Everyone agrees that a healthy diet needs a good amount of protein. As a basic building block involved in numerous functions, protein is a necessity just for day to day maintenance. Additionally those of us who are looking to build more muscle beyond what we have need to have the proper amount of this valuable nutrient available to repair and build our muscles after we stress them during workouts.
So what is the magic number? How do we figure out the optimal amount we need to ingest each day?
How Much Protein?
Luckily the rules for protein intake are fairly basic. It does not matter your sex or age as much as it does your weight and how often you are hitting the gym.
The FDA recommended intake is a mere 56 grams per day. While that might be fine for an average person’s day-to-day maintenance, it is not going to cut if for muscle gain. For simplicity sake we are going to look at things on a weekly basis.
How many days a week do you workout for and for how long?
- For 6 to 7 days a week of moderate to high intensity – .85 grams per pound
- For 5 days of moderate to high intensity – .60 grams per pound
- For 3 to 5 days of moderate intensity – .5 grams per pound
That means if you are killing it in the gym 5 days a week you need .60 grams per pound of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 200 pounds then you would want to take in 129 grams.
Now these figures are based on very recent studies from doctors that study exercise and nutrition and work with highly trained athletes. Previous studies and rules of thumb had people taking in anywhere from 1 to 1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight. While it seems now that you do not need quite that much, in the case of protein it is better to have a little bit more compared to less. Excess amounts can just be burned off by the body and preferred over having excess carbohydrates.
Now that we have established the total amount you should be taking in there is the matter of absorbing it. You body naturally triggers a nice three-hour burst of protein synthesis whenever you eat 30 grams or more of protein in a sitting. But interestingly your body can only absorb about 30 grams per sitting. Studies have shown no additional benefits from eating 30 grams in a single sitting or 90.
Now by using the formula from above to determine how much you need per day you can divide that total by 30. If you need 120 grams, that means four full servings of 30 grams per day to obtain the maximum synthesis benefit. From here it is just an issue of planning meals appropriately so that you get the proper amounts into the body.
For those who think that it is a lot, when you consider a post-workout protein shake as one of those 30 gram servings, you are really just including a full serving for your three core meals per day. For most people breakfast is the one meal they might not normally include protein in each day.
But now that you know how much protein you need to reach your muscle building goals you can make a few adjustments and grow!