How Much Protein Should You Be Eating? Our Simple Guide.
“Gotta get more protein, bro!”
Bodybuilders have been preaching about protein for years and these days it seems that everyone has an opinion about exactly how much protein you should be getting. Protein products are everywhere, and grams of protein are written proudly on the face of every package. One of your friends says you need to increase your protein, and another says you don’t actually need that much. So what is the definitive answer?
It’s not arbitrary. There is a correct amount of protein for you that you should be eating each day. It’s simple math, and we’re here to help.
So why is it so complicated? Because it’s different for everyone! But we promise it’s not complicated. We’ve created this simple guide that will not only teach you why you need protein, but how to learn how much protein you need to eat every day (based on weight, lifestyle, goals, and age) so you feel confident you’re doing what’s right for your body. Then finally, we’ll give you all our best tips on what protein sources work best for your lifestyle and goals.
What is protein?
Proteins are organic compounds comprised of amino acids, and are one of the types of macronutrients. Amino acids are essential to a person’s well-being, and there are certain amino acids that can only be obtained through diet. These amino acids are typically referred to as “essential amino acids,” and are obtained by humans and other animals through the consumption of protein.
There are numerous sources of protein, both animal (meat, dairy, etc.) and plant-based (beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc.). There also exist protein supplements that are sometimes used by people who are trying to build muscle. Although protein is a necessary part of the human diet, as with most things, moderation is important. There are also healthier and unhealthier proteins.
If someone says you don’t need protein… they’re crazy. Protein is essential to a functioning healthy body and mind. Even the Greeks knew that which is why protein comes from the Greek word protos, meaning “first” — it’s a priority. That doesn’t mean it’s actually more important than the other macros… all macros are equally important. (Need a crash course on macros? Read this first.) But it’s important to remember that protein is more than just muscles. This macronutrient is vital to maintain and strengthen your hair, blood, connective tissue, antibodies, enzymes, and more.
How Much Protein Should I Eat Each Day?
Step one. Finding your minimum. We’ll get into the debate over eating “too much protein” later in the blog… but for now, let’s just focus on your minimum protein per day. (This is bare survival level amounts.) The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a very low 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or .36 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight or use this online protein calculator. Again, this is about surviving, not thriving. So your RDA should be seen as an absolute minimum.
So, if you weigh 180 lbs, that’s 82kg x .08 = 65g of protein. Or you can multiply your pounds 180 by .36 and get nearly the same answer 64.8g protein.
This number is your baseline. This assumes you’re absolutely sedentary are not attempting to gain weight, grow, train, or that you don’t need to maintain muscle and bone for your age.
How Do I Find Out How Much Protein is Right For Me?
Easy! First, we have to understand what life factors affect protein the amount of protein we need, and see where we fit. The factors below are all stated individually and should be added together to create a personal number.
- Activity – Some studies have determined that increased protein intake may be required in very active individuals involved in strength-building routines or in some cases ‘endurance athletes’ (increased amino acid oxidation) that do not normally build muscle mass but require additional protein for muscle repair, energy, and maintaining lean tissue. Many of these extreme athletes will choose to maintain a protein level of 2.0g/kg, more than double the RDA. If you’re not an extreme athlete but are very physically active you may want to try 1.5g/kg.
- Age – While the bare minimum of .36g/pound is true at any age, most dietitians and nutritionists recognize that as we age, our need for protein increases. Here’s a simple guideline from Dr. Layne Norton.
- Under 18 years: 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of body weight
- 19-40 years: 0.8-1.1 grams per pound of body weight
- 41-65 years: 1.1-1.3 grams per pound of body weight
- Over 65 years: 1.3-1.5 grams per pound of body weight
- Goals – One of the most important factors to remember, which is also highly personal. Is your goal weight loss or muscle gain? Do you want to increase your cardio through running or is weight training more your style? This is an important part of creating your unique macro ratio.
- Lifestyle – Similar to “goals” above, this is highly personal and all about how you feel your best. Some people feel their best eating a low carb high fat like the Ketogenic diet, some people feel their best on a high starch plant-based diet with low fat. Most of these macro ratios focus on relative carbs and fat amounts and typically protein is seen as neutral and is recommended between 15%-25% of your total daily calories. However, if you feel best on a high protein diet, you may go as high as 35%.
- Gender – In the history of nutritional science, the importance of gender has been overstated. Women and men are far more similar than they are different, both genetically and in terms of their nutritional needs. The differences in “men’s” nutritional needs and “women’s” nutritional needs in the past have been based on the assumption that men weigh more and have more musculature and aim to gain muscle…. while women weigh less, therefore needless, and generally wish to lose weight. Well, by this point in 2020 we all know this just isn’t true! Women and men come in all shapes and sizes and have different goals of what physique is right for them. However, there are two periods where our protein needs change based on our sex.
- Puberty – During the period of puberty and growth between ages 13-17 male children need an average of 2 grams more of protein per day than females.
- Pregnancy – While pregnant, women need an increase of nearly 5 grams per day of protein.
Calculating Out Your Personal Protein Macros
After you determine your calorie goals, macronutrient ratio, and take into consideration your activity level and age… you should be getting a good idea of the amount of protein you need. Or you can try this macro calculator that incorporates the factors above.
What Are the Best Protein Sources?
- Grass-fed beef
- Pork loin
- Duck Breast
- Coho Salmon
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Hard Sheep’s Cheese
- Egg whites
- Soy crumbles
- Soy milk
- Pea protein crumbles
- Nutritional Yeast
- Nut butters
Can you overdo protein?
In the past, some studies concluded that high-protein diets could pose a number of health risks, such as fat gain, potential kidney damage, and even danger to bone health. But this has been proven to be false. In fact, protein is proven beneficial to bone health. There is no proof that excess protein in a diet is any better or worse than excess calories from any other macronutrient. However calories are calories, and no matter what source they come from, if you’re eating more than you burn regularly, it’s possible to gain weight just as easily as with carbs or fat.
How do I make sure I eat enough protein each day?
Tracking your macros is really important for maintaining a healthy balance. We recommend apps like MyFitnessPal and Lifesum to make sure you’re hitting your macros.
Meal-prep is also a great way to make sure that you’re staying consistent. In our busy hectic lives, we can be tempted to make excuses and go for what’s easy and it’s easy to get off track. By batch cooking your veggies, carbs, and proteins and planning your meals, you can make sure you always get the right amount for you.
Reach your goals with MacroPlate
With us… it’s personal. We’re here to help you reach your goals.
A lot of other meal-delivery out there have set meals and ship out frozen meals once a week for you to defrost in your microwave like a TV dinner. (How depressing is that?)
These same companies (yes, we’ve tried them) make massive amounts of food in factories that sit frozen for long periods of time until they arrive at your door. (Did you know plant-based foods lose 70% of their nutrients after being frozen for only 72 hours? I mean, at that point, why bother?
Being made in mass-batches far far away also means, they can’t afford to be accommodating. Allergic to shellfish? Nuts? What if you just hate cilantro, or you can’t have sugar of any kind. They’re not going to be able to make those changes just for you… but we do.
We cook for YOU
When we say 100% personalized, we mean it. From calories to macros to ingredients. We’re here to make YOUR food for YOU. We cook healthy and delicious meals that are consistent in calories, macros, and nutrition, to maintain your balance, but exciting and varied enough to maintain your love of great food.
We have over 200 recipes!
Imagine having your breakfast, lunch, and dinner be totally different every day of the month while still having that consistency that your mind and belly need to keep your wellness working.
With MacroPlate you literally get the best of both worlds. The tasty guilty-pleasure convenience of eating out every day, (not to mention the 4-6 hours of free time you get back on the weekends) AND the healthy, perfectly-portioned, budget-friendly, sanity-saving benefits of an avid meal-prep regime.
Add in our add-ons like cold-brew from Stumptown, cold-pressed juices from Pressed Juicery, and our handmade protein-packed baked goods, and you’re literally taken care of from morning to midnight. Learn more about MacroPlate here.