How much protein should I be eating? This one of the top 5 questions we hear and it seems like everyone has a different opinion on the subject. In this article we’re going to stick with the facts and ignore the urban legends and wives-tales.
The (U.S.) RDA recommends about 56 grams of protein per day for an adult male and about 46 grams per day for an adult female. In bodybuilding circles you will hear a recommendation of 1.5 – 2 grams of per pound of body weight (far more than the RDA recommendation). Obviously there’s a big difference between these two recommendations and therein lies the problem.
Everyone who tells you how much protein to consume has some combination of science and anecdotal evidence to support their claims. So who’s right?
– If you consume too little protein you may not make the muscular and strength gains you work so hard for, but too much protein may damage your kidneys and have other negative health effects.
So What’s The Healthy Person To Do?
Start by talking to your doctor. They know your health best and will be able to help you decide on a proper amount of protein based on your goals and your health. If your doctor can’t help, seek out advice from a nutritionist. Many gyms have people on staff (or on contract) who can help you with your dietary requirements based on your goals.
I have always aimed for the 1.5-2 gram per pound of body weight measurement. I train very hard in a effort to gain both size and strength and I have received our doctors’ blessing to consume more than the RDA recommendations. During various cycles I take in a little more or a little less protein, but it always hovers in that neighborhood and we have made consistent progress over the years following those numbers.
Once you settle on an amount of protein to consume, it’s important that you keep it spaced evenly throughout the day and that you try to get the highest quality protein possible.
If you are eating 5 meals per day, divide the total grams of protein you need by 5 to get the amount you need to get at each meal (or divide by whatever number of meals you are eating per day).
Once you know how many grams of protein you need at each meal you can pick both the quality and quantity of protein you need. Here are good sources of protein from which to select:
- Chicken breast, 3.5 oz – 30 grams protein
- Most fish fillets or steaks are about 22 grams of protein for 3 ½ oz (100 grams) of cooked fish, or 6 grams per ounce
- Tuna, 6 oz can – 40 grams of protein
- Pork loin or tenderloin, 4 oz – 29 grams
- Egg, large – 6 grams protein (egg whites have no cholesterol – toss the yolks)
- Milk, 1 cup – 8 grams
- Yogurt, 1 cup – usually 8-12 grams, check label
- Peanut butter, 2 Tablespoons – 8 grams protein
- Most beans (black, pinto, lentils, etc) about 7-10 grams protein per half cup of cooked beans
- Tofu, ½ cup 20 grams protein
- Steak, 6 oz – 42 grams
- Most cuts of beef – 7 grams of protein per ounce
When considering protein sources be sure to account for fat, especially when dealing with animal protein sources.
Do not rule out the use of protein shakes. There are many high quality powders on the market that have high quality protein and low amounts of sugars and carbs. Protein powder shakes are quick to prepare and consume and come in tasty flavors.
Over the years we have found it helpful to incorporate shakes at key times of the day such as when we first wake up, right after a workout, and last thing before bed. Our preference is whey protein powder shakes mixed with skim milk.
I’m sure the battle over protein consumption will continue to rage for years to come, but if you consult with your doctor and experiment a little with different amounts, you will find a good balance that works for your body and your goals.