Protein is a necessary part of any diet, but many people do not understand just how much protein they need to consume each day. Protein consists of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle. Adequate consumption of protein daily is necessary to maintain, repair and build muscle. Without enough protein, this would not be possible. Protein is also necessary for good immune system health and creation of hormones, enzymes, skin, hair, nails and blood. Those who ingest deficient amounts of protein may have symptoms such as loss of hair or brittle nails. Those who wish to alter their physical appearance by losing fat or gaining muscle mass should often rely heavily on protein to assist them in fulfilling their goals. Muscle mass is denser than fat tissue and requires more calories than fat, which means increasing muscle mass will help to create a leaner and healthier physique. However, without adequate consumption of protein, it is not possible to build muscle. Protein is necessary to increase muscle mass and to repair muscles that are damaged by exercise.
In determining how much protein is necessary, you should consider a number of different factors. Weight and activity level are the two prime considerations as you determine how much protein you should include in your daily diet. However, you will also need to establish your goals. The following are some basic guidelines for determining how much protein you need to consume each day:
- Weigh yourself with an accurate scale, which will provide your weight in kilograms. This is necessary as most calculations rely on your current body weight in kilograms. If you only have a scale which provides weight in pounds you can divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert this number to your weight to kilograms.
- Have your body fat tested. This test will determine the percentage of your total body weight that consists of fat. This information is helpful for allowing you to determine whether or not your current percentage of body fat is healthy. If it is not, you should consider losing fat, building muscle or both. Healthy ranges vary based on a number of factors but in general between 19%-31% is considered healthy for females and 14%-25% is considered healthy for males. Highly trained endurance athletes such as triathletes and marathon runners may have significantly lower body fat percentages, but this can cause health concerns such as amenorrhea in women.
- Evaluate your current activity level. This is relevant as an individual who works at a desk and does not exercise regularly will require less protein than an individual who works a manual labor job or an individual who exercises strenuously each day for an hour or more.
Once you have considered all of the factors above, you can start to determine how much protein you will need on a daily basis. The following are formulas for protein consumption for three different scenarios:
- Individuals with a current healthy percentage of body fat, an adequate amount of lean muscle mass and a relatively sedentary lifestyle should consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. According to this formula:
- Protein Requirement = Body weight * 0.8
- Individuals with a current healthy percentage of body fat, an adequate amount of lean muscle mass and who exercise regularly should consume approximately 1.0-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Those who have a high body fat percentage who are exercising regularly should also consume a daily amount of protein in this range, as it will enable them to increase muscle mass and return to a healthier body fat percentage.
- Protein Requirement = Body weight * 1.0, or
- Protein Requirement = Body weight * 1.2
- Individuals with an unhealthy percentage of body fat, an adequate amount of lean muscle mass and who exercise regularly should consume approximately 1.5 grams of protein per body weight. This will allow these individuals to maintain or gain muscle mass and shed fat. Those who already have a healthy body fat percentage but want to increase muscle mass for purposes of creating a hulking physique would also be in this category. Endurance athletes who work out for more than 2-3 hours per day may also fall into this category. According to this formula:
- Protein Requirement = Body weight * 1.5
The formulas listed above are basic requirements for daily protein consumption, but it is important to note that you should carefully evaluate your goals to determine whether or not the amount of protein you consume is helping to meet your needs. Additionally, it is important for all individuals to consume the majority of their protein from lean protein sources such as chicken breast, tuna, egg whites or whey.