Why Protein is Necessary and  How Much You Need

PLN explains why you need protein, how much, and when to best get it.

Published January 12, 2023

4 minute read

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Why Protein is Necessary and How Much You Need

You might only think of building muscles when you hear the phrase "protein intake," but it has much broader implications. Each person will need a different amount of protein, so getting the right amount is crucial.

Proteins can be thought of as your body's factory workers. The body doesn’t store any protein at all. Your body's proteins, which are composed of tiny units called amino acids, serve a variety of functions, including providing power for movement, maintaining a diligent immune system, and serving as carriers of oxygen in your blood. Each protein has a specific function that it performs almost constantly. 

Dietary protein is crucial for giving your body the amino acids it needs to maintain and grow lean body mass when it comes to muscle. Muscles won't gain strength or size if there aren't enough extra amino acids available. Adding resistance exercise to your daily routine puts you on the fast track to muscle growth because, of course, protein in the body alone is insufficient to build muscle.

The body cannot produce nine of the 20 possible amino acids on its own; instead, they must be consumed. Because they contain all nine essential amino acids, animal proteins are considered "complete" proteins. Plant-based proteins (such as legumes) are not all complete proteins, but if you eat a varied diet with a variety of protein sources, you can meet your complete amino acid requirements. 


Protein has an RDA of 0.8g/kg of body weight. This is technically the minimum daily average intake level required to meet the needs of 97-98% of Americans. While this is a good starting point, there is certainly a lot of leeways depending on individual lifestyle and personal goals.

You may have heard that you need 0.8-1g of protein per kilogram of body weight. This recommendation is based on the bare minimum of protein required to preserve existing muscle mass during weight maintenance. If you are active, trying to lose weight or building muscle, you will most likely require more protein to achieve your goals. For example, strength and endurance athletes [may consume] 0.5–0.8 grams per pound of body weight per day.   Those trying to decrease body fat but maintain muscle [may consume] 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. That’s why tracking your protein intake with an app like MyFitnessPal is ideal, since you can see how much you’re presently consuming and make changes from there.

Many eating styles recommend calculating your protein needs as a percentage of your total calories. While this is a good starting point, it does not take into account your unique body and personal goals. As a result, determining your general protein requirements is best defined by your weight.

The majority of formulas measure body weight in kilograms. Using this formula, you can easily convert your weight in pounds to kilograms:

Weight in pounds / 2.2 = weight in kilograms


Protein recommendations differ. Protein consumption should be viewed as a range to be tested rather than a hard and fast rule. 

These recommendations are based on a variety of expert associations in fitness and nutrition. While this is a good starting point, it's best to consult a doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist to determine your ideal protein range.

Recommended Dietary Allowance:           0.8 g/kg of body weight

Average healthy adults:                       1.0–1.5 g/kg of body weight

Active adults who exercise regularly:  1.1–1.6 g/kg of body weight

Active adults trying to lose weight:      1.6–2.0 g/kg body weight

Weightlifters looking to gain muscle:             1.2–2.0 g/kg of body weight

Older adults over 50:                               1.0–1.5 g/kg of body weight

Endurance athletes:                            1.3–1.6 g/kg of body weight


Newer research is looking not only at how much protein is required daily but also at how and when it is consumed. Protein seems to make a difference in how your body looks, how full you feel, and even how well you do in sports if you eat it throughout the day instead of all at once. Research shows that getting the total amount of protein you need over the course of the day is better for stimulating muscle synthesis and may lead to a healthier body in the long run.


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