Protein is an essential macronutrient that we need to eat plenty of to preserve and build muscle and maintain a healthy body weight. But how much protein do we need on a daily basis? Well, that depends entirely on individual factors such as gender, age, weight, and level of daily physical activity.
But there’s no need to stress over it; our protein intake calculator will do the work for you. It’s also pretty easy to use; just choose your desired system of measurement (imperial/lbs or metric/kg), select your gender, enter your age and weight, find your height from the dropdown, and determine your activity level or choose the custom option.
Protein Intake Calculator
What Is Protein?
Protein is found in all body tissue, and most people know that protein builds muscles. But this macronutrient is also important for making hormones, enzymes that power chemical reactions, and hemoglobins that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Plus, it can be used as an energy source if needed.
It also plays an important role in satiety and weight management (1).
Protein is made from amino acids (building blocks) that are divided into three categories; essential, nonessential, and conditional. There are nine essential amino acids that are not made by the body and therefore, must come from foods.
Animal protein foods contain all nine essential amino acids and are considered a complete source of protein. Most plant proteins do not contain all or sufficient amounts of essential amino acids and are not considered a complete source. However, combining plant proteins will ensure that you’re getting sufficient amounts of essential amino acids (2)(3)(4).
For example, the combination of rice and beans is considered a complete source of protein.
Of the nine essential amino acids, three are known as “Branched-chain” amino acids (BCAA) that include valine, leucine, and isoleucine. Leucine is a key amino acid in muscle protein synthesis (the process of building proteins) (5).
Nonessential amino acids are made by the body from essential amino acids or the breakdown of proteins, and conditional amino acids are needed when the body is ill or under stress.
Individual protein Intake
Protein intake varies between individuals, obviously due to different nutritional habits regarding both food choices and the total number of calories consumed per day. Some people keep track of their protein intake while it could be argued that most don’t.
Should you be tracking optimal protein intake?
For people who aren’t very active and who don’t weight train, making a conscious effort to eat a balanced diet is more than good enough. However, if you train hard in the gym and are super active, then you want to at least be aware of roughly how much protein you’re consuming depending on how serious you are about your goals.
A lot of people don’t consume adequate protein on a daily basis, let alone quality sources of protein. This could be largely due to the typical carb- and fat-heavy Western diet that consists of an abundance of simple sugars, fried foods and oils, and overall low-quality nutrition choices.
Don’t get us wrong, carbs are very important too because they supply us with energy and vitamins and minerals. When we’re active, carbs are the only macronutrient that can break down quickly enough to sustain high-intensity activities and it’s the body’s main energy source. But balance is key and the same applies to dietary fat.
You should definitely be paying attention to the amount of carbs and fats you’re eating on a daily basis. Although you don’t have to write everything down and you can simply eyeball your meal and snack portions.
Continue reading for more information about the importance of optimal protein intake.
How Does The Protein Calculator Work?
Our calculator uses formulas to determine daily protein intake based on individual variables such as the ones mentioned above.
But before it can spew out your protein needs, it must first determine your recommended daily calorie needs. To do this, it uses the Harris-Benedict equation to calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) or the number of calories your body needs at rest to sustain basic life functions (e.g., breathing, circulation, cell production, etc). BMR is determined by your gender, weight, height, and age.
Then, the calculator factors in how many calories you burn from daily activities to determine your recommended maintenance calories, or calories needed to maintain your bodyweight. To do this, it uses an activity multiplier formula of which we’ve provided below using bullet points.
We’ve provided the BMR formulas below for both genders with an example of how to plug in your stats to determine your recommended calories. The formulas below use the metric system of measurement (kg and cm), however, our calculator also allows you to use imperial (lbs and ft/inches).
655.1 + 9.563(W) + 1.85(H) – 4.676(A) = BMR
66.5 + 13.75(W) + 5.003(H) – 6.775(A) = BMR
Use our BMR calculator to find your basal metabolic rate.
For the calculator to factor in your daily activity levels, your BMR is multiplied by the numbers provided below in parenthesis ranging from 1.2 – 1.9.
- Inactive – little no exercise (multiply BMR by 1.2)
- Low – low exercise/sports 1-3x/week (multiple BMR by 1.375)
- Medium – medium exercise/3-5x/week (multiply BMR by 1.55)
- High – intense exercise/ 6-7x/week (multiply BMR by 1.725)
- Intense – hard daily exercise/sports, intense physical job (multiply BMR by 1.9)
From there, you’ll be provided with daily protein intake recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dietetic Association (ADA). The calculator will also provide an expert protein intake recommendation for strength athletes who need more protein to support performance.
How to plug in the numbers
While you can just use the protein calculator to determine your recommended intake, we’ll show you how to plug the numbers into the formula or rather, how it works.
Ok, so say you are a 30-year-old male that is 6′ tall and weighs 185 lbs. You’ll plug this information into the following formula for men to find BMR: 66.5 + 13.75(W) + 5.003(H) – 6.775(A)
66.5 + 13.75 x 83.9kg + 5.003 x 182.9 – 6.775 x 30 = 1,931 calories
So 1,913 calories is the BMR and you’ll also get this number by selecting the custom option on the activity multiplier. Now let’s factor in a specific activity level such as the medium (medium exercise/sports 3-5x/week) exercise option that you’ll find in the activity level dropdown menu on the protein calculator.
To get our calculation, we’ll have to take 1,931 and multiply it by 1.55, which equals 2,993 calories. So, the recommended calories for a 30-year-old, 6′ tall male that weighs 185 pounds and does a medium level of activity is 2,993.
The recommended protein intake for this same individual according to the CDC is 74g – 261g per day; ADA recommendation is 67g – 184g per day and the expert recommendation for strength athletes is: Minimum – 133g, Generally recommended – 185g, High – 277g.
These are protein intake recommendations based on percentages established by the CDC and ADA. But the expert recommendation is based on what a lot of industry experts have determined is an appropriate intake.
So what’s the best recommendation to go by? Well, let’s look at the research.
Research on protein intake
While there are various recommendations, there’s a widely accepted range that has been determined for individuals who are sedentary, active, and who weight train. But there’s so much conflict between experts and studies when it comes to ideal protein intake. The research is very mixed.
Some resources suggest that we eat too much protein while more recent research is in favor of higher protein intake, especially for preserving muscle gain and strength. So it can be incredibly confusing for those who want to know how much protein they should be eating.
“There’s a misunderstanding not only among the public, but also somewhat in our profession about the RDA. “People in general think we all eat too much protein,” explained Nancy Rodriguez, a registered dietitian, and professor of nutritional science at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.
Rodriguez was part of a “Protein Summit” where reports were published to American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) that argued Americans may be consuming too little protein. She suggests doubling the RDA and consuming 15-25% of daily calories from protein.
The minimum recommended protein allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kg body weight (BW) per day. This is for basic physiological needs and to prevent deficiency. If you want to find your minimum RDA, multiply your body weight by 0.36 (6).
On average, this is roughly:
- 56 grams per day for the average sedentary man.
- 46 grams per day for the average sedentary woman.
But what about those who want to change their body composition and who are of the older population? Building muscle and increasing strength requires more complete protein and there’s no debate there. The same applies to the aging population who are more susceptible to muscle loss (sarcopenia) and a decrease in bone mineral density.
How much protein per day?
Common protein recommendations
A common recommendation in the fitness and bodybuilding community is 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight or 2.2 grams of protein per kg.
In a review of 49 studies involving 1863 participants, researchers concluded that “protein intakes at amounts greater than ~1.6 g/kg/day do not further contribute RET-induced gains in FFM” (7).
The same study also mentioned that “1.0, 1.3, and 1.6 g protein per kg BW per day is recommended for individuals with minimal, moderate, and intense physical activity, respectively.”
So consuming more than 1.6 g protein/kg/day offered no advantages for increasing muscle growth in those engaged in resistance training.
One 8-week study involving resistance-trained men found no benefit of consuming a very high protein intake of 5.5 times the RDA (4.4 g/kg/d) (8).
But the position paper of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine suggests 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight, or 0.54 to 0.77 grams per pound (9).
Let’s look at some additional studies though…
A 2014 study on nutrition for natural bodybuilders explained that most, not all bodybuilders will respond best to 2.3-3.1 g/kg (1.05-1.4g/lb) of lean body mass per day of protein during contest preparation where the goal is to lose fat but maintain as much muscle mass as possible. They noted that 15-30% of total calories should come from fat and the remainder from carbohydrates (10).
Similarly, in a study where subjects were on a 40% reduced-calorie diet, researchers determined that “2.4 g protein · kg(-1) · d(-1) was more effective than consumption of a diet containing 1.2 g protein · kg(-1) · d(-1) in promoting increases in LBM and losses of fat mass when combined with a high volume of resistance and anaerobic exercise” (11).
This was 1.1g of protein per pound of bodyweight compared to .54g per pound of bodyweight.
Between all of the studies and research, it’s impossible to give a precise recommendation. But if we take a combination of averages, 0.7–1 gram per pound (1.6–2.4 grams per kg) of body weight seems to be an appropriate range for recommended protein intake.
The lower end of the range is appropriate for more sedentary individuals while the upper number is recommended for more active individuals. Although, the intensity and activity of choice is a factor too. So, while you may be moderately active, you won’t necessarily need to consume the upper intake recommendation (7).
Studies on protein for fat loss
How can protein help with fat loss? There are a few reasons why you need to be eating sufficient protein if you want to shed pounds and look better. First off, protein is more satiating than carbs and fats. This means you’ll feel fuller and this could cause you to not eat more calories (12).
In fact, a study in obese men found that protein at 25% of calories increased feelings of fullness, significantly reduced the desire for late-night snacking, and reduced obsessive thoughts about food by a whopping 60% (13).
Protein can also boost metabolic rate as it has a decent thermogenic effect (increase in heat production), therefore, you’ll burn additional calories and have reduced appetite when you eat more protein. Research has shown that your body can burn an additional 80-100 calories per day when consuming protein around 25-30% of your total daily caloric intake (14)(15)(16)(17)(18).
It’s not much but it’s definitely something. But there are other factors that contribute to increased weight loss as mentioned. It’s also important to note that muscle mass can burn a few extra calories throughout the day too.
Also read: The Top 20 Simple Weight Loss Tips
Protein for older adults
The aging population is more susceptible to muscle loss (Sarcopenia) and bone disease (Osteoporosis). Therefore, a higher protein intake is recommended for these individuals. To prevent muscle and bone loss, it’s recommended that older individuals consume 0.45–0.6 grams per pound (1–1.3 grams per kg) of body weight per day (19).
People suffering from injuries or physiological stress also need enough protein as the body uses it up faster for repair and homeostasis.
How Much Protein is Too Much?
According to research, long-term protein intake of 2g per kg BW per day is safe for healthy adults, while an upper tolerable limit of 3.5 g per kg BW per day is appropriate for well-adapted individuals. However, for most people, anything above this could result in digestive, renal, and vascular abnormalities. So it’s not recommended to consume more than the above mentioned intake (7).
How Much Protein Should I Eat In a Sitting For Muscle Gains?
You’ve probably heard that the body can only utilize so much protein per meal or in a sitting. This is a bit of a controversial topic although more recent research has been able to provide us with more accurate information.
Recent literature from 2018 concluded that the ideal strategy for protein intake if the goal is to gain muscle, eat 0.4 g/kg/meal across a minimum of four meals in order to reach the minimum recommendation of 1.6 g/kg/day. However, an upper daily intake of 2.2 g/kg/day spread out over four meals of 0.55 g/kg/meal has also shown to be an effective approach (20).
But there are several factors that determine an “ideal” protein intake; the study also mentioned that it’s practical to individualize a diet program and be open to exceeding estimated averages.
Overall macronutrient ratio and protein quality/form could play an important role in how much protein can be effectively absorbed and utilized in one sitting.
What Are The Best Sources of Protein?
There are a lot of good quality protein sources to choose from, and we recommend that the majority of your protein intake comes from these foods. We recommend that you focus on quality before quantity as clean, healthy sources are going to be the best option.
Some example of good quality protein sources include:
- Grass-fed meats
- Chicken breast, pork loin
- Pasteurized eggs
- Soy protein (tofu, tempeh, etc)
- Low-fat dairy products (milk, cottage cheese, yogurt)
- Nuts/nut butters
- Beans and legumes
- Protein supplements
There are so many great options, you just have to get a little creative and have a lot of the above options on hand to ensure that you have quality protein for each meal. It’s good to have a combination of animal and plant protein sources too, with more plant protein than animal protein.
Other related calculators
- TDEE Calculator
- Carb Cycling Calculator
- Intermittent Fasting Calculator
- Weight Gain Calculator
- Macronutrient Calculator
We hope this information was helpful, and we encourage you to use our protein calculator to determine your recommended daily intake. It’s a great tool that can keep you on track so that you can effectively achieve your fitness goals.
But even if you’re not very active, you need adequate protein to maintain health, lean muscle mass, strength, and it’s good for keeping you full throughout the day.
If you have any questions about the information in this article or anything else, leave your comments below.
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9. Rodriguez, Nancy R.; DiMarco, Nancy M.; Langley, Susie; American Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance (2009-03). Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance”. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109 (3): 509–527.
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