How much protein do you really need?

If you want to get big, you’ve got to down the protein. This gym lore has been passed down from one weightlifter to another for decades. And you cannot escape the barrage of ads and mentions in just about every fitness magazine (keep in mind the marketing relationship between these publications and manufacturers).

Protein is key to building muscle and tissue, but don't over kill it.
Protein is key to building muscle and tissue, but don’t over kill it.

But just how much protein does one really need? The answer may be less than you think.

Recommended daily protein intake (per National Academy of Sports Medicine):

Activity Level

Sedentary – 0.4 g/lb

Strength Athlete – 0.5-0.8 g/lb

Endurance Athlete – 0.5-0.6 g/ lb

And there you have it.  So if you’re seriously into weight training you need at most 0.8 g per pound each day.  Endurance athletes need slightly less.

Let’s take a look at my needs:  150 lbs. * 0.8 = 120 grams of protein per day, on the high end.

Protein shakes are great to help supplement a diet, but if you can consume the protein from a more natural source (chicken, fish, eggs) you’re better off. The notion of a protein shake for breakfast, before a workout and after a workout may be overkill. Use the shake as a “helping” tool, not as a total replacement for clean and healthy eating. Shakes are great for convenience, but shouldn’t become your nutritional crutch for gains in the gym.


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