Protein Recommendations for Weight Loss and Muscle Development

There are so many diet trends that come and go. It might be hard to figure out what the protein recommendation for weight loss and muscle development actually is. First off, you’ll need to figure out if your primary goal is weight loss, muscle development or a bit of both.

For years, the message that we all need to make sure to eat a good amount of protein has been circulating. But how much do you really need?

Some of these questions have come up with my clients so I thought I would dive into researching the subject and share my findings. First I’ll talk about protein for weight loss and follow up with the recommendations of protein amounts suggested for building muscle.

Protein for weight loss and disease prevention

According to Harvard Health Publishing’s 2018 article, “The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is a modest .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The RDA is the amount of a nutrient you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. In a sense, it’s the minimum amount you need to keep from getting sick–not the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day.”

To figure out what you’d need for your weight you can multiply the number on your scale by .36. For example, a 150-pound woman would need about 54 grams of protein each day. A 200-pound man would need about 72 grams of daily protein.

The Institute of Medicine says to shoot for getting protein that is equal to between 10-35 percent of your daily calorie allotment.

What types of proteins are optimal?

Animal proteins supply amino acids that aren’t present in plant sources of protein. What does this mean? Vegetables, nuts, fruits and grains may be lacking an essential amino acid that is required to make new protein.

There is also research like that laid out in Big Think’s article that plant proteins are also beneficial sources of protein.

But certain meats or animal proteins will be too high in saturated fat which has been linked to heart disease.

What can you eat instead? Try choosing salmon over a steak. You’ll also get the added benefit of the healthy Omega-3 fats. Chicken, low-fat dairy and eggs are also other healthy options.

Following are a few protein-rich foods to mix into your diet:

One cup of diced chicken has 43 grams of protein.
Six ounces of salmon has 34 grams of protein.
2 eggs have 12 grams of protein.
One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein.
½ cup of walnuts has 6 grams of protein.

In a trial called EcoAtkins, participants on a low fat, high carb diet were compared to those on a protein heavy diet. The weight loss was similar but there were differences in their blood lipids.

There was another Swedish study that found women on a low protein diet had lower rates of cardiovascular disease.

How is that for confusing?

All told, research indicates that including healthy proteins and avoiding too much red meat may help with weight loss and disease prevention. But including fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts are still beneficial for weight loss. So there is no need exclusively eat meat and omit fruits and vegetables. Fiber is important too.

Protein for Muscle Building

An article in Men’s Journal claims protein should be evenly distributed throughout the day for maximum benefit and not be only a dinnertime addition.

Popular Science has an interesting piece on their site that breaks down how much protein you need based on your activity level.

The consensus seems to be that those who have low to moderate activity levels require less protein than those who are working out harder. Incorporating some protein with every meal while still eating from other healthy food groups is the way to go.

Protein bars and shakes can fill in the gaps if you are aiming to get the 1.5-2 grams of protein per kilogram recommended for weight-lifters by the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

If you are lifting or a serious athlete working on muscle development you may need more protein than the average person just looking to lose a little weight. Just make sure to do your research, read studies and experiment to see what feels right for you.

Everybody is different and experimentation will help you figure out what will give you the best results. If you need help with an individualized plan, seeing a nutritionist, dietician or speaking with your doctor couldn’t hurt.

Evan Zener is a fitness trainer in NE Portland. Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how regular fitness will improve your energy, health, and vitality.