How much protein do you need?

20 April 2017 by
First published: 17 September 2016

What is protein? And how much protein do you need?

Protein is an essential dietary nutrient that helps the body grow and repair. It’s incredibly important, as it enables us to function and lead a healthy life.

If you’re a regular gym-goer or someone who exercises often, you are probably aware that you need slightly more protein than someone who doesn’t partake in exercise. But the exact amount of protein can vary depending on a number of things, including: your training goals and focus, current bodyweight, age, exercise intensity, exercise frequency and exercise duration.

Your protein needs

The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is 0.8g per kilogram of bodyweight. So, if I weigh 70kg then according to this formula my daily needs would be 56g per day. But my issue with this amount is it is too low for someone who trains at a moderate intensity three to four times per week. Protein needs to be increased during times of growth and stress, and exercise is an external stressor being placed upon the body.

As stated above, there are so many different factors to consider and every individual’s requirements may differ, but a general guide for someone who trains could be anywhere from 1.2g to 2.0g per kilogram of bodyweight.

My advice to you, would be to track your protein intake and monitor a number of things, including: sleep, recovery, performance and are you reaching your goals? If you are struggling with these things, then increasing your protein may be an important factor that could be addressed.

Below are some more accurate daily protein requirements, based on energy expenditure:

  • For an endurance athlete: 1.2-1.4g per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • For a strength and power athlete: 1.6-1.8g per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • Athletes on a weight gain program: 1.8-2.0g per kilogram of body weight per day.

Using the above figures, a 70kg male or female athlete would require around 125-140g of protein per day to deal with the demands of their training.

To put that into context, there is roughly 25g of protein in a chicken breast and 28g of protein in a tin of tuna. To hit the target of up to 140g per day, then you may struggle to eat that much food to hit your daily requirements.

An extra protein hit

It’s always best to get your protein from a variety of different natural foods, but if you simply can’t get enough food on board, protein shakes can be a useful tool. They can contain the same amount of protein as the chicken breast or tin of tuna, are very convenient and can also taste great.

A couple of key things to look out for when choosing the correct shake is: the overall protein content, the amino acid profile and the bio availability (how well it passes through your digestive system). The protein in these shakes can come in a number of different forms such as: whey, casein, soy, pea, hemp and egg protein.

But if you’re not keen on shakes, then good sources of protein you can get through food include: fish and seafood, white-meat poultry, milk, cheese and yoghurt, eggs, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soya and lean beef.

So now you know…