Seriously, How Much Protein Should I Eat?

Seriously, it depends! I know, I know, boring deflecting type answer. Don’t worry, I’ve got some specifics for you below but first…….. Why should you care?

Protein is essential when losing fat for a few reasons as well as maintaining hormonal health:
-Protein helps you keep that all-important lean body mass (which includes connective tissues, organs, and bone as well as muscle).
-Protein significantly increases satiety, which means you feel fuller despite eating less. (And eating more protein often causes people to eat less    overall.)
-Just by eating more protein you burn more calories, because of the increased thermic effect of eating. For example, if you’re eating 2,500  calories daily, 15 percent from protein, 50 percent from carbs, and 35 percent from fats (roughly average for US adults), you’re burning  approximately 185 calories per day through digestion.
 Maintain your total calorie intake but increase protein to 30 percent, drop carbs to 40 percent, and whittle fat to 30 percent, and your TEE goes  up to roughly 265 calories per day.

You might be saying “That’s awesome and all but I’ve read that stuff a million times so again, seriously, how much protein should I be eating?”

Barring any pre-existing conditions, we can attack this from 3 main view points:

If you are a current Breakaway Fitness & Performance (BFP) member, training 4 to 6 days per week, than about 1.0-1.5g/kg of bodyweight would be a great place to be. This would be about .45-.68g/lb of bodyweight. More specifically, if you are looking to MAINTAIN lean body mass, this would be the way to go. This could also work if you are trying to lose body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass and training 4-6 days per week.

If you are a current BFP member training 4-6 days per week, also running, and training for a Spartan Race (like many of our members are), and looking to lose fat and maintain lean muscle mass, than 1.5-2.2g/kg or .68-1g/lb of bodyweight might be a little more appropriate.

If you aren’t training at least 3 times per week and aren’t very active outside of your workouts, also looking to maintain where you currently are, the minimum recommended amount would be .8g/kg or .36g/lb of bodyweight per day.

**Something to consider, if you are an obese individual, don’t worry about the above numbers, try to find out what your lean mass weight is (something we can actually measure with our Inbody Assessment tool at BFP), and use that number to calculate total protein intake.

**Something else to consider, if you know someone who isn’t very active and you feel they fit the 3rd option, ask yourself one more question, are they 50 or better years old? At that point in someone’s life, the rate of naturally occuring muscle loss is high enough where, again barring any pre-existing conditions, they need to be eating more than the minimum recommended amount.

A couple of recent studies recommend 1.6-1.8 g/kg is necessary to accomodate an active lifestyle (Lemon, 2000). Another found that amounts as high as 3.0g/kg of bodyweight isn’t harmful and might actually provide further benefit (Tipton & Wolf, 2004).

According to The International Society of Sports Nutrition, 1.4-2.0 g/kg per day for active folks is not only safe, but may improve the effects of training (Campbell et al. 2007).

The reason for this is based on something called leucine oxidation. Don’t know what this is, no big deal. Just think of it this way, if we don’t have enough protein in our diet to support an active lifestyle, there is a chance we might have to use some of our available protein (muscle tissue possibly) to create energy. If protein intake is high enough, we can preserve what we have rather than break it down. This is one aspect of having enough protein in our diet that allows us to actually build lean muscle mass which can lead to more fat loss over time.

This is doubly important for folks looking to lose weight through lowering calories. Often times when they lower calories, they tend to decrease protein to an extent and begin losing weight partially through losing muscle. This is bad! This is the opposite of what we want! In folks looking to lose weight and restricting calories, of those calories, 1.8g/kg of bodyweight has been shown to preserve lean body mass even in some drastic weight loss situations (Pikosky et al., 2008).

What does this look like without all the crazy measurements?

For most active men: 6-8 palm-sized servings of protein per day or about 2 palms of meat per meal.
For most active women: 4-6 palm-sized servings per day, 1 to 1.5 palms of protein per meal.

There you have it. Exactly what you should eat protein wise per meal and per day. Well, not really, everyone has different circumstances and may not fit into the molds we just laid out for you.

The great thing is, we have an opportunity at BFP for you to experiment a bit and find out what serves your lifestyle and values best. We call it the “BFP Clean & Lean Challenge” we kick this thing off September 9th with a focus on eating whole foods for 6 weeks. There’s a training piece as well. We also have some resources that are super easy to understand that you get as well as daily accountability from us to help hold you accountable. To learn more, click here!