How Much Protein Should You Eat?

This just might be the most commonly asked fitness nutrition question of them all.  And with recommendations ranging from having 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, on up to 1-1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight (or roughly twice the previous amount) it’s no wonder that there is a lot of confusion.

Protein is not magical but it is very important for the growth and repair of muscle tissue in conjunction with your training.  It can also help stabilize your blood sugar level, effect the rate of digestion, and help maximize your metabolic rate.

There are a lot of variables that can determine an ideal protein intake.  Lean body weight, training practices, goals, (are you trying to build or dieting down) the quality of the protein, how many calorie you’re getting from other foods (carbohydrates spare protein), your digestive ability, and other factors can all contribute to protein needs.

Without becoming a slave to counting number, here’s a guide to give you something to go by.  Basically, you want to give your body at least a minimum useable amount at each meal and throughout the day.  Try to divide your daily intake up evenly over all of your meals.  Assuming that most fitness practitioners will eat 3-6 meals a day (4-6 being more common) here’s a basic guideline for you:

Low Protein Needs:  20-25 grams per meal:  For people who are less active, have a low body weight or amount of lean body mass, eat frequent meals, are focused on maintenance more that building.

Moderate Protein Needs:  30-35 grams per meal:  For people who are fairly physical active (at least 3-5 workouts a week), involved in resistance training, focused on building/maintaining lean mass level, have a moderate eating frequency (4-5 meals a day)

High Protein Needs: 40-50 grams per meal:  For people who are very active and do quite a bit of intense training – especially resistance training, have a large amount of lean body mass and are trying to build/maintain those level, are consuming fewer calories from carbs and/or fat sources, and/or have a moderate meal consumption rate (3-5).

Of course there can be “very low” or “very high” needs, and everywhere in between.  Also, the more meals you eat, the smaller your per meal totals will need to be, unless you are really trying to maximize your intake. Remember, more is not necessarily better and your protein intake needs to be balanced within the rest of your caloric consumption.  How much food you eat will obviously determine your protein intake totals no matter how many meals you decide on.

Again, theses are just rough guidelines.  Decide what best fits you and compare it to what you are currently doing.  If you think you’re not quite getting enough, consider giving a higher per meal total a try.  If you are getting more than the guidelines suggest but it seems to be working for you, then stay with it.  There is no magical, standard amount that is best for everyone or even every stage of your fitness journey.  But if you are at least aware of how much you are consuming and the importance of giving your body enough quality protein and other nutrients, then nutritionally speaking you will be ahead of the game.

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