How much protein should you be eating?

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The question of how much protein people should be eating is hotly debated one in the fitness industry and is not as simple to answer as many people think. In this article I will tell you how much protein you should be eating depending on your activity levels and goals. I’d like to make a quick disclaimer that this advice is aimed at healthy individuals and if you need a specialised diet or have any medical issues then consult a doctor.

First of all, if you are looking for optimal health rather than changing body composition then protein intake is actually of very little importance. Your main priority should be calorie intake and food quality and less about macronutrient breakdown. So for fairly sedentary individuals or those doing more cardio training rather than resistance training whose main goal is to get as healthy as possible then 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight should be sufficient.

If you are an endurance athlete who trains seriously most days then your intake should be slightly higher but not but by as much as some might think. Because the damage to muscle fibres is less for endurance athletes compared to strength training athletes, the protein requirements are less because less repair is needed to the muscle. As long as carbohydrate and calories are high enough then 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight should be sufficient for endurance athletes.

For strength athletes, protein intake is slightly more important. If body composition is not of particular concern and you are maintaining your bodyweight then generally the more protein you consume, the better. This only works to a certain point however. When protein is consumed at above 1.33g per kg of bodyweight then for most people, the benefits of extra protein cease to continue. Any extra protein from this point might take calories away from other macronutrients (mainly carbs for strength athletes) that may have a more beneficial effect than the extra protein.

For those looking to gain muscle then protein is even more important. Again, more protein is usually better but to a certain point. 1.6g of protein per kg of bodyweight seems to be a good number for most people and past this point, protein takes away from better energy sources like carbohydrates.

Finally, resistance training individuals looking to lose fat and maintain as much muscle mass as possible probably require the most amount of protein. As you lose weight, you break down more tissue than you grow and so your body loses more protein than when you are at maintenance or gaining weight and so more protein is needed through your diet to maintain your muscle mass. For athletes who are looking to maintain muscle mass whilst losing body fat, the general recommendation for protein intake is between 1.8-2.7g of protein per kg of bodyweight. The more rapidly you are losing weight, the higher your protein intake should be and also as you get leaner, your protein intake will also need to increase as a ratio of your bodyweight.

To conclude, if your main goal is optimal health then try to keep protein levels above 0.8g per kg of bodyweight; endurance athletes need a slightly higher protein intake of around 1g per kg of bodyweight; strength athletes should aim for 1.33g per kg of bodyweight; resistance training athletes looking to gain muscle should aim for 1.6g per kg of bodyweight and athletes looking to lose fat whilst maintaining as much muscle mass as possible then protein intake should be anywhere between 1.8-2.7g per kg of bodyweight depending on the severity of the calorie deficit and the leanness of the athlete.

I hope you have found this blog informative and I’ll speak to you all again soon.

Albie

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