If you’re trying to build muscle, research shows that the optimal amount of protein is between 1.3g–1.8g per bodyweight kilogram a day (or 0.6g–0.8g per bodyweight pound) for both men and women (study).
For example, if you’re 77kg / 170 pounds, you would aim to eat around 102g–136g of protein every single day to optimally build muscle.
But that is what researchers found—what about when it comes to real life?
You probably aren’t eating as much protein as you think
In this 2015 study, researchers asked 47 elite-level athletes how much protein they ate the day before. Meanwhile, researchers measured the athlete’s urine for a marker to see how much protein they were actually eating.
All of the athlete’s had a pretty good memory, for sure, but they thought they were eating 25% more protein than what the researchers had measured.
Think about that… even a professional athlete who might have over a decade of experience training and eating well for strength and power are overestimating how much protein they’re getting!
So one thing to consider if you’re trying to build muscle and you’re running into problems, it’s possible that:
- You’re not reaching your protein goals consistently enough on a day-to-day basis (so your total weekly protein goals aren’t being met).
- You’re human just like those elite-level athletes and you could be overestimating how much protein you’re truly getting.
Research has not found any downsides to eating a high-protein diet (your wallet may be feeling a little lighter though). So if you aren’t getting the results you’re looking for, you could try boosting your protein intake by 25% for a week or two and see how things go.
The optimal amount of protein to build muscle + boosted
Example of how to reach your protein goals every day
Let’s talk about that 170-pound guy again—now he might set his sights on getting the boosted amounts of 128g–170g of protein per day.
So if he was eating 30 grams of protein for breakfast and snacks combined (30g), lunch (30g), and dinner (30g), that would leave him with 38–80g of protein left to eat. (He’d also be getting bonus gains from optimal muscle protein synthesis by spreading out his protein intake across the day.)
He could easily make up that gap with protein powder. A simple and effective way of him to do this is for him to put 2–3 scoops of whey protein powder in his workout shake and sip on it as he works out.
Does this formula work if you’ve got an “average” or “overweight” body?
The amount of protein per bodyweight formula breaks a bit if you’re carrying more fat. After all, your fat doesn’t need the extra protein, only your muscles, so this is where the formula needs a bit of context.
An easy way to fix this is to use a goal weight in the healthy BMI for your height. For example, let’s say there’s a guy named Steve and he’s 6’3 and 220 pounds. He might aim to get down to 180 pounds to be in the healthy BMI for his height.
So he could use that goal weight for the protein formula. So with the original formula, he’d calculate 180 x 0.6–0.8. So he’d aim for 108g–144g of protein every single day. If he wanted to do the boosted amount to absolutely ensure optimal gains, he’d do 135g–180g of protein every day.
You can check out a BMI calculator or see the BMI chart here.
Eating more protein will help you not just get bigger, but leaner too
One last thing to keep in mind if you’re trying to lean out a bit—eating more protein will help you do that. The reason why is that eating more protein will help you naturally eat fewer calories by taking up more space in your stomach and helping you feel satisfied.
One study even showed that eating lots of protein might make snacking less appetizing, so eating more protein could help you control your cravings. More research does need to be done in this area, but right now it seems like eating more protein not only helps with building muscle but also helping you not to overeat.
Check out the top 100 high-protein foods to make it easier to get enough protein.
Or you can check out our protein powder super-guide.