How Much Protein Should I Eat a Day?

How Much Protein Should I Eat a Day?

One of the most highly debated topics with varying amounts of conflicting information is about protein and how much do you "actually" need.

The standard recommendation from the World Health Organization. As it pertains to general wellbeing, the WHO recommends just 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of bodyweight. Following this guidance, a man who weighs roughly 200 pounds would only need about 72 grams of protein per day.

For most people this should not be too difficult to achieve. For example, consider two chicken breast, a rice bowl, and a a glass of milk has around 60-65 grams of protein and basically would have you covered for the day. However, this recommendation doesn’t consider individual differences, the extra needs from a weight training or active lifestyle, or any underlying ailments that may require the need for more protein in a day. 

How much more protein you precisely need depends on you as an individual, your activity, and whether or not you’re bulking, cutting, or doing a recomp phase. Keep in mind that this variable applies to both men and women.


If you’re BULKING, your body is "well-fed", meaning it’s much less likely to break down muscle tissue as a source of fuel. The abundance of carbs and fats to burn will take precedent over anything else. For this reason, you generally need less protein when bulking (Crazy huh?). Here, the best research recommends 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.7 to 1 gram per pound of body weight, per day. 

We can see the trusty old “one gram per pound rule” holding up pretty well as a high-end figure.


If you’re CUTTING, your body’s not only getting fewer calories from food, but you also will begin to have less body fat and less glycogen (stored form of glucose) as fuel reserves. It stands then, that your body is much more likely to break down muscle tissue as a source of calories. To offset this, you should be focusing on increasing protein intake while cutting to 1.8 to 2.7 grams per kilogram of bodyweight or 0.8 to 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight

 The classic “one gram per pound rule” sits in the middle of the range.

If you’re already very lean and training very hard, you’ll want to aim toward the upper end, but if you have more body fat and are training more recreationally, the lower end will be plenty.


When on a RECOMP phase, you’re trying to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, while setting your calories as close as possible to maintenance intake. Aside from your experience level, the only way to really achieve this goal is through appropriate dieting. 

I think most people can simply use the same protein figures as when bulking because at maintenance, you’re also at a low risk of muscle loss, assuming your training and sleep is on point.

 However, it’s worth considering that there may be some advantages to going a bit higher on a recomp phase, especially if you’re in a light deficit or more advanced.

 This brings us to a second question: “How much protein can you absorb in a single meal?” The simple answer is

... ALL OF IT.

Your body can absorb more protein than you could even comfortably eat. Keep in mind, absorption simply refers to the passage of nutrients from the small intestine into the bloodstream,  so it’s important to understand that just because protein is being absorbed, doesn’t mean it’s being used to build muscle.

The real question is How much protein can you USE in a single meal?

This is where there’s some controversy.  We have all probably heard that  20 to 25 grams of protein in a single meal was all you needed to max out the anabolic response.

First, look at the intermittent fasting community who eat 1-2 meals per day. Due to their scheduled feeding times they will sometimes ingest upwards of 50 to 100 grams of protein per meal. It’s highly unlikely that most of that protein is going to waste.

Second, we have seen plenty of new studies come out comparing 25 vs 40-50 g of protein coming from whey or whole food and the results are either comparable or slightly in favor of the high amounts per sitting. 

The amount of protein we can use per meal isn’t clear as of now, but it’s likely higher than we used to think. Regardless, I think that your protein intake per meal is less important than your protein intake per day.

 Next, we move from the quantity of protein required to build muscle and look at the quality factor of the protein you’re ingesting.

Protein Quality is partly based on the amount of the amino acid, leucine.

Leucine is very important because it’s the “trigger” for stimulating mTOR, which subsequently triggers new muscle growth.

Around three grams of leucine seems to be the magic number when maximizing the anabolic response to a meal.

In the table below, you can see that whey protein comes out on top. (I made a blog post about protein powders awhile back, worth the read.)

Note that with just 29 grams of whey protein, you’ll be getting three grams of leucine for just 145 calories. You can also get three grams of leucine and 40 grams of protein from chicken breast, and that would only cost you about 200 calories.



As a general trend, animal sources of protein are going to be higher in leucine than plant-based counterparts, especially per calorie. However, vegan protein powders like soy, pea, and brown rice isolates also offer three grams of leucine, but for less than 200 calories.

Despite the importance of leucine in checking for protein quality, you still need the other eight essential amino acids (EAAs) to actually build the new muscle. There was a huge push for BCAA's (Branch Chain Amino Acids) betwen 2000-2012. These time and time again have proven to be less effective than EAAs because with BCAA's all you get is Leucine, Valine, and Isoleucine while missing out on the other 5-6.

PROTEIN QUALITY may be much less important than many people realize. It’s also why leucine, BCAAs, and EAAs supplementation usually isn’t necessary, as long as total daily protein is sufficient.

However, vegan lifters should be a bit more strategic by either:

  1. Aiming toward the higher end of protein ranges,or
  2. Supplementing a high-quality protein powder (Such as vegan whey, which combines pea and brown rice protein to give it a similar amino acid profile to whey protein.)

Despite the idea that “Your entire training session is wasted unless you eat protein within 30 minutes after training” was debunked years ago, many people still believe and adhere to it. This was mainly pushed by supplement companies to get you to buy all the latest and greatest post workout shakes at an overpriced selling point.

Truth is, as long as your pre-workout and post-workout meals are within roughly four- six hours of each other, you’ll be fine. The only caution would be to those that truly train fasted in which case you should try to consume some protein as soon as you can after your workout.

Finally, perhaps a more important, but less talked about, timing variable is consuming protein before bed.

Consuming roughly 40 grams of protein before an overnight fast to improve overnight muscle protein synthesis seems to be effective. Most people will opt for a casein protein powder or some form of whole milk with a meal before bed. This further proves the point that more than 20-25g of protein can be utilized at one sitting, just perhaps at a slower rate.

-Ready to Reign.

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