This calculator will provide a chart of estimated protein requirements based on your weight and body fat level.
Protein requirements are not well understood. Most people take an extreme approach – either avoiding excess protein for fear of toxicity (protein has not been shown to be toxic, even in high quantities, unless an individual already suffers from kidney problems), or taking in obscene amounts thinking that this will somehow build muscle and not add fat.
The Truth About Protein amounts
The truth is that protein requirements vary from individual to individual. While the US RDA is probably barely adequate for the average, sedentary individual, there are many studies that show those who exercise require much more protein.
Protein provides amino acids, which are building blocks for muscle. It is a myth that you must eat a “complete” protein that contains all amino acids with every meal. In reality, your body has an “amino acid pool” that is like a bank.
If you eat 4 amino acids in the morning, they are deposited in the bank, and another 4 might be deposited later in the day. Any process in the body now has all 8 amino acids to “withdraw” from the bank.
Many studies support the notion that 1 gram per KILOGRAM of body mass is an ideal quantity. Most people misinterpret this for 1 gram per POUND, which is grossly incorrect
In truth, using total body weight for calculating protein needs is erroneous. Fat is mainly inactive tissue, whereas muscle tissue thrives and burns calories throughout the day. For this reason, we calculate protein requirements based on your LEAN mass, which means you must know your body fat. If you do not, just key in 20% for males and 28% for females and you will get a general result.
A sedentary individual will probably require about 0.6 grams per pound of lean mass. An active individual will require more, maybe around 0.8 grams per pound of lean mass. Someone on a “bulking phase” would require more, and anyone in a severe caloric deficit should consider increasing protein slightly, to maybe around 1.2 grams per pound of lean mass.
How Much Protein Can Absorb Per Meal?
The answer depends on your history. Your body adapts to your intake. This is well studied and documented. The World Health Organization has projects studying protein intake from more than a century of clinical trials. Their mission is to find solutions to stamp out third-world famine and understanding protein turnover is important for health and many other reasons.
Your body takes several days to adapt to an intake. The idea there is a limit per meal is not true. If you are used to consuming 20 grams and suddenly consume 200, then there is a chance that you are over-consuming. However, if you steadily consume 200 at a sitting, your body can adjust and adapt and begin to use it.
I’m not suggesting you eat that much – that is just an example.
Protein intakes are over-stated and overrated in an attempt to sell protein drinks, powders, supplements, etc. They are used by people who bodybuild. Most people assume they train like a bodybuilder because they pick up a weight, and it’s simply not true. Unless you are competing on stage or training with a trainer who can teach you true intensity and routines, you probably don’t justify the same intake as a natural bodybuilding athlete would require.
If you consume large amounts of protein, your body becomes less efficient at processing it and uses much of it for energy (look up damination and oxidation). If you consume small amounts of protein, your body becomes extremely efficient at using that protein and burns less for energy, so it’s a tradeoff.
Studies show that either keeping calories the same and increasing the percentage of calories from protein, or increasing calories overall even if the increase comes from carbs, both can contribute to gaining muscle mass and improving protein turnover.