50 grams? 100? My height in grams? My weight times some random factor? Well, there’s no simple answer to this. But! Finding the right amount of protein you should eat doesn’t have to be complicated. It really just depends on what condition you are in and what you’re trying to achieve. So let’s go through different scenarios, and you should be able to calculate the right amount for you.
How much protein does body normally require?
Among fat and carbohydrates, your body always needs some protein to function. It is the building material for your muscles. According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended dietary allowance, RDA, for an average person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.32 grams per pound) of body weight per day. This means that a man weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds) should eat 64 grams of protein daily, which is about 250 calories (4 calories in one gram). That is just over 12% of the daily intake of 2000 calories. There is no harm in eating more than the recommendation, and you should aim to have 10-30% of your daily calories from protein.
Requirements for building muscle
While 0.8 grams per kilo is sufficient for most people, it’s different when trying to build muscle, and the recommendation doesn’t take this into account. Muscles are dynamic, and when you exercise, your muscles are broken down and rebuilt on a resting day. Your body needs to create more muscle than it breaks down to gain new muscle. Protein is the building block for muscle, so you must be in surplus to do that. This is why the RDA is not enough, but depending on your body composition, you need different amounts of protein to achieve the same goal.
The most common misconception about bulking is that you must eat much over your daily calorie expenditure. No, you don’t. It is enough to be around a 10% surplus, and all those calories should come from protein. If you just overeat with carbs and fat, you will gain weight, just not from muscle. Also, you should only be bulking when you’re lean. Otherwise, you could just take the extra energy from your body’s energy storage, fat. This is where cutting and body recomposition comes into play. But back to the main question, how much should you eat protein when bulking? When bulking, a lot of carbs and fat are available as energy sources, so your body is not likely to break down muscle for energy. This is why you don’t need that much protein. The recommendation is to eat around 1.6-2.2 grams (0.7-1 grams per pound) of protein per kilogram of body weight.
In contrast to bulking, cutting is where you’re trying to lose weight. It’s also possible to build muscle during this phase, but you need more protein than when bulking. This is because less energy is available, and your body is more likely to break down muscles. The recommendation is to eat around 1.8-2.7 grams (0.8-1.2 grams per pound) of protein per kilogram of body weight when cutting. You should aim for the upper end if you’re very lean or training hard. If you have more body fat, it would be better to be on the lower side.
Body recomposition is where you’re trying to lose weight and build muscle at the same time while eating maintenance calories. Eating the same amount of protein in bulk is generally a good idea. Your body has plenty of energy sources available and is not likely to break down muscle. If you’re overweight, a good recommendation is to eat 1 gram of protein per cm in height, as Jeff Nippard explains in this great video about protein science. Most of the values shown in this post are mainly based on that video.
Does the protein source matter?
If we compare different sources based on how much they have leucine, it is clear that animal-based protein sources are denser in leucine. This means that you have to eat less of them in calories than plant-based options. However, the difference is minimal if we consider plant-based isolates, like brown rice isolate. It’s not enough to just eat enough protein in grams; you need to use good protein sources with the required amino acids, especially leucine, to have a better anabolic response.