How much protein should you eat in a day?

This is a frequently asked question with many confusing answers out there. What is the right answer? It depends on your goal. Tom Bainbridge, head tutor of BTN Academy, explains how to assess someone’s protein intake needs.

Note: g/kg means grams per kilogram of bodyweight, so 2g/kg at 80kg translates to 160g of protein.

Are you exercising intensely or just looking to improve your health? If you are just looking for overall healthy nutrition, an intake of about 1-1.4g/kg is plenty. Opt for the lower end if you have a little more body fat, and the upper end if you’re leaner.

If you’re exercising, what is your goal? If you don’t do any resistance training, about 1.4-1.8g/kg is plenty for repair/recovery. If you do resistance training, 1.6-2.2g/kg is a good place to be.

For the above quantities, use the same rule. Go higher if you are leaner and go lower if you are not.

If you are trying to lose fat (regardless of your exercise modality) 2.2-2.7g/kg is ideal (again, increasing with leanness).

Beyond all this, there is another factor to consider: how easy is it for you to hit these numbers and how lofty are your goals?

What if you want to gain muscle? The recommendation is 1.6-2.2g/kg. But this is only a recommendation. It is hard to say how much a person needs within this range to maximize muscle gain. Maybe one person needs 1.7g/kg and someone else needs 2.1g/kg. The only way to figure out the ideal amount is by modifying/adjusting the macro ratio to see what works.

Eating less protein than the bottom end of the ideal range doesn’t mean you won’t build muscle, it’s just going to be a slower process (how much slower is impossible to predict). Even if you don’t get the perfect amount you will still make progress.

Consuming lots of protein can be extremely challenging even when using protein powders and increasing portion sizes. You might get frustrated if your protein intake is really high – 2.2g/kg is A LOT to eat daily.

Unless you are a professional body builder you can allow yourself to eat a little less. It is good to know what you should eat for optimal results but you can decide to reduce your targets and accept that your progress may be slower but maybe you will enjoy the process – and your meals – more.

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