Here's How Much Protein You Really Need

Photo: Olga M.

Your muscles are made of protein, so if you’re building muscle you need to eat up. But how much protein do you really need? More than a couch potato, but less than the protein-crazy gym bros would have you believe. Here’s how to quickly calculate the real answer.

First, know that there are two factors to consider: how big you are, and how active you are. If you know you carry a lot of fat, you can calculate based on your ideal body weight instead of your actual body weight. We have the full details in our guide to protein, but here’s the short answer:

If you’re sedentary or lightly active and maintaining your weight

Most of us will do fine on the RDA of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of total body weight — but consider that a minimum. That means:

  • If you weigh 45kg, eat at least 36 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 68kg, eat at least 54 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 91kg, eat at least 72 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 113kg, eat at least 90 grams of protein each day.

If you run or bike a lot

For endurance sports, you’ll want between 0.54 and 0.63 grams of protein per pound of total body weight, per day. More is fine, but not necessary.

  • If you weigh 45kg and do endurance sports, eat 54 to 63 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 68kg and do endurance sports, eat 81 to 95 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 91kg and do endurance sports, eat 108 to 126 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 113kg and do endurance sports, eat 135 to 157 grams of protein each day.

If you’re chasing those gainz

If you lift a lot and you’re trying to gain muscle, more protein will help you meet that goal. Gym bros who tell you to eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight are way overestimating, though.

The upper end of the range, according to legit sports nutrition sources, varies from 0.76 to 0.9 grams per pound of total body weight for strength athletes.

The lower end of each organisation’s range is in the ballpark of 0.6. So to cover all our bases, here’s a chart based on a consensus range of 0.6 to 0.9 grams per pound:

  • If you weigh 45kg and lift a lot, eat 60 to 90 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 68kg and lift a lot, eat 90 t0 135 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 91kg and lift a lot, eat 120 to 180 grams of protein each day.

  • If you weigh 113kg and lift a lot, eat 150 to 225 grams of protein each day.

All of these numbers are meant to be daily averages. If you prefer to eat more on days you work out, and less on rest days, that’s fine — just aim for the average.

What happens if I eat the wrong amount?

If you eat too little protein, you may have trouble building muscle in the gym. If you’re losing weight, you can end up losing muscle as well as fat.

If you eat too much protein, nothing terrible happens, but the extra protein is just calories. In that case, you might prefer eating those calories in the form of food you really enjoy, instead of mountains of hard boiled eggs and chicken breasts.


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