Learn how much protein you really need each day.

May 8th, 2018 by Debbie Martilotta

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human body. They are made up of amino acids and are needed build muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails, and internal organs. Next, to water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body, and most of it is actually in the skeletal muscles.

Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are called complete proteins. These foods include beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and just about anything else derived from animal sources.

If you’re an exerciser, your protein needs may increase since strength training can rapidly break down muscle protein. The general guidelines for endurance and strength-trained athletes from the American Dietetic Association and American College of Sports Medicine suggest consuming between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for the best performance and health.

I regularly help clients with their diet needs and challenges. The calculator below is a good way to calculate your protein needs individually. See me if you are looking to up your exercise program with specific goals in mind.

How to Calculate Your Protein Needs

Use these steps to find your protein need in grams (g)

  1. Weight in pounds divided by 2.2 = weight in kilograms (kg)
  2. Weight in kg x 0.8 = protein grams per day lower limit
  3. Weight in kg x 1.7 = protein grams per day upper limit

Use a lower limit number if you are in good health and are sedentary (i.e., 0.8).

Use a higher number (between 1.2 and 1.7) if you are under stress, pregnant, recovering from an illness, or if you are involved in consistent and intense weight or endurance training.

Example:

154-pound (lb) male who is a regular exerciser and lifts weights

  • 154 lb/2.2 = 70 kg
  • 70 kg x 1.5 = 105 grams protein per day

Calculating Protein as a Percentage of Total Calories

Another way to calculate how much protein you need is by using daily calorie intake and the percentage of calories that will come from protein. To do this, you’ll need to know how many calories your body needs each day. First, find out what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is by using a BMR calculator.

Next, figure out how many calories you burn through daily activity and add that number to your BMR. This gives you an estimate of how many calories you need to maintain your current weight.

After you’ve figured out your maintenance calories, next figure out what percentage of your diet will come from protein. The percentage you choose will be based on your goals, fitness level, age, body type, and metabolic rate.

Most experts recommend that your protein intake be somewhere between 15 and 30 percent. When you’ve determined your desired percentage of protein, multiply that percentage by the total number of calories for the day.

Example:

For a 140-pound female, calorie intake 1800 calories, protein 20 percent:

  • 1800 x 0.20 = 360 calories from protein
  • Since 1 gram of protein = 4 calories, divide protein calories by 4
  • 360/4 = 90 grams of protein per day

The foundation of the DBM program, whether your goal is to lose weight or gain muscle, is a combination of strength training, cardio exercise, and a healthy diet that focuses on plants, protein, and healthy fast.