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Daily Recommended Protein Intake Based on Performance Goals

You've heard this before - you want to gain muscle? EAT MORE PROTEIN. However, this is not always the case.

You see huge bodybuilders eating 6-8 ounces of chicken at every meal, downing protein shakes, and eating upwards of 200-400g of protein a day, but that is not recommended for everyone (for obvious reasons).

The purpose of this article is to give you all a basic understanding of protein, and to explain what the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) truly are based on your performance goals.

(Imma leave this here for all my science nerds lol)

Proteins are made up of various combinations of the 20 amino acids, 8 of which are essential (meaning they must be consumed through foods), and 12 of which are nonessential (meaning the body can produce these on it's own). You can find the highest amount of protein in food sources such as beef, turkey, chicken, eggs, fish, dairy foods, soybeans, nuts, legumes, and whey protein powder.

Now the question is, how much protein do you actually need? And can you achieve that amount through just foods alone? And the answer to the second question is "yes".

The current protein RDA for the average American is 0.36 grams per pounds of body weight (0.8g/kg of body weight), with men being able to consume a little bit more. This is the RDA for over 90% of the population, and is adequate for almost all people. That means, an average person looking to just tone up and increase their lifts in the gym, weighing around 200 pounds, should be eating ONLY around 72g of protein a day. Broken down percentage wise, protein should only take up 10-35% of your total calories. Meaning, if you consume 2000 calories a day, 200-700 of those calories should be protein. Now, there is conflicting evidence regarding the correct doses for athletes.

Current research states that optimal protein intake for endurance-focused athletes is ~0.54-0.63 g/lb of body weight (1.2-1.4 g/kg body weight), whereas strength-focused athletes have a range of 0.54-0.77 g/lb of body weight (1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight), with 2 g/kg a day being the maximum recommendation (for strength athletes).

Ex. on how to calculate your protein needs

1. Take your weight -> 165lbs

2. Multiply your weight by a number in the RDA range -> 165lbs x 0.54g ~ 90g of protein a day

OR

1. Take your weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to calculate the kilograms -> 165lbs / 2.2 = 75kg

2. Multiply your weight in kg by a number in the kg RDA range -> 75kg x 1.2g ~ 90g of protein a day

Where you fall on the range of protein intake depends on the intensity and duration of your training, as well as your individual training status. For example, elite endurance/strength athletes will fall on the higher range of the spectrums.

When training at such a high volume, it is obvious that your body will require an increased intake of protein. That combined with a high energy-efficient diet is required for muscle growth.

I know that contradicts what most of you have heard. I bet you've all heard you need to eat at least 1 g of protein per lb of bodyweight. Meaning, someone weighing 200 pounds would eat 200g of protein a day. That is not necessarily true nor beneficial. Protein intake above the RDA comes at the expense of restricting other valuable macronutrients. Having a protein intake so high means that the other nutrients (carbs and fats) must be lowered in order to not exceed your daily overall calorie target. This can jeopardize an athlete's performance.

When you have your protein intake set at an adequate level, that "leaves more room" to eat more carbs!!! Which is exciting news. Additionally, if your protein intake is set too high, your body will use only the protein it needs, and then store the rest as excess fat.

Moreover, when your protein intake is set at a more appropriate goal, the need for supplements significantly decreases. You should be able to achieve your protein goal through consuming whole, nutrient-dense foods, rather than highly processed protein bars or whey protein powder. However, there is a benefit for ingesting a whey protein shake before and/or after training, due to time availability, and consuming enough protein and calories to fuel your training session.

Nonetheless, there are some specific groups who still need the use of protein supplements. For example, individuals following vegetarian or vegan diets, restricting calories, eliminating other food groups, or eating a majority of highly processed foods (not recommended). Now, the last 2 listed can be avoided. You should not be restricting whole food groups unless of a VALID reason, I.e. allergies, religious belief, etc... And there is no excuse for eating a diet high in processed and junk foods.

I hope this helps those of you who were stuck wondering how much protein to eat! And I hope it gave you a little more knowledge about the topic! As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment below, or send me a message!

- Coach Nat

Works Cited

Campbell, B., Kreider, R. International society of sports nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. (2007).

Phillips, S. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. (2011).

Benardot, D. Nutrition for serious athletes. (2000).

Mueller, K. The athlete's guide to sports supplements. (2013).

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