Protein is the macronutrient building block of the body. It is what builds bones, muscle, cartilage, skin, nails, and blood. But this all-important nutrient does not stop there. Because it is an amino acid, it also helps synthesize enzymes and hormones, maintains fluid balance, and regulates vital bodily functions, like creating antibodies, protecting against infection, and helping with blood clotting and scar tissue formation.
And because your body does not store protein, you need a certain amount every day just to adequately nourish your body so it can function. But a question frequently asked is how much is the right amount?
Let’s start by clearing up one misconception – more is not necessarily better. The body can only use up so much protein at one time. If your goal is building muscle mass you need a maximum of just under 1 gram of protein for each pound of body weight to maintain tissue construction which is what builds muscle mass; the actual formula is 0.9 gram of protein per pound of weight. Anything more is just wasted and can be counterproductive to your goal.
If your goal is weight loss, that amount drops to 0.36 grams per pound/500gm of body weight. Doing the math, we find a 170-pound/77kg person wanting to lose weight should consume about 61 grams of protein per day, whereas the goal of someone wanting to build muscle would be 153 grams.
Calorie-wise, protein should make up about 20% of your total daily calories. So taking the above number into consideration at 4 calories per gram of protein, this would give you a diet of 1,952 calories per day to lose weight and 4,896 calories per day to build muscle, respectively.
Keep in mind this is a starting point. Because each body is different, you’ll have to monitor your results and adjust your protein intake accordingly. Ideally, you’ll settle somewhere in between these two figures.
However, do not go let your protein intake go above 30%. Doing so at the sacrifice of carbohydrates changes your metabolism into a state called ketosis. The result is a suppressed appetite (causing you to eat less) and an increase in fluid excretion in the form of urine (resulting in water weight loss). While this would seem like a good thing, because you are losing weight, you are losing it for all the wrong reasons and can lead to severe dehydration and malnutrition.