How much protein do you need to eat to build muscle and lose fat?
After reading this article you’ll know just how much protein you need to eat every day to achieve your goal of a leaner, more muscular, and stronger body. It’s the same information that the best sports scientists, coaches and trainers are using to help their athletes and clients do the same.
TLDR; How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Muscle & Lose Fat?
- Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight every day.
- If you have trouble eating this much, drink a protein shake too.
- Lifting weights at least 3 times a week is also important.
- Going higher than 1 gram a day may not build more muscle but can help you lose fat.
- Eating 1-1.5 grams of protein/pound daily and is safe for healthy men and women.
Tell Me, How Much Protein Is Enough To Build Muscle And Lose Fat?
According to the latest research, you should eat about 2 grams per kilogram (kg) of your body weight to lose fat and gain muscle.
This is equal to about 1 gram per pound of your current weight for those of us who aren’t on the metric system. So, if you weigh 175 pounds, you’ll need to eat around 175 grams of protein a day.
You don’t have to weigh and measure everything you eat, making sure to eat exactly enough protein down to the gram. As long as you’re within the range of a 1 gram per pound of your weight, you’ll be on track.
This is the best starting point and for most of us will be plenty to achieve your goals of getting leaner and building muscle.
Let’s say you want to push your protein intake even higher. Will it help? Is it safe? Let’s see what leading sports scientists and the results of their research have to say.
What Results Can I Expect? Build Muscle And Lose Fat.
When you start eating 1 gram of protein per day and are eating less calories, you’re going to see pretty awesome results. Especially if you’re lifting weights too.
Check out these results below from a study comparing a group of guys who ate either .5 grams or a little more than 1 gram of protein per pound of their body weight every day for 4 weeks.
They also reduced their daily calories by 40% and exercised 6 days a week, alternating between strength and interval training workouts.
Here are the results.
- The guys eating 1 gram protein/pound averaged over 10 pounds of fat lost and gained almost 3 pounds of muscle.
- The men eating half as much protein lost 3 less pounds of fat and only added .2 pounds of muscle.
Pretty awesome, huh? These results happened in just 4 weeks too.
What If I Eat Even More Than 1 Gram Of Protein Per Pound Of My Body Weight?
Several studies published by sports scientist Jose Antonio, PHD had men and women eat 1.5 grams of protein per pound of their body weight every day for 6 months Another group in these studies ate 1 gram of protein per day, the amount other research already finds to be very effective for fat loss and building muscle.
Results from Dr. Antonio’s research finds that bumping your protein up by 50% from 1 gram/pound doesn’t seem to help you build more muscle. Both groups (1 gram/ pound and 1.5 grams/pound) gained about 3 pounds of muscle. There was a slight trend that it does help, but not enough to be statistically significant, meaning likely to be helpful to you.
If fat loss, on the other hand, is your primary goal, bumping your protein up to 1.5 grams per pound may be worth the effort.
Here’s what Dr. Antonio’s research finds. After 6 months of eating 1.5 grams per pound of body weight a day enabled the men and women – who were already pretty lean to lose 4 times as much fat as those eating 1 gram per pound of their weight.
In terms of body fat percentage, 3 grams/pound/day guys and ladies decreased their percentage of body fat by almost 3%. On average the 1 gram per pound group lost less than 1%.
Just as cool, the men and women eating 50% more protein every day didn’t gain more weight. Even though they were eating more calories.
You Have To Lift Weights Too.
The men and women in Dr. Antonio’s studies were all lifting weights several days a week and following a well planned strength training program.
This is a very important fact. If your goal is to build muscle and lose fat you must lift weights. Just eating more protein isn’t going to cut it.
You should be lifting weights at least 3 times a week. Pushing yourself, working to get more reps per set or use a heavier weight as often as possible is key.
Don’t take what I’m saying to mean you need to put 110% into every workout, pushing yourself to failure on every set. This is a recipe for burnout and even injury.
This doesn’t mean you need to push so hard that your muscles and energy are trashed when you’re done. Make it your goal to feel as if you’ve worked hard but that you actually feel refreshed and energized when you’re finished.
This way you’ll be able to recover before your next workout and are going to want to train the next day because your mental and physical energy are great. Here’s What Dr. Antonio Has To Say.
In an interview with Auburn Education this is what he has to say about how much protein you should eat every day to build muscle and lose fat.
“If one defines high as 2.2 g per kg daily, then that is sustainable. Once you get closer to 3 g per kg daily, then it literally becomes “work” to eat that much protein. Out of the 200 plus subjects that we’ve monitored over the course of these studies, there are maybe 5% of them that consume > 3.0 g per kg daily. Most however are pretty good at hitting the 2.2 target. For performance athletes, I think 2.2 should serve as the baseline.”
Say What? How Can I Ever Eat This Much Protein Every Day?
Getting 1 gram or more protein per pound of your body weight every day can be tough. It still is for me at times and I’ve been doing it for a years. When you first start to eat more it’s even harder. This is because protein is very filling so getting down the extra chicken breasts or steak can be tough when you feel full.
Going up to the amount used in Dr. Antonio’s research – equal to about 1.5 grams per pound of your weight daily – can be even tougher. Eating that much food – 270 grams of protein a day for me – becomes a miserable chore.
The easiest way to get in at least 1 gram per pound of my weight every day is to drink a whey protein shake every day. I use 2-3 scoops per shake, depending on what I’ve eaten for the day.
Drinking a single shake gives me an extra 46-70 grams of protein quickly and easily. It’s a much easier way to get extra protein in your diet compared with eating say, chicken 2-3 extra chicken breasts.
I use Better Whey protein powder. It’s all natural which means it doesn’t contain anything artificial (colors, sweeteners, or flavors). Like its name implies, the protein source for every shake you make is from whey, considered to be the best protein powder for building muscle and losing fat. Here’s several protein shake recipes I’ve created that I think you’ll like.
I’m Just Getting Started, Should I Go With 1 Gram Per Pound Or Eat Even More?
If you haven’t been eating a lot of protein on a regular basis I think it makes sense to start with 1 gram per pound of your current weight. It’ll produce great results and is easier to do on a daily basis.
Do your best to track things closely for the first few weeks. Then, you’ll have an idea of how much protein is in the foods you eat and you won’t have to count grams of protein so closely. It’ll actually become pretty intuitive.
Once you’ve eaten this way for a while, and are near the level of leanness that you desire, you may want to try bumping your protein intake to 1.5 grams/pound of your weight every day.
Doing so will help you lose that last couple percentage points of fat faster and add more muscle too.
Is Eating More Protein Safe?
Some of you may be thinking eating this amount of protein will cause your cholesterol to go through the roof and kidneys to fail, calm down. As long as your healthy, it doesn’t seem to be harmful.
Blood tests done before, during, and after Dr. Antonio’s studies found no increases in cholesterol or signs of kidney or liver damage or bone loss. This is after eating between 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight a day for a year.
As always, check with your doctor before you begin starting any new diet, workout, or nutritional supplement plan.
I’ve included references below that you can share with them if they have any questions
Now you know how much protein you need to eat to lose fat and build muscle. As long as it’s okay with your doctor, give it a try, starting with 1 gram per pound of your body weight a day. As you get leaner, increase your protein to 1.5 grams per pound to help you get to your goal a little faster.
Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Tamayo A, Buehn R, Peacock CA. A High Protein Diet Has No Harmful Effects: A One-Year Crossover Study in Resistance-Trained Males. J Nutr Metab. 2016;2016:9104792.
Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Orris S, Scheiner M, Gonzalez A, Peacock CA. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women–a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015 Oct 20;12:39.
Bosse JD, Dixon BM. Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012 Sep 8;9(1):42.
Cribb PJ, Williams AD, Stathis CG, Carey MF, Hayes A: Effects of whey isolate, creatine, and resistance training on muscle hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007, 39: 298-307.
Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):738-46.
Mettler S, Mitchell N, Tipton KD. Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2010 Feb;42(2):326-37.