Updated: Sep 28, 2021
TL;DR: The optimal protein intake for muscle growth is between 1.6 and 2.2 grams per kg of bodyweight.
Protein is one of the most essential nutrients. It will have an impact on your health and body composition if you do not receive enough of it.
But, how much protein should you consume daily?
Meaning an average inactive male should consume about 56 grams of protein per day and an average inactive women should consume about 46 grams of protein per day.
Table of Contents:
This protein intake should be sufficient to avoid a protein deficiency, but the amount you need is determined by a variety of variables, such as the following.
Daily activity level
Amount of muscle mass
This article investigates the optimum daily protein intake and how variables such as fat loss, muscle mass, and activity levels play a role. I'll also show you how to enhance muscle mass!
Importance of Protein
Proteins are the primary structural components within the body. They are utilised in the production of most tissues such as the muscles, tendons, and organs.
In fact, 20% of the body is made up from protein.
They are also used in the production of enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and other compounds in the body that perform a variety of essential roles.
Amino acids are what make up protein. These amino acids combine to create lengthy protein chains that fold into complicated forms.
Some amino acids are produced in the body, while others (known as essential amino acids) must be obtained in the diet. A high-quality protein source is as important as the amount consumed.
In general, animal protein has all necessary amino acids in the proper ratios for you to fully use them. Animal protein sources include meats, fish, egg, milk and dairy, etc.
Plant and other sources of protein may not provide the full amount of essential animo acids.
Most people who are sedentary are usually fine with the recommendation of 0.8 grams of protein per kg. Bodybuilders, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts may benefit from a higher protein intake.
Protein can benefit those looking for gain muscle mass and those aiming to lose weight.
Helps Gain Muscle Mass
Muscles are made up of around 75% water and 18-20% protein. Like other bodily tissues, muscle is dynamic and is continuously being broken down and synthesised.
To build muscle, your body must synthesise more protein than it breaks down. Your body must have a net positive protein balance (also known as nitrogen balance) to gain muscle mass.
When it comes to muscle mass, studies typically focus at the daily grams of protein per kg or lb of body weight rather than the ratio of calories coming from protein.
One gram of protein per pound (2.2 grams per kg) of body weight is the typical upper daily intake for enhanced muscle growth. Though, other studies suggest a minimum of 0.7 grams per pound (1.6 grams per kg) of body weight for muscle growth. (7)
Numerous studies have attempted to identify the optimum quantity of protein for muscle growth, but the results have been mixed.
Some research suggest that eating more than 0.8 grams of protein per pound (1.8 grams per kg) provides little effect, while others show that eating slightly more than 1 gram of protein per pound (2.2 grams per kg) is optimal.
Though precise numbers are difficult to provide owing to contradictory research findings, 0.7-1 gramme per pound (1.6-2.2 grams per kg) of body weight seems to be a fair approximation.
If you have a lot of body fat, it's a good idea to use your lean mass or target weight instead of your total body weight, since it's your lean mass that dictates how much protein you need.
Consuming enough protein per day is essential if you want to build and maintain muscle mass. The majority of research indicates that 0.7-1 gram per pound (1.6-2.2 grams per kg) of lean mass is adequate for increasing muscle mass.
In the next section I have gone through all of the research and studies on the matter and found a definitive answer for the most optimal default protein intake for muscle growth.
Helps You to Lose Weight
When it comes to losing weight, protein intake is essential. You may be aware that in order to lose weight, you must eat less calories than you burn. (You can find this out in the TDEE calculator)
Protein consumption of 25-30% of total daily calories has been found to increase daily energy expenditure by up to 80-100 calories per day when compared to lower protein diets. (10)
The most significant contribution to weight loss from protein consumption is believed to be its capacity to suppress hunger, resulting in a decrease in calorie consumption.
Protein keeps you fuller for longer than fat or carbohydrates do. (11)
In one 12-week study, women who raised their protein consumption to 30% of caloric intake ate around 440 fewer calories each day and lost 11 pounds (5 kg). (12)
Another study showed that obese males who consumed 25% of their caloric intake from protein had improved sensations of fullness, while also decreasing late-night snack cravings and compulsive thoughts of food by around 50% and 60%, respectively. (13)
These studies clearly outline the benefits of protein intake for weight loss.
Another study showed that an increase in caloric intake of protein from 15% to 18% decreased the amount of fat individuals regained after losing weight by around 50%. (14)
This study shows a benefit of protein intake on reducing weight gain after weight loss.
A high protein diet also contributes to the development and maintenance of muscle mass, which is a metabolically active tissue, able to burn calories itself.
Eating extra protein makes it much simpler to adhere to any weight reduction plan, whether it's high carb, low carb, or somewhere in the middle.
According to research, a daily protein intake that makes up approximately 30% of your caloric intake may be optimum for weight reduction. For 2,000 calories per day, this equates to around 150 grams of protein per day.
Protein intake has a variety of mechanisms able to assist you in your weight loss journey. It can also help you build muscle, aiming for around 30% of your calories from protein is optimal.
Optimal Daily Protein Intake for Muscle Growth
There have been various numbers of protein intake thrown around, but there is an optimal daily intake proven to work.
The optimal daily protein intake for enhancing muscle growth is between 1.6 grams per kg and 2.2 grams per kg. The amount of of protein consumed is not the only factor, the quality of protein should be considered, some protein sources are better than others. (15)
Resistance training increases muscle protein synthesis, which leads to a progressive development of skeletal muscle over time (muscle growth).
Muscle protein synthesis is also influenced by both the amount and composition of the protein source.
Protein synthesis is activated in a dose-responsive manner, leucine being the main amino acid involved in this process. Protein consumption also reduces muscle protein breakdown.
Therefore, increased protein consumption leads to enhanced muscle growth.
However, the protein you eat cannot all be absorbed by the digestive system in one go, only a certain amount can be absorbed and used at a time.
The proposed limit is around 20-25 grams of protein in one meal, protein consumption over this amount results in greater amino acid oxidation, causing the effect of diminishing returns. (16)
The solution to this problem is to spread out the protein intake over the course of the day, the optimal number of meals is around 4-5 meals per day. (16)
You can get a quick indicator of your protein intake by using this protein intake calculator.
Research shows that 1.6 g/kg is the minimum target daily protein intake for increasing muscle growth, 2.2 g/kg being the upper limit for any noticeable benefit. Spreading the protein consumption between 4-5 meals is optimal for absorption and effectiveness.
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
This section contains links to research, studies, and sources of information for this article, as well as authors, contributors, etc. All sources, along with the article and facts, are subjected to a series of quality, reliability, and relevance checks.
Real Muscle primarily uses high-quality sources, such as peer-reviewed publications, to back up the information in our articles. To understand more about how we fact-check and keep our information accurate, dependable, and trustworthy, read more about us.
This evidence-based analysis of protein intake features 16 references, listed below.
1. Daniel Pendick. How much protein do you need every day? Harvard Health Blog. (2019, Jun) ✔
3. Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. (2018, Feb 7) ✔
4. Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients. (2019, May 22) ✔
5. Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. (2010, Feb) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
6. de Souza RJ, Bray GA, Carey VJ, Hall KD, LeBoff MS, Loria CM, Laranjo NM, Sacks FM, Smith SR. Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. Am J Clin Nutr. (2012, Mar) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
7. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2018, Feb) (Review) ✔
8. Kris Gunnars. How Protein Can Help You Lose Weight Naturally. Nutrition (2017, May 29) ✔
9. Pesta DH, Samuel VT. A high-protein diet for reducing body fat: mechanisms and possible caveats. Nutr Metab (Lond). (2014, Nov 19) ✔
10. Veldhorst MA, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Westerterp KR. Gluconeogenesis and energy expenditure after a high-protein, carbohydrate-free diet. Am J Clin Nutr. (2009, Sep) (Randomised Controlled Trial) ✔
11. Halton TL, Hu FB. The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. J Am Coll Nutr. (2004, Oct) (Review) ✔
12. Weigle DS, Breen PA, Matthys CC, Callahan HS, Meeuws KE, Burden VR, Purnell JQ. A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. (2005, Jul) (Clinical Trial) ✔
13. Leidy HJ, Tang M, Armstrong CL, Martin CB, Campbell WW. The effects of consuming frequent, higher protein meals on appetite and satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity (Silver Spring). (2011, Apr) ✔
14. Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Lejeune MP, Nijs I, van Ooijen M, Kovacs EM. High protein intake sustains weight maintenance after body weight loss in humans. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (2004, Jan) (Clinical Trial) ✔
15. Stokes T, Hector AJ, Morton RW, McGlory C, Phillips SM. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Nutrients. (2018, Feb 7) ✔
16. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. (2018, Feb 27) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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