How Much Daily Protein Do I need If I Workout?
It’s the star of most American household meals, and a hot topic among health enthusiasts around the globe. Protein plays a critical role in the health, performance, and well-being of every human being, which leads us to the age-old question: are you getting enough protein? It seems like a new opinion on the optimal amount of protein surfaces on an almost daily basis. So how do we separate fact from speculation?
How Much is Enough for The Average Joe?
We’ll start by turning to a few trusted sources. WebMD suggests that individuals should obtain between 10% and 35% percent of each day’s calories from high protein foods. On average, that add up to be about 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. This is a relatively unorthodox approach to calculating the amount of protein needed. However, we will use it as a reference for comparison.
The US Department of Agriculture, on the other hand, calculates necessary protein intake using the more common method: an individual’s weight. They recommend that men and women eat at least 0.8 grams of protein for kilogram of body weight. This means that if a woman weighs 140 pounds (roughly 64 kg,) she should be eating at least 51 grams of protein on a daily basis. Similarly, if a man weighs 180 pounds, the USDA would recommend a minimum of 66 grams of protein daily. The Institute of Medicine endorses the same recommendation of 0.8 grams for every kilogram of an individual’s body weight. It is important to point out that this recommendation is an absolute minimum for protein intake, not an average to aim for.
We’ve got two separate approaches for calculated recommended protein intake here. So, which one is better? According to Self, estimated your required protein intake should be based on body weight. This is because every person has different needs. Not all Americans fit the cookie-cutter standard recommendation of 2,000 calories daily. Individual protein needs vary widely depending on caloric requirements. For example, women who are nursing or pregnant require a higher caloric intake, and in turn a higher protein intake, than the average female. Children also require more protein because of their rapid growth. In the same way, an individual who regularly lifts weights 3-4 times per week would also require more protein, but how much more?
The Weightlifter’s Guide to Protein
Since weightlifters continue to grow as they progress in the gym, they require more than the standard protein intake meant for an individual trying to maintain their body weight and muscle-to-fat ratio. According to Dr. Peter Lemon, also known as “Dr. Protein,” the recommended daily intake for weightlifters should be between 1.7 and 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Similar to Dr. Protein, Susan M Kleiner, another expert in the field of nutrition, recommends that subjects looking to build muscle should be getting between 1.6 and 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. This recommended range is a bit wider, leaving room to settle on the right amount of protein depending on the subject’s workout routine intensity.
To back up these claims, Letterman Army Institute of Research in San Francisco performed a study of different protein intake levels coupled with intense strength training. The results showed that a higher protein intake, upwards of 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight in some cases, lead to a gain in lean mass. Regardless of the specific calculation, both experts agree that the recommended intake of .8 g/kg is insufficient for adults who exercise regularly. It is also important to mention that similar studies have shown that the positive impacts of increased protein hit a ceiling at around 2.2 g/kg.
Based on field expert recommendations, an individual performing cardiovascular exercise and strength training 3-4 times per week should increase their protein intake from .8 g/kg body weight to 1.8 g/kg. Given the same example demonstrated above, is a female who exercises regularly weighs 140 pounds, she should be shooting for 115 grams of protein per day. This is a huge jump from the USDA’s recommended 51 grams. The subject’s protein intake should more than double when putting the body through an intense training regimen. For the 180 pound weightlifting male, his recommended intake jumps from 66 grams to 148 grams of protein daily. The broader recommendation range leaves room to alter protein intake slightly based on activity level. If the same 180 pound man is only planning to exercise twice per week, his intake could drop to 130 grams per day, while a daily workout routine would warrant as much as 180 grams of protein per day.
So there you have it folks. The bottom line is that it’s crucial to alter these protein recommendations to fit your body and your personal needs.