One question that many of our clients often ask us as they get started on the IIFYM diet approach is, ‘how much protein do I need?’
When reading about protein, you’ll hear recommendations all over the map. Some diets have you eating as much as 1.5-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight while others claim that 0.5 grams/lb. is the answer to the question of how much protein do I need in a day.
Who’s right? And more importantly, what intake should you use? (An easy route to go is by simply using our Macro Calculator!)
When it comes to protein intake, there are general recommendations that you can use, but if you want to get the best results possible, you need to consider a few factors as well.
Let’s look at the main points that we always take into account when prescribing protein intakes for the clients we work with.
Your Lean Body Mass
The absolute first and possibly most important factor to consider when thinking about how much protein we need in a day is the amount of lean body weight you have. Or, to put it another way, your overall body composition.
What you need to remember is that fat weight doesn’t truly require that much protein. It’s only your lean tissues and bones that need the amino acids to help maintain themselves and repair any damage that may occur.
Since your protein recommendation is based on body weight, if you have a high degree of body fat, these estimations may be significantly off.
For best results, you’ll want to use your lean body mass only when calculating your protein intake if you have over 20 pounds to lose. If you don’t know what your lean body mass is, use your best estimate. Otherwise, you could wind up taking in far more protein than you need.
Calorie Intake Per Day
Next, also keep your calorie intake in mind. The lower your calorie intake goes, the more protein you are going to need. The reason for this being that as your energy intake decreases, there is a higher chance that your body may begin to turn to incoming protein as a fuel source. If it does this, it means there is less protein left over to support your lean muscle mass tissues.
Meaning? If you don’t consume more protein, this could result in a loss of lean muscle mass.
Most people would intuitively believe that decreasing their calorie intake means that all macronutrients would decrease, but in all actuality, this is not the case at all. It’s the opposite when speaking about protein.
Your Activity Level
You’ll also want to factor in your activity level. How many days per week are you doing intense weightlifting? If you’re in the gym five days per week, hitting it hard, you’ll be doing more damage to your muscle tissues than someone who is in the gym only lifting weights lightly three days per week.
As such, you’ll need more protein than they will to help fuel this tissue repair. While weight lifting doesn’t increase your protein needs as much as some people like to believe, we always like to add another 20-40 grams per day to the diet plans of our clients who are training very intensely.
Your Hunger Level
Finally, one last thing that you may want to take into account when assessing how much protein do we need while following the If It Fits Your Macros diet approach is your hunger level.
If you are someone who is naturally quite hungry on a daily basis, it might be a good idea to take your protein intake slightly higher than if you were someone who rarely has an appetite.
The reason for this being that of all three macronutrients, protein tends to blunt hunger the best, so this can help give you the appetite control you need to keep your calorie intake in check.
The whole point of the If It Fits Your Macros approach is to eat a certain number of calories (and macros) each day and if you aren’t able to do this because you are too hungry, you simply aren’t going to see the results that you’re looking for.
Likewise, if you’re someone who is very active and uses a slightly higher carbohydrate intake in their diet plan, adding a bit more protein to help with stabilization of the blood glucose level as you eat all these carbs can also work to your advantage.
So all of this said, how much protein do you need? Most of our clients see great results consuming around 0.8 -1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight a day. Assuming they are of an average activity level (exercising 4-5 times per week) and only using a moderate calorie deficit of between 250-500 calories per day.
What About When You’re Intensely Weight Training?
If you’re either exercising more frequently than this or you are using a greater calorie deficit because you have so much weight to lose, you may be able to bump that up closer to 1 gram per pound a day or slightly above.
Note though, there’s no real reason to go beyond 1.2 grams/lb. per day as at that point, the protein will just be converted to glucose in the body anyway, and this is an energy-intensive process and can be harder on your kidneys.
Going higher than this simply provides no real advantage, so there’s not much sense in doing so.
Even for those who are looking to build muscle, it’s important to note here again that more protein doesn’t mean more muscle. Your body can only build so much muscle each day and once that muscle is built, any extra protein taken in may convert to glucose (1). Plus, all this extra protein can simply cause gastrointestinal issues and lead to severe gas in some individuals.
So keep these points in mind with regards to your protein intake. Getting your protein intake dialed in is one of the cornerstone steps of any great diet plan. Taking the time to do so will only make your approach more efficient.
Our job as IIFYM coaches is to make sure that you burn the most amount of fat in the least amount of time. Our Macro Blueprint is the perfect place to start whether you are a beginner or a personal trainer. We do this day in and day out and have the best diet plan coaches around!