Are you getting enough protein? Maybe you think you are taking in too much? Honestly this topic is discussed all the time with a wide range of fact and fiction both permeating the bodybuilding world. Both men and women constantly ask, “How much protein do I need?” but there never seems to be a concrete answer which is frustrating.
Part of the problem has to do with the ability to develop focus groups from which to track progress. First of all, while people share a lot of similarities there are also quite a few differences. Training intensity, specific diet, and lifestyle can all play a part in what the body needs and utilizes. It makes it difficult to find more than a few people at a time to monitor and compare results.
Additionally there have been many successful bodybuilders that have flourished using different amounts of protein. One person might do great taking in 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight while another swears by 1.5.
So where does the middle ground lie?
The Bare Minimum
If you read all the forums, studies, professional opinions, opinions of trainers, and the like then you will end up with one simple fact; a lot of people don’t agree on protein intake. The bare minimum for a person who isn’t trying to gain muscle is somewhere around .35 to .5 grams of protein ingested daily per pound of bodyweight.
Oddly some of the studies research is based off of uses milligrams and kilograms which does not always easily translate into how we weigh ourselves.
Then for an active person who is lifting the range increases dramatically to .7 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. There are less extreme viewpoints that have the number as high as 1.5 or more, but if you are an already large person then you would be attempting to take in a colossal amount of protein.
For example, using the previous ranges a 200 pound person would need the following per day:
- Minimum = 200 x .4 = 80 grams (3 cans of tuna and an egg)
- Active = 200 x 1.0 = 200 grams (8 cans of tuna)
- Extreme = 200 x 1.5 = 300 grams (12 cans of tuna)
We used a middle of the road approach for the range, but you can see the more extreme range would be very difficult to maintain each day, especially if you are larger than 200 pounds.
The Practical Method
As many people’s bodies are different and everyone goes about life a little differently, the best method to figure out how much protein do I need is by gradual increase.
Start somewhere on the low end of the active range with about .7 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Create a diet and monitor your daily intake so you are ingesting that much or just a little bit more. Monitor your bodyweight and appearance for two to four weeks. If you don’t feel that things have changed enough then jump up the intake.
Next take in .9 grams per pound of bodyweight. Again be diligent on tracking your intake and results. By trial and gradual increases you will find out what your own optimum level is. Then you simply structure your diet to stay at the point or a little above to ensure that you are taking in exactly what your body needs for the maximum results.
The Bottom Line
Everyone should ask themselves, “How much protein do I need?” if they are a bodybuilder. It is THE building block for your body and growth. If you aren’t getting enough then you aren’t maximizing your potential gains. If you are taking in too much then you are wasting money, time, and adding extra digestive work to your body. So put in some time and effort to find your sweet spot; it is well worth the effort rather than second guessing.