by Dustin Hassard | Revised 1/21/20
Protein is the building block of muscle tissue. Simply put, you need to consume enough daily protein to maximize muscle growth and exercise performance.
If active, consume 65-90% of your bodyweight (lbs) in grams of protein per day.
- Protein is a molecule made up of amino acids; their primary purpose is to build and repair muscle tissue.
- More protein equals faster muscle gains, better muscle retention, faster recovery, and increased energy (yes please, to all of the above).
- An increase in protein can even lead to weight loss. Aside from more muscle increasing your metabolism, consuming higher levels of protein may help you feel satisfied after eating as well as maintain a healthy body composition and good immune function.
- Consume the recommended amount of protein every day.
- To optimize your training, consume some protein before and after training. This will ensure better performance and proper recovery. Consuming protein after a workout is ideal because your body is better able to absorb protein, and all nutrients for that matter.
- Excess protein beyond the recommended amounts is used for energy but has not been shown to increase muscle mass.
- Protein needs are on the lower end as an athlete becomes more experienced.
- I recommend most everyone I train take a protein supplement. Whole food is ideal, but if your food intake does not cover your daily protein needs, you could add a supplement, preferably a powder. Interestingly, there is not enough information to conclude that protein supplements are any different than those found in real foods except for the cost per gram (supplements are less expensive). Still, whole food has far more nutrients your body needs and will benefit from.
- If your goal is lean mass and maintenance, find a protein supplement that is about 20g per 100 calories. If you are looking to gain weight and muscle mass, a protein with a higher calorie count is recommended. See product recommendations below.
- Physically active people: 65-90% of bodyweight (lbs) = grams of protein (1.4-2.0 g/kg).
- Sedentary (inactive) people: 35-55% of bodyweight (lbs) (0.8-1.2 g/kg). Let’s just say 45% of your bodyweight. Also, get off your butt and start exercising.
- On the days you lift weights, I suggest intake be on the higher end.
- At first, use a food log to get an idea of how much protein you are consuming each day. Guessing isn’t very effective in fitness.
Let’s make this even easier. To measure how much protein, use your hand (no no, you don’t actually have to put it in your hand, you can eyeball it).
Serving Size: 1 Palm (30g)
If Goal is to Lean/Maintain: 1-2 palms per meal, supplement with a low-calorie protein if needed.
If Goal is to Gain: 2 palms per meal, supplement with a high-calorie protein.
Note: Nerd out in the research section to see how I determined these recommendations.
Sources of Protein
Top Protein Sources: whole eggs, lean meats, poultry, and game, fatty fish, fermented soy (i.e. tempeh)
Plant-based Protein Sources: Vegans and vegetarian diets still require protein. Tempeh (Fermented Soy) is high in protein and contains a natural antibiotic believed to increase the bodies resistance to infections. See table below for more sources of plant-based protein.
For protein amounts found in food, see the topic Protein Contents in Food.
Estimate how much protein you consume each day on average. There’s a good chance it’s not enough. Increase or decrease your daily intake as needed. Unless you’re a competitive athlete, don’t overthink it, just aim to be within the recommended ranges.
These are products I use and recommend:
If goal is to Lean/Maintain:
Jocko Mölk by Origin Labs – the best tasting protein I’ve ever had without excessive calories. Flavors include Strawberry, Chocolate, Vanilla, Mint Chocolate, and Chocolate Peanut Butter.
If goal is to Gain:
BSN TrueMass – a tasty source of protein high in calories.
Ninja Personal Blender – for quick, convenient, and better tasting shakes.