How Much Protein Do I Need For Weight Loss
If youre looking to build muscle while also losing weight, youll want to keep your protein intake high but lower your carbohydrate intake slightly. The goal is to get plenty of protein while controlling overall calorie intake. People looking to only build muscle should increase the amount of calories they consume for ultimate muscle growth, but if weight loss is part of the end-goal, then youll want to be mindful of total calories.
Your protein needs for weight loss will depend on what your activity level is roughly anywhere between 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram, with 1.6 being the sweet spot for maintaining and building muscle while losing weight. Youll need to eat enough to ensure your body has the fuel it needs for necessary processes, but achieving weight loss might require a reduction or adjustment in your daily calorie intake.
But What About When Cutting
A final objection that is often heard is that these values may be true during bulking or maintenance periods, but cutting requires more protein to maintain muscle mass. Walberg et al. studied cutting weightlifters and they still found 0.73g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass.
A perhaps even more telling study is by Pikosky et al. in 2008. The researchers took a group of endurance trained subjects and had them consume either 0.41 or 0.82g/lb of protein per day. They also added a thousand calories worth of training on top of their regular exercise. So these guys were literally running on a 1000 calorie deficit while drastically increasing their training volume. Talk about a catabolic state Of course the nitrogen balance in the low protein group plummeted. However, the protein intake of 0.82g/lb in the other group completely protected the subjects from muscle loss. Nitrogen balance, whole-body protein turnover and protein synthesis remained unchanged.
A further review of the literature on the optimal protein intake in a deficit can be found in this article of the research on protein by Eric Helms.
As such, there is simply no empirically substantiated reason to think we need more than 0.82g/lb of protein per day when cutting. If anything, you could reason the body should be able to use more protein during bulking periods, because more muscle is being built and a lot of other nutrients are ingested that may enable more protein to be used.
How To Calculate Protein Intake For Muscle Growth
To calculate the amount of protein you need to maximize muscle growth, multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 0.7. If you prefer metric, multiply your bodyweight in kilograms by 1.6.
It is worth pointing out that the researchers dont rule out the possibility that a higher protein intake may be beneficial.
Given that the confidence interval of this estimate spanned from 1.03 to 2.20, it may be prudent to recommend approximately 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for those seeking to maximise resistance training-induced gains in fat-free mass.
In other words, they think that the muscle-building benefits of protein plateau at around 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.
But, they acknowledge that there may be a small benefit to eating more around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day, or 2.2 grams per kilogram.
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Bulk Millions Clear Whey
Per 27g serving: 95kcal, 20g protein, 1.8g carbs, 0.2 fat
Inspired by the nostalgic sweets of the 90s, Bulks collab with Millions is a treat for the tastebuds. Our testers found the strawberry flavour super sweet and fruity, but theres also bubblegum, apple and cola.
Give it a go if you dont enjoy the thicker, milky texture of most whey proteins as its thin and slightly syrupy, like an electrolyte drink. Its also the lightest powder on our list just 95 calories and 0.1g sugar per serving. Oh and a respectable 20g protein, so its ideal for when youre cutting.
How Much Protein Do I Need To Lose Weight
Protein requirements for individuals trying to lose weight need to be higher than whats traditionally recommended. Research suggests that a range between 2.3g 3.1g of protein per kilogram of body weight is a good goal for those trying to maintain and promote lean muscle mass while in an energy deficit .
When in an energy deficit, protein becomes incredibly important as it can play a fundamental role in preserving lean muscle mass. Since muscle helps burn calories, the goal should be to maintain muscle thats been gained while trying to lose weight.
If protein falls too low during an energy deficit, then we run into the issue of using muscle for fuel, which is less than ideal for long-term maintenance of a healthy body weight and lean muscle mass.
Its also wise to seek out a nutritionist or dietician when strategically setting up your macronutrients for weight loss. Weight loss as a dietary goal is complex, so having an objective expert weigh in can help mitigate any personal dietary biases.
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How Protein Supports Your Muscles
Protein is made up of amino acids that act as building blocks for your bodys cells and tissues, including muscle mass. Meaning, your muscle is made up of protein.
These amino acids are essential for supporting numerous bodily functions. If you arent getting the required nutrients – like amino acids – through food, your body doesnt have what it needs and has to compromise. This involves stealing amino acids that are stored in your body which can lead to muscle loss over time.
Grams Of Protein Per Day Seriously
Many years ago, before I knew what I was doing, I was stuck in a rut in the gym, and I thought maybe my protein intake was the problem.
I asked an ex-professional bodybuilder how much protein I should eat every day, and he said 2 grams per pound of body weight.
I was a bit taken abackthat would mean eating close to 400 grams per day.
He was adamant that 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight was absolutely necessary to break through the plateau and start building muscle again, so I went for it.
I manned up and doubled my daily intake to reach the 400 g/day number, and, well, it sucked. I was constantly full, beyond sick of protein shakes, and eating in general just felt more and more like a chore.
But I stuck it outand didnt build any muscle to speak of.
Fast forwards to today. Ive radically transformed my physique since that time, and I havent eaten more than 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day in many years .
The point of this little story is this:
- If youre having trouble building muscle, eating more protein is not necessarily the solution.
- You dont need to eat outrageous amounts of protein to efficiently build muscle.
The bottom line is maximizing muscle growth does require following what is generally known as a high-protein diet, but it does not require choking down pounds of meat and cups of protein powder every day.
So, how much protein should you actually be eating to build muscle, then?
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How We Calculated Your Protein Intake
Theres a difference between avoiding a nutrient deficiency and eating the optimal amount of a nutrient.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administrations daily value for protein is 50 grams, based on a 2,000-calorie diet, which is 10 percent of your total calories. A protein deficiency can cause muscle wasting and a greater risk of bone fractures, among other issues.
But if you want to maximize the amount of muscle you can build and minimize the amount of fat youll gain? Or if youre eating in a calorie deficit, if you want to maximize muscle retention and fat loss, then just about every expert and non-expert will recommend anywhere from 0.5 to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Heres what the data says on setting your own intake.
High Protein Foods For Muscle Gain
There are certain foods that help and hurt muscle gain. Foods to avoid include poor quality foods with low nutritional value like processed snacks, fast food meals or junk foods. Foods that help include nutrient-dense whole foods like:
Chicken: Full of high-quality complete proteins
Lean beef: Has muscle-building nutrients like high-quality protein, iron, zinc and plenty of B vitamins
Eggs: High-quality protein, amino acids and vitamins dont skip the yolks as they contain extra nutrition
Tofu: Great vegan option that is rich in iron and calcium
Legumes: Another high-protein option for vegans with a good balance of carbohydrates and dietary fiber
Milk: Great source of complete proteins, calcium, potassium and some B vitamins
Whole grain carbs: Reach for steel cut oats and brown rice both have high magnesium content which is good for the heart
Water: Our bodies are made of water, hydration is key for building muscles mass
Nuts: Unsweetened, unsalted versions of nuts like almonds and walnuts have a great amount of proteins and healthy fats
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Digging Deeper: Why More Protein For Athletes
Dieting athletes benefit from higher protein intakes, relative to their weights, than overweight and obese dieters. This can be partly explained in three interrelated ways:
Overweight and obese individuals have sluggish metabolisms that tend to favor fat storage over protein storage . They usually need a greater caloric deficit to lose fat than do athletes .
Protein intake is based on total weight. Lets consider two dieters who weigh the same. If one is an already lean athlete and the other an overweight individual, the latter will get to consume a lot fewer calories. Lets say Im an athlete consuming 3,000 kcal and 180 grams of protein : my diet is 24% protein. Now lets say Im overweight and consuming 2,000 kcal and 120 grams of protein : my diet is also 24% protein.
If an already lean athlete and an overweight person weigh the same, the former has more muscle and so needs more protein to maintain muscle mass.
Considering the health risks associated with overweightness and obesity, it is also noteworthy that eating a diet higher in protein significantly reduces several cardiometabolic risk factors, including waist circumference, blood pressure, and triglycerides, while also increasing satiety. These effects are small, however, and likely dependent on the amount of body fat one loses.
Optimal daily protein intake for fat loss
Quickly and easily calculate your optimal daily intake with our protein intake calculator.
Dietary Protein And Physical Activity
The benefits of consuming protein following resistance exercise training have been well-documented, especially as they relate to muscle hypertrophy and function . A recent meta-analysis showed significant positive associations between coupling resistance exercise with post-exercise protein ingestion and total fat-free mass, strength, as measured by one-repetition maximum, and muscle size, as measured by myofiber cross-sectional area . The type and volume of exercise plays a determining role in muscle protein synthetic responses to post-exercise protein ingestion , as does age and the training experience of the individual. The type of protein consumed also factors into the net anabolic response, given that postprandial muscle protein and whole-body protein kinetic responses to free-form amino acids, isolated intact proteins, and mixed-macronutrient meals all differ . As reflected in sports nutrition recommendations , holistic evaluation of varied experimental designs suggests that coupling post-resistance exercise protein ingestion with habitual protein intakes at ~1.6 g/kg/d promotes favorable muscle adaptations to exercise training .
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How To Design The Best Workout Plan For Muscle Building
You need more than just protein in your diet to get the nutrients you need to build muscle. The same applies to your exercise routine doing the right workouts will help you reach this goal faster and more effectively.
We invited our Sports Performance and Fitness Specialist, Denise Cervantes, to share her best tips for strength training:
Effects On Weight Loss
Studies show that increasing your intake of protein can benefit weight loss through several mechanisms.
For starters, it can increase your metabolism, which can bump up the number of calories that your body burns throughout the day (
One study in 27 people showed that consuming higher amounts of protein for 12 weeks led to greater feelings of fullness, decreased late-night cravings, and less preoccupation with food, compared with a control group .
However, while protein may help support weight loss, its important to consider the other ingredients in your protein shake.
Although ingredients like nuts, seeds, dark chocolate, and nut butter may be healthy and nutritious in moderation, theyre also very calorie dense and could cause weight gain if consumed in high amounts.
Moderating your intake of these ingredients can help keep the calories from stacking up and turning your healthy protein shake into a high calorie indulgence.
Increasing your intake of protein could support weight loss. However, some ingredients in your protein shake may be high in calories, which could lead to weight gain.
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How Much Protein Per Meal And Safety
There’s lots of debate going on on the safety and effectiveness of the amount of protein you eat a day and per meal.
A study from 2016 found out that long-term protein consumption at 2 g per kg body weight is safe for healthy adults. However, they also concluded that eating more than 2 g per kg body weight per day should be avoided since you could experience digestive, renal, and vascular abnormalities.
Another study did a 1 year trial with a high protein diet between 2.51-3.32 grams per kg bodyweight. They concluded that there were no harmful effects of this diet, since they checked blood lipids and metabolic panel.
We can conclude that a high-protein diet is safe for healthy adults.
However, you would need to eat a lot of protein for each meal to crush your goal. Some researchers suggest that 20 grams of protein per meal, is perfect for maximal protein synthesis. 20 grams and above would lead to stimulated amino acid oxidation and ureagenesis.
A study on how much protein the body can handle each meal concluded that the average is 0,4 x kg body weight per meal. They concluded that you would need at least 1.6 grams per kg of body weight a day for optimal muscle gains.
As you can see, even the researchers have a different opinion on how much protein your body can handle each meal. A good standpoint would be eating between 20-40 grams of protein per meal.
What Happens When You Overeat Protein
Although you need to consume a lot of protein to build muscle, you do not want to overconsume protein.
Most doctors suggest that a healthy adult can have a protein intake of up to 2 grams per 1 kg of body weight without side effects, and people who work out frequently, such as athletes, may consume up to 3.5g per kg without any problems.
Eating more than 2g of protein per kg of body weight daily could lead to health issues, such as weight gain, nausea, fatigue, heart disease, and kidney or liver issues.
While protein is vital for building muscles, it is not the only nutrient you need. You also need to get enough carbohydrates and calories. Ignoring these nutrients would do more harm than good and may cause serious health complications in the future.
In addition, ensure to drink lots of water. Besides helping to prevent dehydration, water can help your body remove excess protein.
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Elm & Rye Protein Supplement
Image courtesy Elm & Rye
Formulated with only the most vital components, this unique combination may assist you to bulk up, build muscle, increase endurance, and more.
Did you know that there are 9 amino acids? Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. They support many vital roles in your body, including growth, hormone creation, and neurotransmitter formation. You can find them largely in protein-based foods such as meat, fish, and soy products.
What Happens To Your Body If You Dont Take Enough Proteins
The lack of proteins can make you lose muscle mass, which cuts your strength, slows down your metabolism, and makes it hard to keep your balance.
It may also lead to anemia when your cells dont get enough oxygen that makes you tired.
There are several signs youre not getting enough proteins in your body.
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Optimal Daily Protein Intake For Pregnant Women
The protein RDA for pregnant women is 1.1 g/kg. This value was estimated by adding three values:
- The RDA for a healthy adult
- The amount of additional body protein a pregnant woman accumulates
- The amount of protein used by the developing fetus
However, as with non-pregnant healthy adults, the RDA may not be sufficient, let alone optimal. Theres some evidence that the RDA for pregnant women should be about 1.66 g/kg during early gestation and 1.77 g/kg during late gestation . Moreover, a meta-analysis of 16 intervention studies reported that protein supplementation during pregnancy led to reduced risks for the baby:
- 34% lower risk of low gestational weight
- 32% lower risk of low birth weight
- 38% lower risk of stillbirth
This effect was more pronounced in undernourished women than in adequately nourished women. Importantly, these values were determined from sedentary women carrying one child, meaning that pregnant women who engage in regular physical activity or are supporting the growth of more than one child may need even higher amounts.
Also, keep in mind that we can only tell you what the studies reported we cant possibly know about your health and your pregnancy specifically. Please be sure to consult with your obstetrician/gynecologist before making any changes.
Optimal daily protein intake for pregnant women