Protein is one of the seven major classes of nutrients that play a critical role in the body. It is a highly essential nutrient. Even the name makes that clear. Protein is a derivation of the Greek word “protos,” which means “first.” As Dr. Spencer Nadolsky once said, “protein is king.”
Protein is a complex molecule that helps in the metabolism, structure, and growth of cells and organs in the body. The body needs an abundant daily supply of protein to carry out these processes optimally. Failure to do this can result the body’s health being affected.
Agreed, the body needs protein in good quantity for the body to remain in good health, but the million-dollar question is: how much protein do you need?
The answer you get will depend on who you ask. While opinions vary on the topic, the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is quoted at 0.8 grams per kg of body weight. That works out to 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.
What this entails is that the average sedentary man requires about 56 grams of protein per day. On the other hand, the average sedentary woman will need 46 grams of protein per day. With that said, take note that the RDA is the minimum amount of nutrients required to keep the body from falling sick. It is NOT the actual amount of nutrient (protein) that you need to consume daily.
In the real sense of things, the amount of protein needed for smooth functioning of the body will differ from one person to the other. Factors that will determine the right amount of protein for any given individual are:
- Level of activity
- Muscle Mass
- Health Status
- Body physique goals
In the rest of this article, we will be looking at how some of the factors above determine the actual amount of protein an individual needs daily. We will be focusing more on muscle building and weight loss.
How Muscle Building Determines Recommended Protein Intake Levels
The muscle is mostly made up of proteins. Continually, the muscle protein breaks down and gets rebuilt - just as other tissues around the body do. As a result of this, to build muscle mass, the amount of muscle protein rebuilt must be higher than the amount broken down.
By so doing, there will be a net positive supply of muscle protein in the body -- and this will help sustain muscle growth. Following this logic, if a person desires to grow muscle mass, there is a need to consume more protein while working out in the gym.
Similarly, if a person wants to lose body fat and maintain his/her existing muscle mass, the person will also have to consume more protein. The higher levels of protein intake will help prevent the loss of muscle mass that is often associated with dieting.
How to Calculate How Much Protein Is Needed While Building Muscles:
To calculate protein requirements for building muscle mass, calorie counting is not considered. What is critical to get the right estimates is the number of daily grams of protein consumed per kg of body weight.
Although there are divergent views on the exact amount of protein that needs to be consumed when trying to build muscle mass, a popular estimate is 2.2 grams of protein per kg of body weight.
However, some experts have argued that anything above 1.8 grams of protein per kg is a waste. Furthermore, in other quarters, experts believe that levels slightly higher than 2.2 grams per kg of body weight are best.
Whichever figure you choose to go with, have it at the back of your mind that you need to consume enough protein if you want to build or sustain your muscle mass. A range to consider for your calculation is 1.6 grams to 2.2 grams per kg of body weight.
Take note that while making the calculation, it is best to use your lean mass rather than your actual body weight. The lean mass is to be used, as it is the most significant determining factor of how much protein your body needs.
How Weight Loss/Gain Affects Amount of Protein Needed
Protein plays a critical role in the process of weight loss or gain. The two ways that protein aid the weight loss/weight gain process are:
- Increase in metabolic rate of the body: to lose weight, it has been scientifically proven that the amount of calorie intake must be lower than the number of calories burnt. This means that there should be a negative net calorie count in the body for weight loss to occur.
It has also been proven in other studies that protein is very effective in increasing the body’s metabolic rate. With an increased metabolic rate, there will be an increase in the rate of calorie burn - which will lead to weight loss.
Therefore, if you are seeking to lose weight, it is recommended that you consume more protein daily.
The recommended amount of protein needed for optimal weight loss is placed at 25% - 30% of total daily calorie intake. At this level of protein intake, it has been proven that the body can witness a boost in its metabolic rate by 80 - 100 calories per day.
- Reduced appetite: because protein gives a better “filling effect” than carbs, fats, and other food types, it can reduce appetite and cravings. With a reduced appetite and craving, you will tend to eat less - hence, take in fewer calories.
In a study, it was found that obese men with a 25% protein calorie intake witnessed an increased feeling of fullness. Their craving for late-night snacking was also cut in half, and feeling of compulsion to eat reduced by 60%.
In another related study, women on a 30% protein calorie diet found out that they ate 441 fewer calories than they did before the study. They also lost 11 pounds within a space of 12 weeks.
These studies prove how effective protein is in the weight loss process. If you are looking to lose some weight, then it is recommended that you increase your daily protein intake to 30% of your total daily calorie intake.
Protein is an important nutrient that the body relies on to carry out most of its core functions. While it is recommended to take a good amount of protein for the sustenance of good health, it is vital to know the right amount that your body needs.
The daily recommended protein intake level varies from person to person, depending on certain factors. Some of these factors include age, state of health, level of activity, current and desired physique, and muscle mass.