Oh the many ways to calculate your protein targets…
Try googling it and you’ll get a few different answers. That’s because there are, in fact, a few different methods. There is no one universally agreed upon methodology. Trying to decide which method you should follow is the tricky part, right? I hear ya, and I’m here to help you pick which one.
Here’s a summary of the common ones out there:
This one’s a classic. Take your weight in kilograms and multiply it by a massive range of 0.8 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram. So, let’s say you weigh 70 kilograms. You’d be munching on 56-154 grams of protein per day. Massive range, right?
How you decide where on that range is best for you isn’t so straight forward. It depends on many factors, like your activity level and type of exercise you’re doing, your goals, overall health, and even your individual physiology and dietary preferences. For example if you’re a powerlifter or are an ultra-endurance athlete, I’d be recommending the higher half of that range because you have big time muscle breakdown in your body (and more protein is needed to repair that breakdown).
The next big consideration is what your goals are. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance it’s because you’re looking to lose some weight/body fat (like many of the people I work with), so you’ll want to go higher on protein. There are many ways that we know increased protein helps with weight loss – be sure to check out the Lunchbox where we spend an entire month discussing this & all things protein!
Lastly, here’s another example – if I’m working with a client who’s a vegan, I’ll recommend slightly lower within that range simply because I know it’s gonna be more challenging for them to hit higher protein targets compared to someone who eats meat (it’s totally possible on a fully plant-based diet, just a bit more challenging) and at the end of the day – your diet has to work for you or you won’t do it, right?!
Also important to note is that I do NOT support the lower end of this range at all (the 0.8g/kg of bodyweight)! Even most doctors are now recognizing that this is not sufficient daily protein intake even for sedentary people.
So… with this huge range that leaves too much room for error, I typically do not use this method when working with clients. Let’s look at the other two common methods.
This is what we use here at BUILD Nutrition. Time to do some math!
With this one, first we figure out how many calories you need in a day based on your activity level and goals. This ensures you’re getting the calories you need in a day – because hitting the right amount of protein won’t do you much good if you’re too low on overall calories and/or carbs for your needs (everything works together in the body)!
Then we chose a percentage of 20% to 35% of your total calorie intake. Let’s say you should be eating 2,000 calories per day and want 25% of those to come from protein. That means you need 500 calories to come from protein. There are 4 calories in 1 gram of protein. So 500 divided by 4 = 125 grams of protein per day (I told you there was some math).
But the range of 20-35% protein is still a pretty big range… The same considerations as above apply and this is where it can be a little nuanced. Your goals, type of and level of activity, dietary preferences, even your age helps us determine whether we should go on the higher or lower end of this range. (note: we work through all this together in nutrition coaching or you can DIY with the guidebooks we’ve created for you in the Lunchbox)
There’s one more common method out there for calculating how much protein you should eat.
This method is for you if you don’t like math. It’s pretty simple compared to the above two.
If you’re all about weight loss or muscle gain – which let’s face it, if you’re curious about figuring out your protein targets, it’s probably because you’re either trying to lose body fat or gain muscle (maybe both).
Simply calculate your protein intake based on your goal weight.
The recommended range here is usually 1 gram of protein per pound of your goal weight. So, let’s say your dream weight is 150 pounds – you’d want to aim for 150 grams of protein per day.
Nice and simple method. But… you know I can’t NOT remind you of the importance of getting your other nutritional needs met – that is, the right amount of total daily calories, carbs and fats. Without this, you’ll be sabotaging how your protein works in your body.
ps: you might’ve seen a version of this method that calculates it based on your current weight. Still often used, however it gets tricky based on what the current weight actually is. For example, imagine someone has quite a bit of weight to lose – maybe they’re currently at 225 lbs and their goal is 175 lbs. Getting 225 grams of protein in a day could be very difficult. Aiming for 175 grams is much more attainable and is still a good amount of protein to support weight loss. Thus, why we now prefer using the goal weight here.
In summary… there is not one universally agreed upon method of calculating how much protein you should eat in a day. Whichever method you use, be sure that you’re also eating a suitable amount of the other macronutrients and total daily calories for your needs. We can help, get in touch anytime! Or check out the Lunchbox where we package up all our wisdom and put it into a self-guided workbook for you.
The entire contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Build Holistic Nutrition. Please note that Build Nutrition is not a dietitian, physician, pharmacist or other licensed healthcare professional. The information on this website is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health care professional. This content is not intended to diagnose or treat any diseases. Always consult with your primary care physician or licensed healthcare provider for all diagnosis and treatment of any diseases or conditions, for medications or medical advice, as well as before changing your health care regimen.
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