The Protein Bible: Part 3 - Protein Requirements for Goals

By Kurtis Frank and Sol Orwell

The four part breakdown to this protein guide:

So in Part 2, we talked about the various protein powders. In Part 3, we tackle how much protein you really need.

Status Quo

At times, people just want to maintain. They aren’t worried about getting leaner, and they’re not worried about putting on mass. Let’s call this the status quo.

The protein requirements we went over in Part 1 pretty much cover this scenario. We assume you are eating around your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and so your protein intake should be around:

  • 0.5g/kg as the absolute minimum. Not something to target.
  • 1g/kg as a good minimum target.
  • 1-1.5g/kg is an ideal target.

To note again - this per bodyweight consumption is based on you not being obese. If you are obese, target your protein requirements based on your ideal bodyweight.

Cutting - Losing Body Fat while Retaining Muscle

Cutting is when protein becomes extremely important. A few reasons include:

  • Protein is filling. Since you are cutting, your hunger becomes a factor and anything to reduce hunger is valuable.
  • Your body breaks down protein for energy at a higher rate when cutting. Unless you want to lose that muscle mass you worked on so hard to build up, you need to increase your protein intake.
  • Protein has the highest thermic effect of food (TEF) - the amount of calories your body needs to burn to digest the food. So while one 1g of protein is 4 calories, when you factor in TEF it’s more like 3.2 calories.
  • Your body is not very good at converting protein into fatty acids (which is then stored as body fat). Thus, eating a lot of protein has a greater chance of building muscle or being used for energy, but not for storing body fat.

So we basically bump up the recommendations:

  • 1-1.5g/kg is now the minimum range, 0.5g/kg is sacrilegious
  • 1-5-2.2k/kg (aka 1g/1lb) is the target.

Because you will be in caloric restriction, protein consumption can become as high as 40-50% of your total calories.

Mass Building - Gaining Muscle Mass with Minimal Fat Gain

This may surprise people (after all, protein = muscle right?), but protein recommendations for mass-building are mostly the same as those for maintenance!

This is because:

  • You are eating a lot of calories anyway. When calories are increased (particularly from carbs), protein oxidation goes down, and thus less protein is “wasted.”
  • Protein can build muscle more efficiently with lower oxidation rates, and overall is better at promoting muscle growth when in a state of high energy intake.

So when your calories are increased to exceed your BMR, then whatever protein you do consume is just more efficiently used. More protein can be consumed if you want to (it wouldn’t hurt in the least), but you don’t need to.

Next time - we conclude the Protein Bible. Part 4 covers protein timing, and also tackles amino acids such as BCAAs, leucine, HMB, and more. 

Read more of the protein guide:


Kurtis Frank and Sol Orwell founded Examine.com in early 2011 to help make sense of scientific research on supplementation and nutrition. Independent and unbiased, they recently have released the Supplement-Goals Reference in order to make it easy to figure out which supplements work (and which are hype).

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