How much protein do you really need?

You're big on protein, and for good reasons.  Protein is the building block of lean muscle mass, and getting enough protein is absolutely essential for not only muscle building, but also for maintaining muscle when you're cutting.  But how much protein do you really need on a daily basis?  Like most questions, it depends on a variety of factors, including your weight, the intensity of your workouts, and the goal of your diet.

Bulking (aka building muscle and size)

If you're bulking to add muscle in the hopes of achieving Arnold's physique above, you'll need to be eating into a caloric surplus.  Unfortunately, not all of the excess calories will go into muscle synthesis as some will be inevitably stored as fat.  You'll need to consume 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.  This could really add up as a 200 lb body builder would need around 200 grams of protein per day, which is the equivalent of over 10 organic chicken breasts.

Cutting (losing weight)

If you're trying to lose weight, I assume you want to lose fat and not muscle.  By the laws of thermodynamics, you'll need to eat into a caloric deficit when cutting, and you'll need a whooping 1-1.2 grams per day.  Why the increase in protein consumption over bulking if you're just attempting to maintain your lean muscle mass?  Well, cutting inevitably means that you'll lose some muscle mass along with the fat, even with weight training.  But according to the studies, the best way to slow the muscle loss process is to give your body an excess of protein intake while also continuing to lift heavy compound exercises.

Which protein is best?

No easy answer here, but no doubt there are a variety of protein sources, some which are better than others.  For post-workouts, gym bros like to swear by whey protein as it's metabolized extremely quickly.  Casein protein, on the other hand, can take up to 12 hours to metabolize.  But the important aspect of all this is to ensure that you do get your sufficient protein intake of the day, regardless of the type of protein.  Having said that, you may want to stick with the lean proteins such as tuna, shellfish, and chicken breasts so that you don't end up consuming excess fat and cholesterol, which is often the case with fattier proteins like beef and pork.

Only digest 40 grams of protein in one setting?

It was long thought that as protein is not easily metabolized, your body can only digest 40 grams of protein in one setting, and any extra protein that you consume goes to waste.  I think it's time for Mythbusters to run an episode on this bro myth.  Your body may only be able to absorb 40 grams of protein in one setting (let's say 1 hour), but there are 24 hours in a day that your body is constantly working.  So even if you were to down 200 grams of protein in one hour, your body's protein synthesis rate will peak out but also remain elevated for a longer period than if you just ate the 40 grams of protein.

Enjoy your protein!

Not all protein has to be steamed organic chicken breasts or artificially flavored whey protein drinks.  Stick with proteins that you enjoy eating to meet your daily needs, whether they be steamed fish, raw oysters, boiled shrimp, or braised chicken.  This will help you meet your daily protein needs better instead of force feeding down chicken breasts, egg whites, and canned tuna.  Be creative with your protein consumption, and the more your enjoy it, the more likely you'll be able to stick to your high-protein diet and meet your daily needs.

Bottom line

If you want a comprehensive answer backed with the science, Google Scholar is at your disposal.  But in general, you'll want 0.8-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day if you're bulking, and 1-1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day if you're cutting.  And if you're just maintaining and not eating into any kind of caloric surplus or deficit, then 0.6-0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day is a good baseline.  Now, go get your protein!!


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