How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?

If you’re a human, raise your hand…

Ok, now if you’re a human who exercises, raise your other hand…

Now, there are two thumbs pointing at a person who could stand to eat more protein!

I’ve got your attention, so the next question is why should I be eating more protein?  And how much protein should I be eating?

Well, I am a big research guy, so let’s bring up the research.  The prevailing body of research available indicates that for health, performance and longevity, we should aim to consume 0.8-1.2g per pound of bodyweight in protein.  

That range has a few key factors to consider:

  • The more calories you’re eating, the lower in the range you’d need to be
  • The fewer calories you’re eating, the higher in the range you’d need to be
  • The higher the intensity and volume of your training, the higher in the range you’d want to be
  • The older you are, the higher in the range you’d want to be
  • The hungrier you are, the higher in the range you’d want to be.

As you can see, aside from diets with very high calorie intakes, you’d likely want to err on the side of consuming more protein, than less.

So, let’s look at an example:
If I was to eat 1g per pound of bodyweight in protein, that would be 250g.  Split that across 5 meals and that would mean I’d need to consume 50g protein per meal, or 1000 calories from protein per day.

Now, that might seem like a lot to many of you, but that’s likely just because you don’t know how much protein is in the food you’re eating, or even how much you’re actually eating per day.

50g of protein is equivalent to:

  • 2 cups of egg whites
  • 170g cooked chicken breast
  • 225g cooked extra lean turkey
  • 200g cooked lean steak
  • 2 scoops of protein
  • Or 225g white fish which I can’t show you because I don’t have any in the house… long story, but I’ve eaten a lot of it for a long time and I don’t like it anymore

Now, the first thing you’ll say is “whoa! That’s a lot of food!” Well, you’d be right and that’s kind of the point.  Protein is extremely satiating.  It makes us feel the most full of any of the macronutrients.  This is incredibly useful whenever we’re looking to eat to improve body composition.  Higher protein diets make adhering to a caloric deficit much easier.  It’s also a main reason why if you’re trying to consume higher calories, you’d want to reduce protein intake, so your appetite doesn’t get negatively impacted.

Further to that, higher protein intakes lend themselves to better muscle building and muscle retention.  This means that you can preserve your metabolic rate and help to avoid things like metabolic adaptations while dieting, sarcopenia (or age related muscle loss) and continue to perform at a high level.

Higher protein diets are also shown to allow people to consume more total calories while maintaining their body weight.  Who wouldn’t want to eat more calories and not gain weight?!

The first step towards increasing your protein intake is seeing where your current protein intake falls.  The easiest way to do that is to make no changes to your diet and simply track your food.  Remember, all protein counts, so the protein in your veggies, carb sources, fat sources all count towards your 250g total for the day. So, track it all and see where you fall.

Next, you’ll want to make an assessment of how far off the goal you are and make a decision.  Do you need to add more protein rich sources of food, or do you need to just increase your portion sizes?

Now, before you flip out and say, “I can’t just increase my portion sizes, my calories will go up and I’ll gain weight.”  Yes, that would be true, but in this case, by eating more protein, you’ll be more satiated and likely your total calorie intake will come down from you adding in more protein rich foods.  In some cases, you might also consider adding a meal, or a shake or smoothie to the day to increase the frequency of your protein feedings - that way you won’t have to eat as much in a single sitting.

That’s it, it truly doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.  Just eating more of the protein sources you’re already consuming, or adding some more protein rich foods to your diet.  The answer to the question of “how much protein should I be consuming?” can be answered very simply as “MORE!”

Protein is a beautiful part of any nutrition plan because it is one of the few things that we can ADD to a diet, rather than take away.  The mentality of adding things to the diet vs. taking them away is profoundly impactful on the way we perceive health and nutrition, which is typically always mentioned in conjunction with restriction or elimination.  

I’m making it my mission to make nutrition as simple, sustainable and attainable as possible.