How Much Protein Should You Consume For Weight Loss?
Over the last decade, studies have shown protein to be the superior macronutrient regarding weight and fat loss. Most likely, protein does this by decreasing hunger and calorie intake, while maintaining muscle mass (1,2). Weight loss occurs when you consume less calories than your body needs, regardless if it is a low or high carb diet (3). But if you want to maintain muscle mass and lose body fat, then you must consume enough protein (2).
To maintain or build muscle you must have a higher ratio of muscle protein synthesis (building of muscle) versus muscle protein breakdown. A lack of resistance training and inadequate protein consumption will increase muscle protein breakdown. If this continues on a daily basis, you will decrease muscle mass and put yourself at a greater risk for weight gain. To prevent this from happening, you must perform resistance training two to three times per week and have adequate protein consumption.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The current research suggests that .75 grams per pound is more than enough to maintain and build muscle (4), but for some this still won’t be enough. Therefore, I recommend consuming up to one gram of protein per pound. Remember, everyone is different, some will do better on a higher protein diet while others won’t. Personally, I do best on a very high protein diet, where I consume one gram of protein per pound. Currently, I am 175 pounds so on average I consume around 175 grams of protein per day. To figure this out for yourself, just take each number and multiply it by your weight (weight x .75 or 1 ) :
Weight: 175 pounds
Protein Intake: 131 to 175 grams per day
Weight: 130 pounds
Protein Intake: 97 to 130 grams per day
How Do You Know How Much Protein Is In Each Food?
For the first couple months you should use Myfitnesspal and a food scale to look up the protein intake and weigh each food. After a couple months of practice you should be able to estimate the amount of protein in each food. You don’t have to be perfect with your estimation, but make sure you are in the ball park. Lean animal proteins like chicken, steak, and salmon tend to have the most protein per serving. If you are a vegan or vegetarian, I’d recommend buying a protein supplement to help hit your overall protein intake.
The easiest way to make sure you are getting the right amount of protein is with your hand. I learned this trick from my nutrition certification, Precision Nutrition. On average, a person's palm will be one serving of protein (3 ounces cooked) and contain around 20-25 grams of protein. Usually, males will need to consume two to three palm servings of protein per meal. While females will need one to two palm servings of protein per meal. But the sex of a person doesn’t determine protein intake, your weight does.
For example, a 175 pound male or female would need the following protein intake:
6 to 8 palm servings
And a 130 pound male or female would need the following protein intake:
4 to 6 palm servings
Since protein reduces hunger, I recommend spreading your protein intake throughout the day. Your protein intake should be broken down into two to four meals per day. At each meal you will consume between one to three palm servings of protein per meal. If you consume a higher number of meals then you need less protein per meal, but you should always have at least one palm serving of protein per meal. Nevertheless, the most important factor is going to be your overall protein consumption each day, so there is no need to freak out if you miss a meal (5). In next week’s blog post, I will go over the importance of training frequency and its role in weight loss.
1. Leidy HJ, Clifton PM, Astrup A, Wycherley TP, Westerterp-Plantenga MS, Luscombe-Marsh ND, Woods SC, Mattes RD. The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PubMed PMID: 25926512.
2. Wycherley TP, Moran LJ, Clifton PM, Noakes M, Brinkworth GD. Effects of energy-restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1281-98. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.044321. Epub 2012 Oct 24. Review. PubMed PMID: 23097268.
3. Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion: The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018 Feb 20;319(7):667-679. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.0245. Erratum in: JAMA. 2018 Apr 3;319(13):1386. JAMA. 2018 Apr 24;319(16):1728. PubMed PMID: 29466592; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5839290.
4. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, et al A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 11 July 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608
5. Schoenfeld, Brad, et al. “The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-Analysis.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, vol. 10, no. 1, 3 Dec. 2013, p. 53., doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-53.