A lot of people are hitting the gym to start of the New Year on a quest for fitness. One question many people have when they first start working out is how much protein do I need? Don’t feel bad for asking because a lot of experienced weight lifters and athletes have the same question. Well unfortunately if you search the web you are going to get a lot of answers, and the sheer amount of information will make your head spin. I am going to try to make it easy for you.
For starters, The Institute of Medicine recommends that adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. Time to get out your calculator. Ok, I will help you with the math. That works out to be about 56 grams per day for the average sedentary or inactive man and 46 grams per day for the average woman of the same (in) activity level. That’s not much. So how about if you are active? Toning up? Slimming down? Adding muscle? That adds a variable to equation. Most recommend a multiplier based on activity level to calculate the new need. That multiplier alone is a source of confusion. Few are going to admit to being completely sedentary, and when you first start out anything at all feels like a complete and total exertion. So knowing what multiplier to use is difficult. But over calculating your protein needs could sabotage your results leading to an abandonment of your goal.
Well I don’t know about you, but I don’t like sitting there agonizing over an exact number, recalculating day to day based on my activity or lack thereof. I look for a simple goal. And that’s what I have for you. I am recommending that the active adult woman set a goal of 100 grams of protein per day, the active man 150 grams. Let me explain why.
First of all too much protein will still convert to fat. So if you are consuming too much, you can still gain fat if you are not putting the protein demand on your body through weight training. That excess protein can be hard on the kidneys over the long-term, but the more pressing concern in my opinion is the gastrointestinal issues many people experience with high levels of protein. Gas, bloating, etc. Consuming at these levels would rarely be an excess for the active individual, and at the same time never send the body into a starvation mode either by being too little. So what my recommendation accomplishes is finding that sweet spot for the majority of people under the majority of activity levels.
Here is how I go about getting that 150 grams.
I have a shake first thing in the morning. My shake is 50 grams of protein. Right before bed I also do 1-2 scoops of low carb whey. That is another 50 grams. So I have 100 grams of protein most days without thinking. I also try to eat 5 times a day, that’s two meals already. So I have 3 meals to get 50 or so grams of protein. That’s pretty easy. One of my snacks/meals I’ll eat Greek yogurt and that’s a good serving of protein there. So I am hitting all my needs with little thought. It also makes it easy to modify my intake if I’m going for strength and muscle gains, or looking to slim down- just by upping or reducing my portion size. If I’m looking to lose weight I can only do one scoop of protein at night, or divide my morning shake in half and divide it over two meals. If I am looking to add weight, I could put a little olive oil in that shake for more calories or up my serving size in one of my 3 real food meals.
Using this method I’m also hitting a key part of exercise and nutrition: I’m getting three sold meals of REAL food. When you’re working out a lot, it’s easy to fall into the supplement craze, pre workout, protein powders, post workout, BCAA’s the list is endless. And if you believe the hype you barely have touched any real food after all those supplements. Real food is important. Its thermogenic, requiring energy to digest therefore upping my metabolism. It also provides a full spectrum of nutrients which are not found in powders, things like carotenoids and polyphenols.
For a woman following my system it might look like this: one small shake in the morning (25 grams), one scoop of low carb protein before bed (25 grams), and three meals to get 50 more grams. A yogurt, fruit, and dinner of rice and chicken fits the bill nicely. Meeting the requirement over the three meals is relatively easy if you are honest about what you are eating. We know what is good and bad for us so listen to that instinct when eating.
The benefits of my system is twofold: ease of use, and adaptability. The cost is also reasonable. I’m not recommending any high priced promise everything do nothing supplements. Just good clean food and some basic protein powders. Like to eat? Then by all means have a 2 egg omelet with veggies or mushrooms in place of the morning shake. I do recommend the powder at night because we want easy digestion before bed. That powder assimilates quickly to start the repair process while asleep. We don’t want the body working to digest.
I believe this 100/150 gram requirement will serve 75% of people out there. If you are especially inactive then of course adapt this according to a consultation with your doctor. Those who do sports for a living or a bodybuilder may even double this recommendation. I’m not talking about outliers but rather the majority of us who are active but still have day jobs. Those who can’t think about protein needs all day because they have a job.
I hope this system makes it easier to get a grasp on protein needs and how to meet them. Good luck with your goals and be sure to comment below on how this recommendation helped in achieving your desired physique.
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness. She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.