This Is How Much Protein You Need in a Day

How many grams of protein you need varies.

how-eat-proteins
Claire Benoist; Food Styling: Liza Jernow

Wondering exactly how much protein you should be consuming each day? If so, you're not alone.

It's hard to get a good target when another fad diet trend or a new diet book makes headlines. It's even more confusing when you realize how much protein you need daily depends on a few variables like size, weight, age, activity level, and goals.

Don't worry! You can use some simple rules of thumb to meet your protein goals. Read on to find out what they are.

What Your Protein RDA Is and Why You Need It

Trying to get enough protein every day is important because your body doesn't store it the way it does fats and carbohydrates. Every cell in your body needs protein to work right.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the minimum amount needed for 97%-98% of people your same age and sex at birth to be healthy. You may need more or less depending on size, age, and other factors.

The RDA for females 14 and older is 46 grams. It's 52 grams for males ages 14-18 and 56 grams for those 19 and older based on a generalized weight and calorie intake. The specific recommendation is an average intake of .8 grams of protein per kilogram, or .36 grams per pound.

For a 150-pound person, that amounts to 54 grams of protein per day.

But that's not the whole picture. The RDA hasn't been updated since 2011 and doesn't consider activity level, aging, weight loss goals, or other factors.

And in the meantime, several studies have recommended higher protein intakes for some people. So, how much should you be eating?

You May Be Getting Enough Protein Already

You may be getting at least the RDA already; many Americans are. Most Americans have been getting more than 15% of their calories from protein for the last 30 years. That amounts to 75 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet.

"There's no reason to go out of your way to get protein," said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and professor at the Tufts School of Medicine. "Just eat a variety of fish, nuts, beans, seeds, and dairy, including yogurt."

But increasing your protein well above the RDA may make sense sometimes.

Eat More if You're Very Active

If you're very active, you get at least 35 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise four or five days a week, including resistance training twice a week. Resistance training is also called strength training or weight training.

Consider eating 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram (or about 0.5 to 0.9 grams per pound) of body weight each day, said Nancy Rodriguez, Ph.D., a faculty member at the University of Connecticut.

Research suggests that amount is best for rebuilding muscle tissue, especially if you do a lot of high-intensity workouts.

Eat More if You're Trying To Lose Weight

Protein takes longer to digest than carbs, helps you feel full, and pushes your body to secrete the gut hormone peptide YY, which reduces hunger.

"When you bring protein to about 30% of your daily calories, you'll naturally eat less," said Lauren Slayton, a registered dietitian and founder of Foodtrainers, a nutrition practice in New York City.

"Protein decreases appetite and also, in my experience, helps you manage cravings," Slayton said.

Eat More if You're Trying To Build Muscle

You need a lot of protein to build muscle with resistance training.

A 2022 research analysis found that 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight, or .68 grams per pound, was the sweet spot for building or maintaining muscle while training.

For a 150-pound person, that would be 102 grams of protein per day.

The analysis found that more protein than that didn't reap further rewards. The authors also noted that people didn't gain muscle just by adding extra protein. They had to be resistance training, too.

Upping your protein intake can help you make gains regardless of your age, weight, height, and other factors as long as you are doing resistance training.

Eat Double the RDA if You're in Middle Age

Eating more protein as you age may help you keep muscle and prevent osteoporosis "so you can stay stronger and more functional," said Rodriguez.

Roughly doubling the RDA gives you "optimal protein," a concept that Rodriguez and more than 40 nutrition scientists advanced at a 2015 Canadian Nutrition Society conference. They recommended that older adults eat between 1.2 and 1.6 grams per kilogram or .55 grams to .7 grams/pound.

That amounts to roughly 83 to 105 grams per day for a 150-pound person.

Rodriguez said optimal protein works out to be about 15% to 25% of your daily calories, depending on your total calorie intake.

That's still below the level recommended by many popular high-protein diets. Over a day, that could look like 20-30 grams per meal and 12 to 15 grams per snack, for a total of 90 to 105 grams daily.

Eat More if You're 71 or Older

Protein becomes especially important after you reach your seventh decade.

Adults in this age category ate less protein than adults ages 60 through 70, and about half of women and 30% of men in this category got less than they needed, in a United States Department of Agriculture 2020 report.

It might be helpful for people in this age group to bump up their consumption of beans, peas, lentils, seafood, dairy, and fortified soy if they consume those foods, according to the guide.

A Quick Review

The current RDA for protein is .8 grams per kilogram of body weight or .36 grams per pound. That amounts to 54 grams per day for a 150-pound person.

However, the RDA hasn't been updated for many years, and more research has been published that shows it can be helpful to eat more protein than that, especially in some instances.

People who are active, trying to build muscle, lose weight, or older than 50 should eat closer to .5 to .9 grams per pound. That's about 75 to 135 grams for a 150-pound person.

However, since Americans typically get between 15 and 16% of their calories from protein, you may already be getting enough.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies. Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, total water and macronutrients.

  3. Layman DK, Anthony TG, Rasmussen BB, et al. Defining meal requirements for protein to optimize metabolic roles of amino acids. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015;101(6):1330S-1338S.

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  8. Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing healthApplied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. Published online February 9, 2016.

  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020

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