Calculating Protein Needs is Complex, Doable

There’s no question that consuming enough protein is essential to human health. Each and every cell in our bodies contains it, and we need to eat more of it to repair older cells and create new ones, fueling our growth and development.

But it’s oddly difficult to know how much of it we need to eat every day, as the answer depends on variables including age, weight and fitness goals. However, it takes just a little bit of math, which even the phobic among us can do with the help of a calculator.

The minimum

Having a bigger body means you need more protein to keep it going, so the federal government’s recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 gram per kilogram, which equates to 0.36 gram per pound.

Multiply your weight by whichever form of measurement you’re using. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds you should eat at least 54 grams of protein per day. If you’re using the metric system and weigh 80 kilograms, you should eat a little more, 64 grams per day.

Seniors 65 and older need more protein to maintain health and should eat about 1.2 grams of protein for each kilogram they weigh, or 0.5 to 0.9 grams per pound.

Building muscle

If you’re working out to increase your overall muscle mass you’ll want to consume more protein than your body breaks down, but recommendations on how much of it to consume and when vary.

One 2020 review found it’s optimal to eat 20 to 40 grams shortly after a strength- or resistance-based workout, or 20 grams every three hours during the day. Another study from 2019 said for optimal bodybuilding results it’s good to up your daily intake to 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram, or about 0.9 kilograms per pound.

During pregnancy & breastfeeding

The federal protein RDA during pregnancy is a modest increase to 1.1 grams per kilogram, or 0.5 grams per pound, but some studies recommend expectant mothers consume a little more than that early and late in their pregnancy, up to 0.7 grams per pound. Those who are breastfeeding are advised to eat a little more than that, up to 0.8 grams per pound.