One of the most common questions asked by people just learning how to diet is “how much protein do you need a day to build muscle and lose fat?” This question is not always easy to answer, because it varies so much depending on the person. So instead of looking for a generic answer, you should be trying to figure out how much protein do YOU need a day for your current goal.
First lets get down to the basics. Protein is the building block of muscle. It is required to build and maintain muscle mass. If you don’t eat enough of it, not only will you not be able to build new muscle, you will begin to lose muscle mass. So keeping your protein intake up is important.
On the other hand… Eating too much protein can be counterproductive to your goals. If it puts you in a calorie surplus, you will gain fat.
So now lets answer the question “How much protein do you need a day?”
While this has been up for debate since the beginning of bodybuilding, there have never been any studies that show you need more than 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass. (Lean body mass is your fat free mass. So for example, a 200 pound man with 10% body fat has a lean body mass of 180 pounds.)
Now with that being said, even though no study has proven otherwise, this doesn’t make 1 gram per pound the definitive protein requirement. In fact, many people believe you need 1.5 grams per pound or more!
The smart way to determine how much protein you should eat, is to determine it based off of your goals.
If you are trying to add muscle mass, you should be in a calorie surplus, which would make you less likely to lose muscle mass. Therefore it’s probably okay to stay closer to the 1 gram per pound requirement. If you’re trying to lose fat, you should be in a calorie deficit. This means you are at a greater risk for muscle loss, and you should increase your protein intake. Having said that, people who have a body fat of 15% or more are probably still ok with eating closer to 1 gram per pound. But the closer you get to single digit body fat, the more protein you will need.It’s probably a better idea to eat around 1.3-1.5 grams per pound once you get down to around 9% body fat or lower. Anything over 1.5 grams per pound of lean body mass is overkill and unnecessary. Use those extra calories for some extra carbs to give you more energy for your workouts!
So there you have it, the answer to “how much protein do you need a day?” is 1-1.5 grams per pound of LBM. Eating this amount of protein will allow you to build muscle while in a bulking phase, or hold on to your muscle during a dieting phase.