How much protein should you eat per day to build muscle, or to keep your lean muscle mass when losing fat?
Use our calculator to find your daily protein requirement!
Protein Intake Calculator:
Check the buttons to have your protein need calculated!
How Does This Protein Calculator Work?
This protein calculator is based on scientific training studies and meta-analyses investigating the effect of different protein intakes on body composition.
When you eat sufficient amounts of protein, you build more muscle while minimizing fat gain. On a weight-loss diet, a high protein intake makes you lose more fat and retain more muscle mass.
Let’s go over the assumptions the calculator makes, including the sources.
Note that these numbers are minimum protein recommendations and that nothing bad happens if you exceed them, as long as you still hit your other nutritional and caloric goals. As of yet, there is no known harmful upper limit for protein intake.1
How Much Protein to Build Muscle?
Recommended Daily Protein Intake: 1.6–2.2 g/kg (0.7–1 g/lb)
A systematic review and meta-analysis of 49 studies and 1 863 participants found that more protein led to greater gains in muscle mass up to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.2
Participants who added a protein-rich meal (often containing around 30 grams of protein), and reached 1.6+ g/kg/day gained 300 grams more of fat-free mass (FFM), and lost 400 grams of fat over a three-month period compared to control groups who maintained their previous protein intake (which was around 1.4 g/kg/day on average). That is almost a pound of extra fat-free mass gained and a pound of fat lost, just by eating slightly more protein.
No further effect on muscle gain was seen from protein intakes higher than 1.6 g/kg/day for either trained or untrained participants.
The trained participants did, however, see greater effects from eating enough protein than the untrained participants did.
- Previously untrained participants who added a protein-rich meal (and reached 1.6+ g/kg/day) gained 150 g more FFM than the control groups.
- Trained participants who did the same thing gained 750 g more FFM than the control groups.
This suggests that the more trained you are, the more critical it becomes to eat enough protein to build muscle.
You should also not view 1.6 g/kg/day as the maximum limit.
This was the mean amount of protein necessary to maximize muscle growth for the participants in these 49 studies. But your muscle mass, activity level, caloric intake, and many other factors affect your protein requirement. The confidence interval that covered the minimum protein requirements to maximize muscle gains for 97.5% of all the 1 863 participants was 2.2 g protein per kg per day.
If you want to be on the safe side of building muscle, that is what you should aim for.
Similar numbers show up in a small study on eight natural bodybuilders.3 On a rest day, the researchers found that the bodybuilders needed 1.7 g protein per kg to maintain their muscle mass. Again, that was on average; the 95%-confidence interval landed on 2.2 g protein per kg on a daily basis.
We know that strength training increases our protein needs for the following day or so, meaning that if you work out on most days, your optimal protein intake is slightly higher.
Taken together, we recommend consuming at least 1.6 g protein per kg body weight and day to maximize your muscle growth. If you are very lean or muscular or simply want to be on the safe side, we recommend that you increase that to 2.2 g/kg/day.
Read More: How to Build Muscle
How Much Protein to Lose Fat?
Recommended Daily Protein Intake: 1.8–2.7 g/kg (0.8–1.2 g/lb)
When we talk about weight loss, we often actually mean fat loss.
Losing fat while keeping your muscle means that you’ll improve not only your health but also your looks.
When you are in a caloric deficit, a high-protein diet makes you lose more fat and maintain muscle mass.
In one study, trained women were split into either a high protein group (consuming 2.5 g/kg/day) or a low protein group (consuming 0.9 g/kg/day), while undergoing eight weeks of training, following an upper lower split program.4
Despite consuming 400 calories more per day on average, the high protein group lost more fat than the low protein group – and built more muscle at the same time.
- High protein group: gained 2.1 kg of muscle and lost 1.1 kg of fat.
- Low protein group: gained 0.6 kg of muscle and lost 0.8 kg of fat.
In addition to keeping your muscle and burning your fat, a high protein intake will also help maintain a higher basal metabolic rate. That is, your resting energy expenditure.
We recommend a daily protein intake of 1.8 g/kg if you want to lose fat and maintain (or build) muscle. If you have a high lean body mass, low body fat, or are in a large caloric deficit, a protein intake of up to 2.7 g/kg might be beneficial.5
Read More: How to Cut: Lose Fat and Keep Your Muscle
How Much Protein Should I Eat if I’m Overweight or Obese?
Recommended Daily Protein Intake: 1.2–1.5 g/kg (0.5–0.7 g/lb)
Because your lean mass is what primarily determines your protein requirement, your optimal daily protein intake relative to your whole-body weight decreases if you are overweight or obese.
A protein intake of 1.2 g/kg is likely enough to maximize muscle growth in a caloric balance. During weight loss, a protein intake of 1.2 g/kg is likely enough to maximize both your fat loss and muscle retention. Up to 1.5 g/kg might be beneficial if you have a large muscle mass or are in a large caloric deficit.6 7 8 9
How Can I Increase My Protein Intake?
Here are some examples of protein-rich foods you can eat to increase your protein intake:
- Dairy products
- Protein supplements (protein shakes, protein powders, protein bars)
Generally speaking, foods that come from the animal kingdom are the ones with the most high-quality protein. There are plenty of plant-based foods that provide a lot of protein, like legumes, nuts, and seeds, but many of these don’t contain all of the essential amino acids (which are the ones you need to build muscle) in sufficient amounts. Animal protein sources are typically the ones containing the highest amounts of essential amino acids.
In practice, however, as long as there is some variety in your diet, you will probably get all the essential amino acids you need even on a vegetarian or vegan diet. A rule of thumb is to aim for a 10% higher protein intake on a vegetarian diet to compensate for lower levels of essential amino acids.
Frequently Asked Questions About Protein Intake
Let’s address some of the most common questions regarding protein intake.
How Much Protein Do I Need to Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time?
While some argue that it is impossible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, this is far from the truth. In reality, that is actually the most common result in training studies where you have the participants strength train, but don’t change anything about their diets.
Sure, the effects are more pronounced in previously untrained subjects than in trained ones, but that is always the case when you compare these two types of groups.
If you strength train but maintain your caloric intake, you will gradually gain muscle and lose body fat. To enhance this effect, you should make sure to meet your daily protein needs, which you can calculate with the protein intake calculator at the beginning of this article.
Aim for the recommended daily protein intake for muscle gain, which is around 1.6–2.2 g of protein per kg of body weight or 0.7–1 g per pound of body weight.
If you want to focus more on losing fat, you should lower the total calories you eat in a day. In this case, you could probably benefit from a slightly higher total protein intake, upwards of 1.8–2.7 g/kg, especially if you’re already at a low body fat percentage or have a lot of lean muscle mass.
Depending on your fitness goals, physical activity levels, and current body type, adjust your daily intake of protein and calories accordingly.
Should I Limit Protein to Lose Weight?
No! To lose weight, you will have to consume fewer calories than you expend. But of all the macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) you eat, protein is the most important one to maintain a high enough intake of.
A high-protein diet will maintain (or increase) your muscle mass during a diet, as well as maintain your resting metabolism and keep you more full.
If you are currently overweight or obese, you don’t need as many grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, because it is your lean body mass that determines your protein need.
If you are overweight and obese and want to focus on losing weight, I recommend a daily protein intake of 1.2–1.5 g/kg or 0.5–0.7 g/lb. An alternative way to calculate your protein need is to consider roughly what your ideal body weight is (at a healthy body fat percentage) and multiply that by 1.6 g/kg.
For the already lean person with a lot of muscle and low body fat percentage, a much higher daily protein intake is recommended to minimize muscle loss while losing the last few pounds of fat on your diet. As previously mentioned, around 1.8–2.7 g/kg (0.8–1.2 g/lb) is a good daily protein target in this case.
Is 200g of Protein a Day Too Much?
There is currently no known upper limit of protein at which it is no longer safe to consume for healthy persons. No adverse consequences (including cancer, kidney disease, kidney stones, and osteoporosis) of high protein intakes have been identified.1
Cases where you might be eating “too much” protein might be, for example, if your high protein intake doesn’t allow you to reach your daily calorie target or don’t get enough of all essential nutrients regularly.
If you enjoy eating a lot of protein and have room for it in your diet, there is currently no evidence to suggest it might be harmful.
- How Much Protein from a Single Meal Can Your Body Use to Build Muscle Mass?
- Eating for Muscle Growth: When, How, and How Much to Eat for Adding Lean Mass
- Protein for Strength Athletes and Bodybuilders – How Much, How Often and What Kind
- Top 15 Muscle-Building Snacks for Bodybuilding
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- Gropper SS, Smith JL, Carr TP. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Eighth ed. Boston MA: Cengage Learning; 2022.
- Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults.
- J Nutr. 2017 May;147(5):850-857. Indicator Amino Acid-Derived Estimate of Dietary Protein Requirement for Male Bodybuilders on a Nontraining Day Is Several-Fold Greater than the Current Recommended Dietary Allowance.
- Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2018 Nov 1;28(6):580-585. Effects of High Versus Low Protein Intake on Body Composition and Maximal Strength in Aspiring Female Physique Athletes Engaging in an 8-Week Resistance Training Program.
- J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation.
- Obes Facts. 2012;5(3):460-83. Prevalence, pathophysiology, health consequences and treatment options of obesity in the elderly: a guideline.
- Nutr Rev. 2016 Mar; 74(3): 210–224. Effects of dietary protein intake on body composition changes after weight loss in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):260-74. Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Dec;96(6):1281-98. Effects of energy-restricted high-protein, low-fat compared with standard-protein, low-fat diets: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.