Posted On 27 Sep 2010
You are unique. Nobody else’s body is exactly like yours. So the best estimate of your ideal daily protein intake should be made by a licensed physician after a thorough physical examination and history. If any recommendation in this post conflicts with what your physician recommends, follow your physician’s recommendation.
With respect to recommended protein intake, it’s false that “one size fits all.”
On the other hand, you may not have access to a medical doctor. What should you do?
A lot depends upon your sex, your percentage of body fat, and your exercise patterns.
Let’s start with some tough love: if you are able to do strength training but fail to do it properly or regularly, you are not behaving as if you value flourishing physically. If you want to achieve and maintain an attractive body with a healthful percentage of body fat as you age, there simply is no substitute for strength training.
(If you are able to do it and want to get started, I provide lots of detailed, free instructions about it for beginning and intermediate trainees on my website. To get started, click here. Even if you do it regularly, you’ll find lots of helpful information there.)
Let’s assume that you are doing a good strength training workout twice weekly or so. What is your daily recommended protein intake?
The usual guideline for those who do proper strength training for at least the last half century has been one gram of protein per one pound of bodyweight daily. Is that a good rule?
It’s a good starting point. However, I recommend adjusting it up or down depending upon two factors.
First, what are you trying to do? Are you trying, for example, to gain or lose bodyweight?
Our bodies normally gain some fat while gaining muscle (lean muscle mass) and lose some fat while losing muscle.
Since most of us want to gain muscle and lose fat, let’s assume that is your goal. You want to increase the amount of muscle you have while decreasing your percentage of body fat.
(Why would you want to increase your amount of muscle? Remember that muscle is many times more metabolically active than fat. So, the more muscle you have, the more food you are able to consume without gaining fat.)
Second, what is your current percentage of body fat?
Since there are important differences in how the lean bodies and overweight or obese bodies respond to a caloric deficit, which is required for losing weight, it’s foolish to overlook those differences.
Two thirds of North American adults are too fat; they are either overweight or obese. If you are in that category, your primary physical goal should be to decrease your percentage of body fat. The good news here is that, since you have stored a lot of energy, you are at less risk of losing muscle than someone who has a lower percentage of body fat. So I recommend cutting calories aggressively while continuing to do strength training and at least mild fitness exercise. Try ingesting 20 or 30% fewer calories than the amount required for maintenance.
If you are in this group, your recommended protein intake is a little less than one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily, perhaps about .8 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Suppose you are neither overweight nor obese but you still would like to reduce your percentage of body fat. Perhaps you are a male with about 18% body fat and want to get it down to about 10%, or you are a male with about 24% and you want to get it down to about 10%. Try ingesting 15 or 20% fewer calories than the amount required for maintenance.
If you are in this group, your recommended protein intake is a little more than one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily, perhaps about 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Whether you are trying to lower your percentage of body fat or not, whichever group you are in, I strongly recommend following the other dietary guidelines on my lasting-weight-loss.com site in addition to these recommended protein intake guidelines.
In particular, keep your daily grams of carbohydrates low, preferably at 25 or fewer grams daily. This means that you’ll be getting most of your calories from fats (just as your successful ancestors did). Eat a meal every 3 or 4 waking hours. Drink plenty of clean water, preferably several quarts daily.
It’s also important to get your foods from natural sources such as organic vegetables, grass-fed beef, and wild fish.
Furthermore, in addition to the recommended protein and dietary guidelines, I strongly recommend following the exercise guidelines on my website. In particular, do strength training twice weekly. Use perfect exercise technique, focus on the basic exercises, use the heaviest poundages possible progressively, and avoid overtraining.
Permit me to emphasize the last point: especially when your caloric intake is below maintenance level, it is probably wise to reduce your strength training volume slightly. However, keep your intensity and poundages high.
I wish the best of health!
[If you adjust what you are doing in accordance with this post, please return and share with us your results after a few months.]