Say you're of an average weight, not really fat, just skinny and want to put on pounds. People who want to add muscle but are not yet serious bodybuilders(if that's even their goal)are advised to consume 1 gram per lb of body weight to bulk. Bodybuilders are typically advised 1.5-2g/lb.

Now, even overweight people who are trying to lose fat weight are also told the same thing:1g/lb.

But one thing that always intrigues me when I see it(StrongLifts report comes to mind)is when someone claims that consuming excess protein isn't necessary.

One common argument that comes from that stance is that people way back in the olden days(think 1100-1800s) didn't need 1g/lb of protein to put on mass or to get cut. Hell, who even knows if they knew anything about cutting or bulking. Most men were just naturally lean, probably from daily physical labor that was just apart of living back then, and probably due to a lot of natural and unprocessed foods(well, this could still be another question of credibility but it's not the purpose of this post).

And then the assertion is followed up with some drivel about how the ratios are just propagated through things like marketing and broscience to increase the volume of sales of whey and other protein powders. The skeptic in me wants to be like "Yeah, that does make sense actually, these industries are huge cash cows, etc., etc.", but, I'd rather have an informed opinion.

So I'm wondering, if you want to add on lean weight or lose fat weight is there really any credible research or studies showing that consuming 1gb of protein per pound of body weight has any significant impact on trying to reach your goals?

And how much protein should an individual who is resistance training for fat loss consume per lb of body weight?

  • Bodybuilders are typically advised 1.5-2g/lb Weird, I've always heard per kilo
    – Sebas
    Commented Feb 8, 2014 at 6:35
  • 1
    High protein consumption helps people lose fat because they're consuming calories (and mass) and getting satisfied. In the meantime any protein that isn't used to build and repair cells/ muscles is passed through the digestive tract instead of stored as fat. Too much unused protein may overwork or cause damage in the longrun but that's not the point... As for building muscle/ mass sure protein is required but most 1st world meat eaters are FAR from short on protein. In my opinion your hunch isn't far off. Maybe professionals need a lot more but I'm sure that requires more than protein.
    – hortstu
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 6:00

1 Answer 1


Well, you've kind of asked the million dollar question, as there haven't been any really definitive studies (That I am aware of) specifying exactly how much protein is needed for training, and especially when related to fat loss, as that can be highly individual specific.

This study examined nitrogen balance and lean body mass preservation related to protein intake, and found that when not training, bodybuilders needed little more than sedentary to maintain mass, while protein needs did increase during training, and endurance athletes needed more than bodybuilders, being 1.12 x sedentary control levels for bodybuilders, and 1.67 x sedentary control for endurance training. (They do not note sedentary levels in the summary).

An article in JAMA talks about the protein needs from the RDA perspective, which does not include training needs, concluded .8g per kilogram for adults older than 18. This somewhat fails, however, in that it doesn't consider females vs. males, and elderly and/or middle aged.

They do note, however, that there is no upper limit for protein intake (i.e. more won't necessarily hurt you), so if you take their .8g/kg rate, and multiply that by the 1.12, you come out just shy of .9g/kg. So 1g/kg should easily put you in the ballpark, and you could consume a little more without repercussion.

This article (Sorry, but it is behind a paywall) discusses metabolic needs of athletes, and suggests that a diet that is at 30-35% of calories from protein (compared to the general recommendation of 15%) should be sufficient. (It also suggests greater fat loss and a couple of other effects, but again, many of these are not yet proven.)


There is some evidence to suggest that 1.0g/kg is a good target, and more than that probably won't hurt in any way, with addition of endurance exercise or very intense activity increasing the need for protein.

  • I noticed that you used the kg unit. So, given your response, a conversion rate of 185 lb to 83 kg would mean that 83g of protein a day for someone who weighs 185lb is a good target? Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 21:36
  • 84kg, actually, but yes, that would be a good target (84g protein). a 4 oz portion of beef is ~ 27g protein, chicken is ~ 25g, a cup of milk is 8 grams and a cup of cottage cheese is ~ 25g. Not that hard to get to at all.
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 21:44
  • Sorry, you lost me. I need to clarify this. If I am 80kg which is euqal to 176lbs, do I need 80gr of protein or 176grams?
    – Mehrad
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 5:55
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    @Mehrad - 80g. The need is usually calculated in a ratio of g/kg. My 84kg reference was just clarifying a slight conversion error, 185 lbs is 84kg, not 83.
    – JohnP
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 14:36
  • @JohnP: Thanks for clearing this up John. I am very curious about this since we used to see a gram per kg of body weight and gradually they became a gram per pound. I have two articles from the same author which changed his taste in recommending the required amount of protein from kg to lbs over time.
    – Mehrad
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 22:58

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