How Many Grams Of Protein Per Day? – Lose Weight, Not Muscle

Building muscle is not all about the number of grams of protein you eat per day. What … really? When you think of main stream bodybuilding and what is commonly accepted as fact, this statement probably does not settle well.

Many fitness magazines and fitness websites are actually owned by supplement companies or are at least vested somehow in selling protein supplements and pushing their own products … hence, “you need 2-3 grams of protein per pound you weigh.”

It is important to get enough protein, but I put more significance in the quality of the protein than the quantity.

How Many Grams Of Protein Per Day

This picture makes me want a protein-filled hamburger.

Burgers are generally classified as a “bad food” when it comes to getting lean and ripped. They aren’t all that bad. If you skip out on the fries, milkshake and/or beer, splurging for a burger every now and then isn’t all that bad – especially if you opt for an elk or buffalo burger. It may not be as healthy as taking a quality protein shake but it sure tastes good.

How Many Grams Of Protein Per Day – According to RDA

The RDA: Protein Requirement for Humans states that the average 19–70 year old male needs 56 grams/day and that the average 14-70 year old female needs 46 grams/day. This is to maintain a neutral protein balance, and does not account for periods when you need more protein such as a recovery stage after an illness, when there is an increased secretion of insulin, growth hormone, testosterone or when you are pregnant. The RDA for pregnant women jumps to 71 grams/day.

According to these statistics, you can see that meeting your required protein intake really isn’t all that hard. If you had a piece of toast, a glass of milk and two eggs for breakfast you are already at 26 grams of protein, and that’s not exactly a large breakfast. My guess is that you will have much more protein than that for both lunch and dinner, which puts you around 75 grams of protein for that day – easily meeting the RDA.

How Many Grams Of Protein Does It Take To Prevent Muscle Atrophy?

This is where the facts can be a little jaded. According to the RDA statistics above, it takes about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to maintain a neutral state. Does that mean that for an average sized male that takes in less than 56 grams per day that he is in a negative protein balance and could expect to lose muscle? Not necessarily…

As long as you get a sufficient amount of and get in some resistance training you should be fine.

What this study does not take into consideration is the quality of the protein you ingest and how you are using your muscles. The amount of protein intake is not necessarily an exact determining factor on whether you lose or gain muscle. Brad Pilon, a nutritional expert who wrote the very popular diet, Eat Stop Eat, and the book How Much Protein illustrates this wonderfully.

“If you only trained your right arm, this will most likely NOT prevent muscle loss from occurring in your left arm.”

Sounds simple enough and makes sense, right.

With this line of reasoning we can appreciate that losing muscle is likely more due to the lack of use than how many calories you take in or how many steaks you can shovel down your throat. Just as muscle atrophy occurs from not using your muscle, simply drinking protein shakes is not going to prevent an unused muscle form shrinking back.

The 800 Calorie Diet Results

There was a study done in The American College of Nutrition in 1999 that helps to back up this theory: Effects of Resistance vs. Aerobic Training Combined With an 800 Calorie Liquid Diet on Lean Body Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate.

Although this study was more about the effects of cardio training versus resistance training with a very low calorie diet, it does help to shed more light on just how much protein we need.

Out of the 20 participants, 10 were on a low calorie + cardio workout while 10 others were on a low calorie + resistance training workout routine. The results after 12 weeks were quite surprising.

“The addition of an intensive, high volume resistance training program resulted in preservation of LBW [lean body weight] and RMR [resting metabolic rate] during weight loss with a VLCD [very low calorie diet].”

This is even more proof of the importance of resistance training.

The group of 10 who did resistance training lost more body fat than the group of 10 who did cardio. In addition to that they didn’t lose any muscle mass while the group who did cardio only lost a significant amount of lean body weight.

How Many Grams Of Protein Per Day to Lose Weight & Not Muscle?

In the end, I’d say the RDA is actually pretty close. Those who participated in the 800 calorie diet ate 40% protein, 49% carbohydrate and 11% fat. I can’t imagine that they were exceeding the recommended daily allowance.

Because of their resistance training, they were able to keep all of their muscle while losing weight. Honestly, I would not be too scared to have a couple days a week where it dipped below neutral balance as long as you were doing some type of resistance training.

By alternating a VLCD with days that are more normal, you can lose weight and lose it in the form of pure fat — provided you add in some resistance training and have at least the minimum amount of quality protein. As long as you meet the minimum requirements, you don’t have to worry too much about how many grams of protein per day you eat.

For some of the best protein shakes I’ve found, checkout either Prograde’s protein or BioTrust’s protein. Both companies make really good supplements and focus on quality. Just remember that you don’t need to consume an extreme amount. Protein shakes are a great way to supplement your diet and to add more protein without much more calories, but whole foods are still an overall better source than shakes.