The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


How Much Protein Do You Need?

Written by
Sue Beckham, PhD
Posted in
Fit Tips

Tuesday, Dec 13, 2016

Excess protein can lead to increased body fat. Protein intake should be determined based on body weight and activity level. Individuals who are sedentary or engaging in moderate intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training for 3-4 hours per week should be getting 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day. Activity beyond this duration and intensity can increase the body's need for protein.

Individuals performing high volume and/or high intensity cardiovascular training activities like cycling, running, or swimming for more than an hour at one workout have increased protein requirements of 0.5 - 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Extra protein is needed for muscle repair with a lesser amount used to supply energy for endurance training sessions lasting 90 minutes or longer.

For individuals focused on training to improve strength and power, 0.7 - 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight is recommended. Contrary to popular belief, increased protein intake doesn't necessarily lead to increased muscle mass. Adequate protein intake combined with resistance training that provides sufficient overload are needed to build muscle. In addition, muscle can only be added at a certain rate regardless of protein intake which is why even strength athletes need to monitor their protein intake.

Track your protein intake for three days (two week days and one weekend day) to determine your average intake. Then you can adjust daily intake using the recommendations above.

Excessive protein intake can impact bone mineral density, renal function, and increase the risk of heart disease if protein sources are high in saturated fat.