How Many Grams of Protein Per Day Do You Need?

by Dr. Kyle Ross

Sources of natural protein

Sources of natural protein

One of the most common questions I get is, “How much protein should I consume a day?”

Protein foods are essential for building muscle, burning fat, supporting metabolism, and even bolster the health of certain organs like your thyroid and adrenal glands — in other words, we need protein to heal and to be healthy. But how much protein should you have per day? It really depends on what your health goals are.

Your Daily Protein Needs

To discuss how many grams of protein per day you need, I’m going to really break things down into three categories:

  1. How much protein do you need on a regular basis to generally heal and for your body to regenerate?
  2. How much protein do you need to burn fat?
  3. How much protein do you need to build muscle per day?

First, in general, if you just want to have general health and longevity, consuming about 50 percent of your body weight in grams of protein per day is about what you want. Let’s say you weigh 160 pounds and you’re looking to be generally healthy, then I’d recommend having about 80 grams of protein a day in your diet.

Therefore, if you’re eating three meals a day, you’re going to be getting about 25 grams of protein per meal, and that’s going to really get you to where you need to be in terms of the amount of protein you need in your diet.

Second, let’s say you’re trying to really burn body fat fast and looking for the right fat-burning foods. Well, you need to start with a substantial amount of protein, as so many people (especially women) who hope to lose body fat actually have a protein deficiency. Thus, I recommend about 0.7 grams to 0.75 grams of protein a day overall for burning fat. Essentially, you’re going to replace some of those extra carbohydrates in your diet with more protein.

In this case, if you weigh 160 pounds, then multiply that figures by 0.75. You’ll want to then consume close to 100 to maybe 120 grams of protein a day if you’re trying to really burn fat. So if you eat four meals a day, you’ll want to get in 25 to 30 grams of protein each time.

Third, you’re either trying to build more muscle tone or simply trying to build muscle fast. In general, you want to actually take your weight and multiply that times one. Eat that many grams of protein a day. So if you weigh 160 pounds and want to pack on some muscle, then you should be trying to get 160 grams of protein a day. Over four meals, that’d be 40 grams of protein per meal.

So, to answer that original question about how many grams of protein per day you need, it really depends. Is your goal for general health? In that case, half your body weight in grams of protein. If your goal is fat burning, 0.7 to 0.75 grams of protein; if your goal is to build muscle, you need an equal amount of grams of protein a day to your body weight.

Don't want to think too hard? Use the Protein Calculator!

Why Protein Is Important — Plus Best Sources

Protein is not only important for building lean muscle tissue, but it’s also critical for organ function. In fact, a lot of your organs, cells and tissues require protein for proper regeneration.

Protein also helps in the healing process. There are studies that show if you have burns or cuts on your body, you actually need more protein intake during those times.

Some of the best forms of protein to get are foods like grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and turkey, free-range eggs, and high-quality grass-fed protein powder (like a benefit-rich whey protein). One of my favorites is collagen protein, which are actually amino acids that are easily absorbable and digestible.

Also, you’re going to get some protein from high-quality nuts and seeds like nutrition-packed almonds, chia seeds and flaxseeds. You’re going to get some protein from certain types of beans and even particular grains (like gluten-free oats) that have lower to moderate levels of protein.

I ask you to be really conscious of your protein consumption this week. Examine your health goals and look at how many grams of protein per day you’re getting on a regular basis. Do they match up?

Good sources of protein

FoodProtein (grams)

3 ounces tuna, salmon, haddock, or trout---21g

3 ounces cooked turkey or chicken----19g

6 ounces plain Greek yogurt----17g

½ cup cottage cheese----14g

½ cup cooked beans----8g

1 cup of milk----8g

1 cup cooked pasta----8g

¼ cup or 1 ounce of nuts (all types)----7g

1 egg----6g

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database, 2015

1. Axe, Josh "How Many Grams of Protein Per Day Do you Need."

2. Pendick, Daniel. How much protein do you need every day?" Harvard Men's Health Watch. POSTED JUNE 18, 2015, 4:22 PM , UPDATED JANUARY 08, 2018, 11:29 AM.