Should you eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight?

Many athletes and gym-goers believe that eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is optimal for muscle growth and strength gains. But is this really necessary? Here is a quick look at the evidence behind the 1 gram per pound recommendation.

Quick Answers

– Eating around 0.7-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day is a good target for most active individuals and athletes.
– Going above 1 gram per pound does not seem to provide any additional benefits for muscle growth or strength.
– The optimal amount of protein depends on many factors like your calorie intake, carb intake, exercise program, and individual needs.
– Getting sufficient protein, around 0.5-0.7 grams per pound, is most important for preserving muscle mass when cutting weight.
– Nutrient timing and protein distribution throughout the day can be useful techniques for maximizing protein synthesis.

What Does the Research Say?

Many studies have attempted to determine the optimal amount of protein intake for strength training individuals and athletes. Here’s a summary of the research:

– Consuming around 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day seems sufficient for most exercising individuals to support muscle protein synthesis. Going above 0.7 grams provides no further benefit.1

– Intakes up to about 1 gram per pound do not seem to provide any additional boost in muscle growth compared to 0.7 grams per pound.2

– Elite athletes may benefit from higher protein intakes between 1-1.5 grams per pound due to their intense training volumes and need to optimize recovery. But more protein beyond this range does not further enhance muscle development.3

– When cutting weight, a protein intake of around 0.5-0.7 grams per pound helps maximize fat loss while preserving lean muscle mass.4

– Older adults may require slightly higher protein intakes between 0.7-1.0 grams per pound to offset age-related muscle loss.5

So while the standard recommendation of 1 gram per pound is fine for most lifting purposes, the research indicates that lower or higher protein intakes can be appropriate depending on the context.

When Is 1 Gram Per Pound Beneficial?

Here are some circumstances where targeting 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight may be useful:

– Athletes training at an elite level – For competitive athletes doing very high volumes of exercise, 1 gram per pound ensures sufficient protein to meet needs.

– Strength-focused training – Some evidence suggests strength athletes may benefit from intakes approaching 1 gram per pound for optimal strength adaptations.6

– Aggressive fat loss goals – Higher protein intakes help retain muscle and improve satiety during steep calorie deficits.

– Poor appetite – People who struggle to eat enough calories may have an easier time meeting protein needs with higher intakes.

– Suboptimal digestion – Individuals with digestive issues may require more protein because they don’t absorb it as efficiently.

Unless you fall into one of the above categories, aiming for 0.7-0.8 grams per pound is likely sufficient for most goals. But eating up to 1 gram per pound provides an added buffer if desired.

Potential Downsides of Excessive Protein

Here are some possible downsides of continually eating more protein than your body can utilize:

– Wasted money – Protein foods and supplements are generally expensive. Consuming over 1 gram per pound likely provides no further benefit.

– Reduced carb/fat intake – To keep calories controlled, excessive protein often means lower intakes of other macronutrients.

– Potential kidney stress – Very high protein for long periods may increase risk of kidney issues in those susceptible.7 But this primarily applies to those with pre-existing kidney disease, not healthy individuals.8

– Displacement of micronutrient-dense foods – Focusing too much on protein often leads to worse dietary quality overall.

– Digestive issues – Large amounts of protein may cause stomach discomfort, gas, bloating, etc in some people.

– Limited food choices – Rigid high protein diets can mean eating a smaller variety of foods.

Unless you have specific needs that call for higher intakes, eating over 1 gram per pound provides no clear benefit and is probably excessive for the average person.

Nutrient Timing and Protein Distribution

In additional to total daily protein intake, the timing and distribution of protein meals may also impact muscle growth and strength. Here are some protein timing strategies that may help maximize results:

– Pre/post workout protein – Consuming 20-40 grams of protein around workouts helps stimulate muscle protein synthesis.9

– Evening protein – Taking 30-40 grams of slow digesting protein before bed increases muscle protein synthesis overnight.10

– Protein pulsing – Alternating higher (1.5-2 grams per pound) and lower (0.5-1 gram per pound) protein days may improve lean mass gains compared to a steady daily intake.11

– 4-5 meals – Spreading protein evenly over 4-5 meals maximizes muscle protein synthesis compared to fewer bigger meals.12

While total daily protein is most important, properly distributing protein based on these timing and meal strategies can provide a complementary benefit for muscle growth.

High Protein Food Sources

To meet higher protein needs without supplements, here are healthy high protein foods to include in your diet:

Food Protein Per 100g
Turkey breast 29.6g
Chicken breast 27.3g
Greek yogurt 10g
Milk 3.4g
Egg whites 13g
Cottage cheese 11g
Lean beef 26.5g
Tuna 24.6g
Protein powder 24-30g
Beans/lentils 9g

Choosing lean sources of dairy, eggs, poultry, fish, beef and plant-based proteins help provide sufficient protein without excess calories or fat.

Sample High Protein Day

Here is an example one day meal plan providing around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (for a 175 pound person):

– Breakfast: Omelet with egg whites, onions, peppers (40g protein)
– Snack: Protein shake (30g protein)
– Lunch: Chicken breast, quinoa, veggies (50g protein)
– Snack: Greek yogurt, berries, walnuts (15g protein)
– Dinner: Lean beef, sweet potato, greens (40g protein)
– Total: 175g protein (1 gram per pound of 175 pound body weight)

This meal plan relies on wholesome high protein foods through breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks to meet the 1 gram per pound goal.

Should You Take Protein Supplements?

While protein supplements are not required, they can make it easier to meet higher protein intakes. Here are some benefits of adding supplements:

– Increased total protein intake – Liquid protein like shakes and RTDs can help boost daily protein consumption.

– Improved protein distribution – Taking supplements between meals helps maintain muscle protein synthesis.

– Enhanced protein absorption – Whey and casein protein are well absorbed sources.

– Greater lean mass gains – Supplements combined with training further augment muscle growth.13

– Faster post-workout recovery – Taking whey protein after training helps replenish glycogen stores.14

– Diet support – High-protein supplements improve satiety which aids fat loss.

Choose a high-quality protein powder like whey, casein or pea protein. Protein supplements provide a convenient way to meet higher protein needs.

Should You Cycle High/Low Protein Intake?

Rather than eating 1 gram of protein per pound every single day, an alternative strategy is to cycle between higher and lower daily protein intakes. Here’s the rationale behind a cycling approach:

– Provides a periodic stimulus to activate muscle growth – higher protein triggers mTOR activation15

– Prevents adaptation by changing stimulus – prevents possible plateau from constant protein intake

– Allows periodic higher carb refeeds – on lower protein days, carbs can be increased

– Lessens potential kidney stress – lower protein days provide relief from high intake

– Can be matched around training days – higher protein on weight training days, lower on off days

While evidence is limited, a cycled plan with protein alternating between 0.5-1 gram on off days and 1.5-2 grams per pound on lifting days may provide benefits.

Sample High/Low Protein Cycle

Here is an example of cycling protein intake between higher amounts on training days and lower amounts on rest days:

Day Protein Goal
Monday (weights) 1.5g per pound
Tuesday (cardio) 0.7g per pound
Wednesday (weights) 1.5g per pound
Thursday (rest) 0.7g per pound
Friday (weights) 1.5g per pound
Saturday (cardio) 0.7g per pound
Sunday (rest) 0.7g per pound

This alternates higher protein on lifting days with lower protein on non-lifting days.


While eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is a common recommendation, research suggests this amount is unnecessary for most people. Aim for 0.7-1 grams per pound based on your specific goals and individual needs. Spread protein intake throughout the day focusing on whole foods first, and supplements if needed to hit targets. Periodically cycling higher and lower daily protein intake may also provide benefits. But the most important factors are sufficient total protein and properly distributing it around workouts and sleep.

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