sure to keep everything else the same – your workouts, training intensity, sleep, fruit/veggie intake, any vital non-protein supplements, water intake, etc…
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Do it for 30 days and have an open mind about it.
If you really can’t live with yourself after the 30 days because your arms shrunk by 1/4 of an inch and you lost all sense of self-worth, then you could always bump back up your protein.
But I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how little you’ll actually lose and how much you’ll gain.
The takeaway is you got lazy and instead of pushing past plateaues you settled for an okay body :p
no the takeaway is my level of happiness wasn’t any higher before compared to now. I personally don’t gain anything valuable from eating more protein. Nothing to do with laziness.
Just can’t get even a little sense into some dumb heads no matter what you write and how sensibly you express it. Even with them consuming 1-1.5 grams of protein every day. Lol
Thanks for the article. Puts things in perspective.
Great article. I tried to tell someone to go without a protien sup for a few months because he is traveling and access was dificult and risky buying no brand sups abroad. He wanted to murder me. A lot of people in the bb world are crazy. They all preach 1for1 or more which is prob true if you are juicing. The average person doesnt need to do that and if you arent competing why ruin your life think about protien 24/7. Without taking a protien sup it’s very hard to reach 1to1. 0.6 means a meat heavy pasta, beans tortillas and meat, sushi, sh!t vegitarian lentil curry can get you there. Anyways, vent over, don’t listen to me I drink 400+ cals a day. Balanced whole food diet, red wine is the only sup u need !
thanks. there’s a time and place for powders, just depends on the context and person’s goals.
There is a super interesting study on how 0.73-0.81 g/pound of protein is actually the optimal protein range for weight lifting and body builders. So the fact you haven’t noticed much difference would make sense. Would have loved to see your results on that protein level over 3 months while still tracking calories/macros, but this is cool all the same.
I haven’t noticed any difference between 0.73g and when I used to do 1g+ (granted I’m not in the best shape, but damn is the 0.73g way more manageable). Thanks for the article, it was insightful.
Wasn’t sure if I should have linked the study, but a quick google search will show it as the top results.
try .6, i’ve been at 0.6g for over a year now, and there’s really no diff vs 0.7
Yeah I definitely will, love the flexibility it could bring with meal planning, Thanks
You’re probably thinking of this
First off, great post. I only found this because I was searching for some validity to that 1 gram of protein/lb but I really enjoyed reading through your perspective.
I briefly scoured the comments because I have a penchant for self torture, and I wasn’t disappointed. I think what some of the commenters are missing is the big picture, you found what works for you and you decided to share your results! No one is obliged to have to follow your routine because no one’s routine is necessarily going to be the same as someone else’s.
Barring that you’re a professional body builder or athlete, what it ultimately boils down to, and you alluded to it in your conclusion, is the balance of physical health and mental health.. They are not necessarily mutually exclusive but mental fitness does play a role with physical fitness blah blah blah.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to preach but I just wanted to say I really enjoyed your post! I know it’s a few years old at this point but even in your follow up picture you still look great
yes thank you! No one here is forced to follow my advice. It’s a matter of questioning everything and finding something that works for you.
Older article, but still very relevant. The 1 gram/lbs (or more) is excessive based on numerous studies. It’s origin can probably be traced back to the supratheraputic anabolic steroid using elite bodybuilder with the LOW single digit body fat percentages during a bulking phase! It then became the holy mantra of gym broscience! For the rest of us mere mortals, much less protein is required for positive nitrogen balance. Adding to the confusion, is the wide range of protein requirements based on individual variations in areas such as the quality of protein consumed (animal vs. plant based), lean muscle mass vs total body weight, newbie vs experienced lifter, bulking vs. cutting phases (controversial), and younger vs older; just to name a few. Some requirements kinda make sense, while others are counterintuitive. Take a look at the links below for the the “Master Athlete” (like me haha).
I think 1g is excessive for 99% of people.
0.8g – there are benefits.
But I’ve been going as low as 0.5 these days (100g per day average, I weigh 195 consistently) and don’t notice much difference than my 0.6-0.7 days.
People can knock it all they want but I challenge them just to try it and see what happens 🙂
Also, it’s not even 0,8-1 g/pound of bodyweight but of lean bodyweight, because our fat mass doesn’t need to be fed protein. So the amount the 99% need is even less than 0.6 g/lb of bodyweight.
a lot of formulas that state 0.8-1g use total bw
I am also convinced it’s a trade off in macros which changes the body composition. Usually people who eat higher protein do so in reducing their carbs, while someone who is more liberal with their macros and eating less protein like you are taking in higher carbs. Judging by your pictures alone, I just think you are seeing more water in your body from carbs.
So when people see “better results” on higher protein I really think it’s due to less water retention and less glycogen being stored in their body due to sacrificing carbs. It’s cool for professionals who compete and do something with it, but it’s just not an ideal way it’s live if you are a recreational gym goer.
Suck all the water out of the body and the 1g per body weight person will have the same muscle mass index as the .7g per body weight guy if things like genetics and work out routines are equal.
true. It’s definitely easier to “overeat” overall calories when you’re not getting as much protein, but you get more freedom with your diet which is what i want.
Yes thank you for this!! I am a girl but I was sick of eating 120 grams of protein per day (1 for 1) so I went down to 100 grams as my goal. Especially on vacations I would bring protein bars with me or even at a restaurant I’d get double meat to compensate it was stressful.
ya i use to take extra protein with me wherever i traveled. Pain in the ass. Totally unecessary unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder/fitness model or going somewhere that literally does not serve protein lol
I too was once extremely worried about protein intake. I played as a center in football from elementary school till I graduated college. Around high school is when I bought into the 1g+ diet. In truth like you have stated, if your goal is peak performance than the extra protein definitely helps. However, being as I’m almost 40 now and no longer playing (but still lifting), I find that lower protein intake still keeps me in great shape. Decreasing my protein over the years just made me fell better. I still lift heavy on chest and squats (and have lost little strength), but I rarely get over .5g anymore. One thing I will say is that I sure don’t miss protein shakes haha
Nice glad you left the 1g club.
Awesome post dude. I am basically doing the same thing. Not letting protein run my life and I’m still looking pretty good. I guess if you are a bb it’s a different story. I always say its good to experiment and everyone reacts to changes a little differently. I’m still working out and and I feel fit. You can always cycle to high protein months and low if you want to.
Thanks for the post, I found it useful.
ya for sure. If you’re a competitive bodybuilder, then you def need more protein.
Sorry but this entire thing is a myth. 1g per lb is literally not required by anybody.
Numerous studies and even a meta analysis by Menno Henselmans concluded that there is ZEROOOOOOO benefit beyond .82g per lb of bodyweight, and that’s already inflated due to a double 95% confidence rate.
Realistically, .75g per lb is more than enough for 99.9% of the world’s population, even .82 per lb is being overly ‘safe’.
More is not always better.
Did you split that 114g into at least 3 servings to maximise the proteins potential for optimal recovery. Have you read Brad Pilons How much protein. He suggests 70 to 120g is enough for most men. Carrying a high amount of body fat is another big protecter of muscle loss. However lifting weights is very important but it doesnt have to be excessive 3×45 min sessions a week is enough
I don’t worry about splitting it, but I will try to get some protein after I workout.
I am a 40 yr old woman who is searching for validation to the 1g per lb theory because I am currently working with a coach who has me on 150g per day. My weight bounces between 135-140. I cannot do the protein shakes (hard on my system), and I keep telling her I am coming across studies that indicate I may not need to go this hard on protein. I have been working towards competing but started changing my mind after trying to meet my protein goal. It's not a happy life, and I hate feeling bloated all the time. I sincerely appreciate this article.
If you’re 140, you absolutely don’t need 150g. You need to fire that coach. Here’s what I’ve found with protein…if you’re trying to build muscle or lose fat, higher protein is great (0.8g/lb bw is fine for 99% of people). Less protein is fine if you have A LOT of weight to lose initially. But if you’re trying to maintain, you can get away with less protein.