How much protein do you need per day?
As with most things in nutrition, there’s no simple answer. Your individual needs will depend on your health, body composition, the main goal you have, and level of physical activity (type, intensity, and duration). Even when taking all of this into account, you’ll end up with a starting number, which you’ll need to adjust through self-experimentation.
Daily requirements are expressed in grams of protein, either per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) or per pound of body weight (g/lb).
- If you’re of a healthy weight and sedentary, aim for 1.2–1.8 g/kg (0.54–0.82 g/lb).
- If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to keep your weight, aim for 1.4–2.2 g/kg (0.64–1.00 g/lb). Try for the higher end of this range, as tolerated, especially if you’re an athlete.
- If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to build muscle, aim for 1.4–3.3 g/kg (0.64–1.50 g/lb). Eating more than 2.6 g/kg (1.18 g/lb) is probably not going to lead to greater muscle gains, but it can minimize fat gains when “bulking” — i.e. when eating above maintenance in order to gain (muscle) weight.
- If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to lose fat, aim for 2.3–3.1 g/kg (1.04–1.41 g/lb), skewing toward the higher end of this range as you become leaner or if you increase your caloric deficit (hypocaloric diet).
- If you’re overweight or obese, aim for 1.2–1.5 g/kg (0.54–0.68 g/lb). You do not need to try to figure out your ideal body weight or your lean mass (aka fat-free mass). Most studies on people with obesity report their findings based on total body weight.
- If you’re pregnant, aim for 1.66–1.77 g/kg (0.75–0.80 g/lb)
- If you’re lactating, aim for more than 1.5 g/kg (0.68 g/lb)
- If you’re vegan or obtain most of your protein from plants, then protein requirements may be higher due to the inferior protein quality (both the EAA profile and bioavailability) of plant-based proteins relative to animal-based proteins.