In honor of there being only 90 days left in the year, I thought it’d be fun (and useful) to answer 90 of the most common fitness questions I get here at Relentless… one per day. So to kick it off:
Day 1: “How much protein should I eat?“
This is one of the most common questions that I get in the gym and that’s why I chose to kick this series off with it.
When it comes to putting together a nutrition plan (or heck, even “just trying to eat better”), one of the first things that people almost always run into is the question of how much protein should they eat… or even what IS a high-protein food, which we’ll handle a little bit later.
When it comes to the amount of protein you’re expected to shovel in, youll find that there’s a couple ends of the opinion spectrum:
On one side, you’ve got a crowd (usually vegans) who say that you get all the protein you need just from eating some leafy greens and that too much is poisonous and if you go over the (low) limit then you’re kidneys will die and you’re killing the Earth.
On the other, you’ve got meatheads and muscle magazines that the only answer is “more”, which will leave you with GI distress and the supplement companies with fatter wallets… which is their end goal.
As usual, the answer is somewhere in the middle.
Protein is a necessary nutrient for you to consume in your diet to survive. Basically, the amino acids that make up “protein” that you eat are reassembled to make a new protein = you (among other functions). As such, there IS a pretty well-established baseline, subject to a few factors, that needs to be hit in order for you to stay alive. The recommended daily allowance for that is about 0.8g of protein per KG of bodyweight. So, a 150 lb person (about 68kg) would be looking at about 54-55g of protein per day to replace cells, hair, nails, etc.
To be honest, assuming you’re eating a relatively normal amount and type of food in America, you’re going to hit that number. This is why the vegetarians mentioned above are unlikely to develop a true protein deficiency. It’s a pretty attainable number.
That’s to stay ALIVE. That isn’t necessarily the same thing as THRIVING, though.
Research HAS indicated that people who are engaged in physical activity can make use of more protein, though. All that working out breaks down muscle that needs to be repaired and made stronger, plus you end up burning a bit of that protein for energy. With a higher protein intake you’ll gain muscle better, be less likely to store fat, recover faster, be less sore, and (since protein takes a long time to break down in the stomach) you’ll feel more satisfied longer after eating it… helping you eat less, if that’s your goal.
So, while that doesn’t mean you need to go whole hog and eat the WHOLE hog, it does mean that you’re going to be better off if you come in over the baseline in protein. We have a couple of methods that we like to recommend: A simple method and a more exact one:
For the simple method, we’ll use our hands.
For the average man, you’re looking at getting two “palm-sized” servings of a lean protein with three meals per day. For the average woman, look at getting one “palm-sized” portion. This method is great because it’s a quick and easy eyeball, and it’s self-adjusting for your individual size: Bigger people = Bigger need = Probably bigger hands, and vice-versa.
For those who like numbers, I recommend somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.8-1.0g/LB of bodyweight if you’re fairly lean, or use your target bodyweight if you’re carrying a lot of fat that you want to lose.
For our 150 lb person above, assuming they were reasonably lean, they would be looking at 120-150g per day. If, for example, they weighed 250 lbs but were looking to weigh 150 (and that was reasonable), I’d lean towards the 150 number.
Now, that might sound like a little or a lot of protein for you. If it sounds like a ton, don’t rush into it and totally jack up your meal plan. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about how to sneak a little extra in here or there to make it easier.
Looking for some help on planning out quality nutrition… while still eating out at restaurants? Grab our FREE Relentless Restaurant Guide Here!