Is eating 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day more than necessary? Don’t some studies say eating any more than 0.8 grams per pound is pointless? Why do I often recommend eating 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day?
I’ve written and recorded a lot of evidence-based content over the years on just about everything you can imagine related to building muscle, losing fat, and getting healthy.
I’ve also worked with thousands of men and women of all ages and circumstances and helped them get into the best shape of their lives.
That doesn’t mean you should blindly swallow everything I say, though, because let’s face it—nobody is always right about everything. And especially in fields like diet and exercise, which are constantly evolving thanks to the efforts of honest and hardworking researchers and thought leaders.
This is why I’m always happy to hear from people who disagree with me, especially when they have good arguments and evidence to back up their assertions.
Sometimes I can’t get on board with their positions, but sometimes I end up learning something, and either way, I always appreciate the discussion.
That gave me the idea for this series of podcast episodes: publicly addressing things people disagree with me on and sharing my perspective.
Think of it like a spicier version of a Q&A.
So, here’s what I’m doing:
Every couple of weeks, I’m asking my Instagram followers what they disagree with me on, and then picking the more common or interesting contentions to address here on the podcast.
And in this episode, I’ll be tackling the following . . .
- “1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is more than necessary.”
0:00 – Find the Perfect Strength Training Program for You: www.muscleforlife.show/trainingquiz
2:16 – What is protein and why does it matter?
3:39 – How much protein is needed to effectively gain muscle?
5:27 – Why should we have that amount of protein and why does that amount change?
7:03 – Where did you come up with those numbers?
11:37 – How much protein should we consume for health and longevity?
Mentioned on the Show:
Find the Perfect Strength Training Program for You in Just 60 Seconds: www.muscleforlife.show/trainingquiz
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
Hey, hey, and welcome to another episode of muscle for life. I am Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today for another installment in my says you series of episodes where I address something that somebody disagrees with me on something that I think will be interesting or instructive for all of you lovely listeners out there.
So what I do is over on Instagram at muscle for life fitness. Come follow me every month or. two or three, depending on how much content I get, I make a post asking for people to share things that they disagree with me on in the comments. And I get a lot of comments and I pick a number of them, a number of the disagreements to then address here on the podcast.
And so in today’s episode, I’m going to be talking about protein intake because although I don’t have a note here on who challenged me on this, but thank you. If you are listening, somebody said that they think one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is too much and they didn’t say specifically why.
So I’m going to talk about some of the common reasons given when people say that that is too much protein when I share my answer. But that’s what today’s episode is going to be about. Is a gram per pound of body weight per day too much or is it at least more than is necessary? Before we begin, have you ever wondered what strength training split you should follow?
What rep ranges you should work in? How many sets you should do per workout or per week? Well, I created a free 60 second training quiz that will answer those questions for you and others, including how frequently you should train each major muscle group, which exercises you should do, what supplements you should consider, which ones are at least worth taking, and more.
To take this quiz and to get your free personalized training plan, go to muscleforlife. show, muscleforlife. show slash training. quiz, answer the questions and learn exactly what to do in the gym to gain more muscle and strength. Okay, so let’s start this discussion with a very quick review of what protein is and why it matters at all, especially for us fitness folk.
Protein is a molecule that’s made up of chains of smaller compounds known as amino acids, and these amino acids support countless processes in the body, including DNA and RNA synthesis, metabolic regulation, appetite control, immune function, and more. And these amino acids are also the building blocks of many tissues in the body, including Muscle.
So without the requisite amino acids, our body simply can’t do a lot of these important physiological processes, including constructing new muscle proteins. So if we ate too little protein, We would not be able to effectively gain muscle and thereby gain strength, regardless of how much training we did.
And so then the primary reason why people who are into working out generally follow a high protein diet, at least one of the main reasons is they want to make sure that they are providing their body with enough amino acids. So it can continue building and repairing itself from the training. Now, of course, there are other reasons to eat a high protein diet, but as far as body composition goes, that is one of the primary reasons.
Now, how much protein is needed to do that effectively? Well, zealous meat eaters, carnivoreans, maybe they call themselves, and bodybuilders, they will often Suggest sky high amounts, maybe up to two grams per pound of body weight per day. But then on the other hand, there are many fitness experts out there, especially ones who are eating a plant based diet who say that we don’t need anywhere near that amount to maximize muscle building that anything between 0.
5 and maybe 0. 8 grams per pound of body weight per day is plenty. And as for me, my general recommendation for protein intake has not changed at all, really, since I entered the fitness scene 10 years ago. From the beginning, I’ve been recommending something between 0. 8 and 1. 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, depending on your circumstances, depending on your body composition and what you’re trying to do with it.
Are you trying to maximize muscle growth? Are you trying to maximize fat loss, right? Are you lean gaining? Are you cutting? Or maybe you’re just maintaining. So specifically I have recommended and still recommend something around 0. gram of protein per pound of body weight per day when you are maintaining or lean gaining and 1 to 1.
2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day when you are cutting. Now, If you are somebody who has a lot of weight to lose, let’s say you are cutting and you need to lose a lot of weight, then one to 1. 2 grams per pound per day is going to be unnecessarily high. And in that case, I would recommend that your protein is in the range of 30 to 40 percent of your daily calories.
Now, why those amounts? And why do those amounts change based on what you’re doing? Well, my recommendation is slightly lower when you are bulking or maintaining because your body has a lot of calories to use as fuel. Energy is abundant, and so it will not need to, and it won’t tap into its energy stores as aggressively, including muscle.
Muscle is not its preferred energy store, but it can be broken down and turned into energy for cells, and that will not Happen as aggressively when you are maintaining or lean gaining as when you are cutting. Now, of course, it does happen because every day your body flips between, I guess you could say, fat storage and fat burning modes.
So you eat some food. You are now in fat storage mode for a period as your body processes the food that you eat. Ate once it’s done processing the food that you ate and it no longer has food energy available. It then taps into its energy stores, primarily body fat, and that then is fat burning mode. Now, of course that happens when you are lean bulking, when you are in a consistent calorie surplus every day or every week, your body is going in and out of fat burning and fat storage mode.
But when you look at the net effect of lean bulking, for example, you will see that fat stores are growing over time and on the flip side, when you are cutting your body does still go into fat storage mode after you eat food, but the net effect of a consistent calorie deficit is fat stores shrink. over time.
Okay, so where did I come up with these numbers? Well, my recommendation for bulking and maintaining is based on a couple of research reviews. First, there is a 2018 meta analysis conducted by scientists at McMaster University that examined data from 49 studies, including a total of almost 1900 participants.
And in that paper, What they found is a good rule of thumb when energy is not restricted, when you are not cutting is something in the range of 1. 6 to 2. 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, which is 0. 7 to 1 gram per pound of body weight per day. Now, the authors also noted that leaning toward the top end of that scale likely maximizes muscle growth.
And then there’s another review that was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition that explained that 0. 55 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is adequate for supporting muscle gain so long as calories are at or above expenditure. So we’re talking about maintenance or mean gaining.
And remember in the first paper, the authors did note that closer to a gram per pound of body weight per day appears to be best for maximizing muscle growth. So just because somebody can gain muscle on 0. 5 to 0. 6 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. Day doesn’t mean they are gaining as much muscle as they possibly can.
Chances are they would gain a bit more if they ate a bit more protein. Now with cutting, I mentioned earlier that when energy is restricted, you are at a higher risk of losing muscle. Your body is more inclined to burn muscle tissue. That’s not literally what happens, of course, but to break muscle tissue down and convert it.
into a usable source of energy for cells. And that’s one of the reasons why it makes sense to eat slightly more protein while you’re cutting research shows that that will help you retain muscle, which of course is the goal when people say, or at least it’s half of the goal, right? When people say they want to lose weight, what they really mean is they want to lose fat.
And not muscle, and if somebody doesn’t understand the importance of retaining muscle, why that really should be half of the goal when you are cutting one half is I want to reduce my body fat level. The other half is I want to retain or maybe even gain muscle. If somebody doesn’t understand that they.
Might lose a bunch of weight, but also a bunch of muscle and then wind up with a skinny fat type of physique that they are not happy with and that they don’t know how to fix because they don’t understand this point of body composition that The look that many people are after requires a very specific body composition, not necessarily a specific weight.
It requires a specific body fat level or range and a specific muscularity, a certain amount of muscle in the right places, depending on the person. I mean, gender separates. So men are generally more concerned with building their upper body than their lower body and vice versa with women. But you have to combine those two things.
The right body fat level and the right amount of muscle in the right places on your body. And so, again, my general recommendation when cutting is something around one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day, possibly up to 1. 2 grams. And what? Is that based on? Well, there is a 2018 review that was published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism that looked specifically at protein recommendations for people trying to optimize their body composition, and the researchers found that the best form Protein intake for maintaining muscle was 1.
8 to 2. 4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. And that works out to 0. 8 to 1. 1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. That said, another systematic review that was conducted by scientists at AUT University found that eating slightly more protein than that, 1. 8 to 2. 7 grams per kg of body weight per day, which is 0.
8 to 1. 2 grams per pound per day might be even better. And so my recommendation is, is somewhere between the middle and the top end of those ranges. And so that’s where I wanted to start this episode. I wanted to show that my recommendations are not too high from a muscle building standpoint, from a body composition standpoint.
Now let’s talk about health and wellbeing or. Those recommendations may be optimal for body composition, but not for health and longevity. Do they increase the risk of disease and dysfunction, for example, or could they do that? Well, the most common concern that people share with me, at least regarding a high protein diet is its potential effects on the kidneys.
And you can find At least a couple of long term observational studies that have shown that there is an association between high protein dieting and declining kidney function, particularly among people with kidney disease, and there is some animal research that shows that high protein dieting may increase the likelihood of experiencing kidney problems, but we have to remember that observational studies can only show Thank you.
That two things are associated or appear to be associated, not that one causes the other. And animal research is useful, but it does have limited applicability to humans. And so what that means is none of those studies, those observational and animal studies constitute strong evidence that high protein diets cause healthy humans.
to have kidney problems. And if we look at human research, we can find an abundance of high quality, randomized, controlled trials that show that high protein dieting has no negative effects on kidney function in people who have. healthy kidneys. And that’s true even when you eat a lot of protein. For example, a team of researchers at Nova Southern University have conducted several trials using protein intakes as high as 3.
4 to 4. 4 grams per kg. So that’s as high as two grams per pound. of body weight per day. And in those studies they have consistently found no harmful effects on health whatsoever. Finally, to quote from the International Society of Sports Nutrition, this is their position stand, I quote, multiple review articles indicate that no controlled scientific evidence exists indicating that increased intakes of protein pose Any health risks in healthy exercising individuals, statements by large regulatory bodies have also indicated that concerns about one’s health secondary to ingesting high amounts of protein are unfounded.
A series of controlled investigations spanning up to one year in duration, utilizing protein intakes of up to 2. 5 to 3. 3 grams per kg per day in healthy resistance trained individuals consistently indicate that increased intakes of protein exert no harmful effect on blood lipids or markers of kidney and liver function.
And so all of that is why I think that my protein recommendations of anywhere between 0. 8 and 1. 2 grams per pound of body weight per day are. reasonable and are in line with the current weight of the scientific evidence, both for improving body composition and improving and maintaining health. Well, I hope you liked this episode.
I hope you found it helpful. And if you did subscribe to the show, because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other. People who may like it just as much as you.
And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email, Mike at muscle for life. com muscle F O R life. com. And let me know what I could do. Better, or just, uh, what your thoughts are about maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.
I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.