How To Find Your Ideal Protein Intake
- Along with fat and carbs, protein is a macronutrient that is crucial for cell growth and repair.
- Not all sources of protein are the same. Complete proteins provide all essential amino acids, which give your body all the building blocks for protein, tissue repair and even the production of hormones and neurotransmitters.
- The amount of protein you need depends on your lifestyle, age, health goals and other factors. Find out how much protein you need to build muscle, burn fat and stay at a healthy weight.
Have you ever wondered, “How much protein do I need?” Everyone’s biology is unique, which means there’s no one-size-fits-all prescription for living well. That includes the way we think about protein.
This macronutrient can be found in every cell in the human body, and it’s necessary to continue to repair and make new cells (and those muscle gains). Both the type and amount of protein you eat depend on a bunch of different factors, from your age to your lifestyle.
Here’s a quick guide to protein: the best protein foods, tips to find your ideal protein intake and our favorite high-protein recipes.
What is the best protein for your body?
First, let’s chat about types of protein.
Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, and nine of them are essential. That means your body doesn’t make them, so you have to get them from food.
In general, you want complete proteins, which are proteins with all nine essential amino acids. Meat, fish and eggs are all complete protein sources, as well as some plant sources like quinoa.
Vegetables, nuts, legumes and whole grains can all contain protein. But they’re not always complete dietary protein sources—meaning, they don’t always have all nine essential amino acids.
Plus, some protein foods don’t fit into certain diet types. If you’re sensitive to gluten, eating a lower-carb diet or avoiding lectins, you’re better off getting most of your protein from animal sources.
If you’re low-carb and don’t eat meat, we’ve got you covered. Check out our list of protein sources for vegetarian keto dieters.
Quality sources of protein
These protein sources contain all nine essential amino acids—plus beneficial vitamins and nutrients that support your entire body:
- Grass-fed beef and lamb
- Pasture-raised pork
- Wild-caught fish (Alaskan salmon pairs protein with a big dose of omega-3 fatty acids)
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Grass-fed whey protein
- Bulletproof Complete Daily Energy Collagen Protein
Can you eat too much protein?
There isn’t a specific number that defines how much protein is too much protein, but going overboard—even on whole foods—may be detrimental. That’s why it’s important to stick with the recommended daily allowance and speak to your healthcare provider to figure out what works for you.
Some research shows that those who consume high-protein diets may increase their risk of kidney stones and kidney disease, since your kidneys filter the waste products of protein. High protein intake may also be associated with an increased risk of heart disease, which researchers partially attribute to the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol.
(FYI: The Bulletproof perspective is that not all saturated fat and cholesterol are the villains we’ve been led to believe, and protein quality matters—odds are, you’ll deal with far more damaging inflammation from fast food than you would grass-fed, pasture-raised proteins. Check out what you should know about saturated fat.)
How much protein do I need?
We’ve covered the types of protein. At this point, you might be thinking, “Cool, but how much protein should I eat in a day?”
Since proteins are basically the building blocks of life, making sure you hit your required amount is important for your health and wellness. Think of this guide as a starting point for daily protein intake. We always recommend maintaining an open dialogue with a doctor and/or registered dietitian, especially when you’re changing up your diet.
At the end of the day, you have to take your own biology and lifestyle into account when determining your individual protein needs. That’s because age, diet and activity level all factor into your personal protein requirements. Here’s what that looks like:
How much protein a day to maintain body weight
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein consumption is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. A good starting point is about 0.4 grams of protein for every pound you weigh. A 120 lb. woman, for example, would eat 48 grams of protein a day (120 x 0.4 = 48) as part of her total calories.
If you’re healthy and sedentary, this is the minimum amount for maintenance. In fact, some studies find that 0.4-0.5 grams per pound of bodyweight is enough protein to maintain lean body mass for people who are working out.
At this level, you probably won’t gain muscle, but you are not as likely to lose it, either. Notice that this is far less protein than many diets recommend.
How much protein a day to build muscle
If you work out regularly, opt for about 0.8 grams of protein per pound bodyweight.
Rebuilding torn up muscles takes a lot of amino acids. You want to provide your body with plenty of raw material to grow.
A 2011 review of research on optimal protein intake for athletes and bodybuilders settled on 0.82 grams per pound as the ideal amount for increased muscle mass.
But what about all those studies showing that you get crazy gains from several hundred grams of protein a day?
Some studies that show significant benefit from higher protein were funded by protein powder or supplement companies…and conducted by researchers working for those companies. Unbiased research shows that 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is plenty of protein to build muscle.
How much protein a day to burn fat
If your end goal is weight loss, increasing protein will help. Protein is more satiating than fat or carbohydrates. It also increases thermogenesis, meaning you’ll burn more body fat if you eat higher protein.
Studies suggest keeping protein between 20-30% of your daily calories will help you burn fat. A good rule of thumb to get in that range is about 1g gram of protein for every pound you weigh.
How to support recovery
When you’re injured, your body uses extra protein to rebuild damaged tissue. The amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline speed up wound recovery and support joint, bone and tissue damage.
Good news: Bulletproof Collagen Protein has all three. For extra nourishment when you need it most, shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight a day total, with approximately 20 grams coming from hydrolyzed collagen protein.
What about collagen and protein intake?
On its own, collagen protein powder is not a complete protein. It’s missing one essential amino acid that would make it complete: tryptophan.
That doesn’t mean you should kick collagen to the curb, though. It’s especially high in glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, the three main amino acids that your body uses to make connective tissue.
That’s a big deal if you want to support recovery after physical activity, and an even bigger deal if you want to support glowing, hydrated skin.
That’s because Bulletproof Collagen Protein provides your body with the amino acid building blocks for:
- Smoother, more elastic skin
- Strong bones
- More resilient joints and ligaments
Bulletproof Complete Daily Energy Collagen Protein is different kind of protein supplement. It contains the eight amino acids found in collagen, plus added tryptophan, which gives it a complete amino acid profile.
Even better? You get a custom energy blend of nutrients and MCT oil for sustained energy. Talk about a new way to shake up your protein shake.
Bulletproof ways to get more protein
Looking for ideas to bump up your protein intake? You don’t have to go whole-hog and eat your weight in chicken breasts at every meal. You can add protein throughout the day, from breakfast to snacks to dessert. Here are some ideas featuring our go-to Bulletproof products:
- Add Bulletproof Collagen Protein to your morning coffee. Two scoops gives you 20 grams of collagen!
- Snack on a Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bar for 11 grams of protein (and tons of delicious flavors)
- Blend up this Berry Matcha Smoothie, featuring Vanilla Bean Complete Daily Energy Collagen Protein, and get 10.7 grams of protein per serving
- Tuck into a bowl of No-Bean Keto Chili, which packs 24 grams of protein per bowl (and makes great leftovers)
- Treat yourself to a No-Bake Protein Brownie Bite with 6 grams of protein per bite
Read next: For even more inspiration, check out what 20-30 grams of protein looks like for breakfast.
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This article has been updated with new content.