It's common knowledge that anyone interested in becoming stronger and more muscular should start with weight training and a diet high in protein – the building blocks of muscle.
But just how much protein is "high"?
Bodybuilders have long preached that current nutritionist and FDA recommendations of 50 to 70 grams of protein per day are far too low to produce good results in the gym.
The debate has raged for years:
What's desperately needed is a precise formula (based on good science and real world results!) to find the optimal protein intake to ensure the absolute, greatest anabolic impact for each individual athlete.
We’ve got you covered, and we’re about to break down plain-and-simple how to find your individual, optimal protein intake, as well as the best way to get that protein to build as much lean mass as possible.
By performing a rare, meta-analysis of the findings from the 49 highest quality studies on the subject, researchers have finally nailed down the perfect protein dosage to maximize size and strength gains.
The study confirms that eating more protein, far above the amounts currently recommended by skinny-fat doctors and dieticians who don’t even lift, significantly enhances the effects of lifting weights (and even boosts fat burning!).
Their findings, published in the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine, are based on 49 experiments and data gleaned from stuffing 1,863 weight lifters with low, high, and absurd amounts of protein. Simply put, these lab coats did it right, and their findings are legit.
So what’s the secret recipe for ultimate gains?
(Bodyweight ÷ 2.2) x 1.6 grams of protein = your ideal amount of protein (in grams) to shoot for every day to maximize muscle-building.
By using a formula that considers individual bodyweight, anyone can dial it in for their own, specific needs. One size does NOT fit all, and this adjusts accordingly, so having to hit the calculator briefly is well worth it. Let's dive in.
The scientists determined that the highest effect dosage of protein worked out to 1.6 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.
For us here in the United States of America, we need to make one small tweak. Because we measure in pounds rather than kilograms, we need to include the conversion from kilos to pounds. It’s no biggie – just divide your weight by 2.2 to get the kilogram equivalent.
We’ve already added that into the formula in bold above (the “divide by 2.2 part”), so you’re good to go. All you’ll need to do is plug in your own, current bodyweight.
Here’s an example: A 200-pound man would divide his weight by 2.2, which is 90.9 kilograms.
Multiply 90.9 by 1.6 grams of protein to arrive at 145 grams of protein per day.
Voila, you're in business. Here's that formula again, so you can see what we just talked through, expressed in math again:
(Plug in Your Bodyweight in Pounds ÷ 2.2) x 1.6 = Optimal Daily Protein in Grams
This means that for a 200-pound man, anything less than 145 grams of protein per day is leaving muscle gains on the table. In this scenario, our hypothetical lifter would be under-eating on protein and not getting the best results possible.
For the same 200-pound lifter, eating over 145 grams wouldn't necessarily bad, but it’s not going to speed up muscle building. 145 grams per day is his protein-intake sweet spot.
So now we know exactly what we’re shooting for, and how to calculate it for our own specific needs. Kinda nifty, right? No more guessing, and no more wasting extra protein making expensive flushes.
Here’s a bit more info to help real-world lifters apply the formula.
First, people often wonder how this formula deal with growing. In other words, since this formula gives you the ideal amount of protein for your current bodyweight, what if you're trying to bulk up to 220 pounds? Do you plug in the goal weight?
Don’t change a thing. Run the formula using your current bodyweight to find your ideal, usable protein intake, and make sure you meet that number every day.
The amount of protein your muscles can absorb in a 24-hour period is based on their current size and surface area – so there isn’t a benefit to plugging in a higher bodyweight prematurely. Simply put, you’ll just poop out the extra protein (i.e., expensive flushes).
Instead, a 200-pound man trying to bulk up to 220 pounds would shoot for 145 grams of protein per day, while increasing total calories. With protein already on lock, this would mean increasing either carbohydrates, fats, or both.
Then, as bodyweight begins to rise, plug your new bodyweight back into the formula, and bingo, your daily 145 grams will get upped for you, to your new, optimized protein intake.
If our 200-pound test subject bulks to 205 pounds, he calculates using the new weight, (205 ÷ 2.2) x 1.6, and finds his new, most anabolic protein intake: about 149 grams per day.
He would repeat the process until he reaches 220.
Pretty cool, right? The formula grows with you.
When people start lifting, there's often a desire to overachieve – more must be better, right? We're talking about the guys who try to slam 100 grams of protein immediately after lifting, all in one sitting.
In theory, it makes sense; get the protein in while muscles are hungriest, and when the post-workout anabolic window is wide open.
In practice, however, we know it doesn’t actually work.
While the post-workout period is a real thing, and it is vital to get a dose of protein shortly after a workout, research has demonstrated that there is a limit to how much protein the body can use from a single meal.
It turns out that protein utilization plummets after about 25 grams per two-hour window.
The limit is likely higher for consistent, hard training athletes who may have adapted to more efficient protein-use. For guys and gals who lift seriously, we would raise the limit to around 30-40 grams per meal.
In fact, because nutrient processing in the stomach and intestine relies in part on gravity to help move food through at the ideal speed, your protein absorption rate is actually lower if you sleep or otherwise lay down shortly after eating. Is it a little nerdy that we've researched that? Sure. But we take the muscle game seriously, and we want every single scrap of protein you consume to build as much muscle as possible. 💪
You can certainly eat 100 grams of protein in one sitting, but just know that only 30-ish grams of it can be used by muscle. The rest isn’t wasted completely – it’s filling you up and providing healthy calories your body needs for all its other important functions. But for lifters trying to maximize strength and muscle, cramming too much protein in at one meal isn’t ideal.
Tip: The most effective way to get to your ideal daily protein intake is through “protein pulses”: Multiple meals and snacks containing 20-40 grams of protein each, spread out through the day.
Need some ideas for high protein foods? We’ve got you covered there too. After all, man cannot live on protein powder alone.