Personal Development

How Much Protein Do You Actually Need To Build Muscle?

The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day (g/kg). For a 130-pound individual, that would be approximately 47 grams of protein per day.

But it’s important to understand that the RDA is defined as the minimum allowance to prevent deficiencies in nearly all healthy people. 

​​”Nobody I know is after minimum health. We’re after optimum health,” Don Layman, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading protein researchers, previously told mindbodygreen.

The exact amount of protein you need depends on many factors, including activity level, age, muscle mass, and overall health. Layman, like many experts in his field, recommends most individuals aim to get at least 100 grams of protein per day.

“We find from a metabolic standpoint, working predominantly with women, that if they get below 100 grams per day, they lose most of the benefits of protein: fatty acid metabolism, insulin sensitivity, weight loss, satiety,” Layman says.

If your goal is building muscle, researchers recommend5 aiming for a target intake of 0.4 gram per kilogram body weight per meal (across a minimum of four meals) in order to reach a minimum of 1.6 grams per kilogram body weight per day. According to their research, this can be safely scaled to a daily intake of 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight.

By this logic, the same 130-pound individual actually needs a range of 94 to 130 grams of protein per day to build muscle. 

Over the decades, our body’s ability to efficiently convert dietary protein into muscle6 begins to decline. This can lead to a decrease in muscle mass, strength, and function—a condition known as sarcopenia7. Muscle loss can greatly impact quality of life8, and it’s a major risk factor for increased frailty, falls, and fractures9 among older adults. This makes staying on top of protein consumption10 even more important as we age.

According to a study published in Nutrients11, a protein intake of 1.0 to 1.2 grams per kilogram body weight per day has been recommended for the preservation of healthy aging muscles, while 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kilogram body weight per day may be necessary for older patients with acute or chronic diseases.

However, we still have a lot to learn about the role that protein plays in the aging process12, so it’s best to talk to your doctor to determine the amount that is right for you.

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