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How much protein to build muscle? Ask an RD

The main building blocks of your body, protein is used to repair and maintain your body tissues — including muscle. 

 

If your goal is to build muscle, then it’s important that you’re getting the right amount of protein, as well as the right amounts of the other macronutrients, carbohydrates and fats.

 

The general strategy for calculating the minimum amount of protein that you need is 0.36 grams of protein per pound that you weigh. In a 165-pound adult, that’s about 60 grams of protein per day.

 

But that’s just the minimum recommended daily allowance (RDA).

 

You might be wondering if the minimum amount of protein recommended is enough to actually build more muscle. Below, we’ll explore just how much protein you should consume per day to build muscle (and even pinpoint the amount of protein needed to also burn fat and lose weight in the process).

How do I calculate how much protein I need? Finding your target protein intake

The general rule for calculating the minimum amount of protein that you need is 0.36 grams of protein per pound that you weigh, or 0.8 grams per kilogram that you weigh. The range is 0.8-1 gram per kilogram for healthy adults, and 1-1.2 grams per kilogram for an elderly person. Following that guideline, a 150-pound person would need a minimum of 54 grams of protein per day. Another way people can calculate their protein requirements is by dedicating a percentage of their total calories per day to the three macronutrients. Consuming around between 10-25% of your total calories from healthy protein sources is the general rule of thumb.

 

It’s important to note that this calculation does not include any other factors, such as activity level or muscle building goals. Sticking to the higher end (as in, 25% of your calories from protein versus just 10%) or calculating protein based on your weight is a good idea if you are looking to add muscle. For best results, talk to a nutritionist or keep reading as we dig in deeper to determine a good daily protein intake for those seeking to build muscle.

Is 100 grams of protein enough to build muscle?

As stated above, people in general are advised to consume a minimum of 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight or 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, but people who prioritize building muscle should aim for more than that minimum. Although there’s not one magic number and recommendations vary by person, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for athletes. Following that general guideline, consuming closer to 1.6 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight may be beneficial for bodybuilders and those looking to build muscle or maintain lean body mass. In the average 150-pound adult who’s actively strength training or resistance training, that might look like 75-120 grams of protein daily — 100 grams being most people’s sweet spot. It has been proposed that muscle protein synthesis (the naturally occurring process in which protein is produced to repair muscle damage caused by intense exercise and the opposing force to muscle protein breakdown) is maximized in young adults at a dose of around 20–25 grams of a high-quality protein.

 

That might initially seem like a lot, but it's doable if you’re eating protein with each meal along with a few protein-rich snacks throughout the day. Spreading out your protein intake throughout the day is especially important if you’re strength training, as protein turnover, the process by which your body uses protein to build lean tissue, increases the more you strength train. A 2012 study published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research notes nitrogen balance (the difference between protein intake and protein degradation) for athletes doesn’t generally become balanced until their protein intake reaches 1.2?grams per kilogram per day, compared to 0.8?grams per kilogram per day in resting individuals.

 

You may have concerns that eating too much protein is bad for the kidneys, but 100 grams of protein per day is generally safe for healthy adults. High amounts of protein can be harmful to the kidneys if a person already has kidney issues; however, for healthy individuals, consuming around 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram is fine, as noted in a 2010 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Can I build muscle with just protein?

Studies have shown that ingesting 20 to 40 grams of protein around the time of a workout seems to maximize the body's ability to recover after exercise, but it takes more than just protein to build muscle. If your focus is on muscle building, then you’ll want to consume more calories to help stimulate that desired muscle growth but those calories shouldn’t just be from protein. In fact, you should focus more on carbohydrate consumption if you’re trying to increase muscle mass than you would if your end goal was just to lose weight. 

 

While you're working to build muscle with exercise, protein should make up 25% of your total calories. That makes your macronutrient breakdown about 25% protein, 45-60% carbohydrate and 20-30% fat. If you’re aiming for 100 grams of protein per day, try having 25 grams of protein per each meal, whether that’s four meals per day or your standard three meals per day with two snacks that have about 12.5 grams of protein each.

 

How much protein do I need for weight loss?

If you’re looking to build muscle while also losing weight, you’ll want to keep your protein intake high (25-30% of your total calories) but lower your carbohydrate intake slightly. The goal is to get plenty of protein while controlling overall calorie intake. People looking to only build muscle should increase the amount of calories they consume for ultimate muscle growth, but if weight loss is part of the end-goal, then you’ll want to be mindful of total calories. 


Your protein needs for weight loss will depend on what your activity level is — roughly anywhere between 1.2-1.8 grams per kilogram, with 1.6 being the sweet spot for maintaining and building muscle while losing weight. You’ll need to eat enough to ensure your body has the fuel it needs for necessary processes, but achieving weight loss might require a reduction or adjustment in your daily calorie intake.

Meal and shake ideas to meet your protein needs

Following a high-protein diet isn’t as difficult as it may seem, we promise. If you’re looking for foods and other sources of protein to add into your diet to boost your protein intake, here are some of our favorite dietary proteins: 

  • Eggs

  • Greek yogurt

  • Nuts, like almonds and pistachios

  • Seeds, like pumpkin seeds

  • Cottage cheese

  • Milk

  • Salmon

  • Chicken 

  • Tuna

  • Lean meats like lean beef

  • Quinoa

  • Oats

  • Lentils

  • High protein veggies, like broccoli and Brussels sprouts

Another easy way to get your protein is through drinks like a smoothie or a protein shake. Bonus: Liquids are easier to digest, so your body is able to absorb and use the protein in protein shakes and smoothies much quicker. Opt to create your drinks using a protein powder made from fast-absorbing proteins, like whey protein or pea protein, for an even speedier absorption rate. 

 

To create a delicious protein shake that helps you get the protein you need and satisfies your taste buds, we recommend using Gainful Flavor Boosts which come in flavors like Mocha, Cookies & Cream, Chocolate Peanut Butter and Strawberry Cream. You just take a packet of unflavored protein powder and a single-serving Flavor Boost stick to mix and create a tasty protein shake. You can also try blending your protein powders into a smoothie with fresh berries, greens or bananas (sneak in those healthy carbs!) for a protein-packed drink with an extra flavorful punch. A basic protein smoothie recipe to follow is ½ cup milk or vegan milk alternative, ½ cup yogurt, 1 scoop protein powder, 1 Flavor Boost packet, 1 tsp raw honey, ¾ cup frozen strawberries or mixed berries and a handful of ice cubes.

Gain muscle with Gainful

Looking to boost muscle building, prevent muscle loss or simply achieve a higher protein intake? Gainful can help you get enough protein with a personalized protein powder that’s tailored specifically for you and your needs. Start by taking Gainful’s quiz, select your preferences and overall wellness goals, whether that’s building muscle, weight loss or both. Then Gainful takes care of the rest. Gainful will help you create the customized protein powder that not only helps deliver the results you’re looking for, but also comes in the flavors you crave, thanks to our Flavor Boosts

 

But if you’re still worried about meeting the protein requirements necessary for building muscle, don’t worry. With Gainful, you’ll never have to do this alone: Each subscriber has unlimited access to a personal Registered Dietitian, who’s available to answer any questions you may have about your protein balance, protein supplements or workout regimen. 


We want to help make gaining and maintaining muscle as easy as possible.