Tip: The Protein-to-Bodyweight Ratio

Simple and proven. Here's how much protein to eat.

Up The Protein

The old rule of thumb about consuming one gram of protein per pound of body weight is sound advice.

Sure, studies have shown you could cut that number down to as little as 0.82 grams per pound or raise it to as high as 1.16 grams per pound before you tap out on protein benefits. But why make it more complicated than it needs to be?

The 1 to 1 ratio of protein to bodyweight has been around for ages. Why? Because it works. Will more protein lead to more muscle? Not necessarily, but it's not going to hurt you either.

Each brick that makes up your muscle wall is protein. The process of muscle protein synthesis is essentially adding new bricks to the wall. Of course, this means that by consuming the maximal amount of protein to build the wall, it's going to get really big, really fast.

But there's also a flipside to the protein synthesis process called muscle protein breakdown. So the speed of the two opposing processes is going to determine the net change in the wall, i.e. how big the wall gets.

As someone who's looking to build muscle, you need to make sure that muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle breakdown. And by consuming the maximal amount of protein per day (1 gram per pound of bodyweight) you can at least rest your head on the pillow every night knowing that you've put as many bricks into the wall as possible.

That claim is popular, but it's not really scientifically backed. In one 2012 study, researchers gathered 25 healthy men and women aged 18-35 years old with a body mass index between 19 and 30. They were divided into high, medium, and low protein groups.

The participants were admitted to a metabolic ward and were force fed 140% calories (over 1,000 more a day) of their maintenance needs for 8 weeks straight. Their protein intakes averaged about 47 grams for the low protein group, 140 grams for the normal group, and 230 grams for the high protein group.

Carb intake was kept constant between the groups (41-42%), with dietary fat ranging from 33% in the high protein group, to 44% and 52% in the normal and low protein groups, respectively. If their protein intake increased, their fat intake decreased in order to keep caloric intake the same.

At the end of the study, all of the subjects gained nearly an identical amount of bodyweight. The only caveat is that the participants that consumed the most protein actually had slightly less body fat than the lower protein groups.

Bottom line: Consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is right in line with optimal muscle protein synthesis. In between your meals, enjoy your guilt-free protein shake,

  1. Bray GA et al. Effect of Dietary Protein Content on Weight Gain, Energy Expenditure, and Body Composition during Overeating: a Randomized Controlled Trial.JAMA. 2012 Jan 4;307(1):47-55. PubMed.
Eric Bach is a highly sought-after strength and conditioning coach, located in Colorado. Eric specializes in helping athletes and online clients achieve optimal performance in the gym and on the playing field. Follow Eric Bach on Facebook