Protein needs for lifters

(It’s less than you think)

Many of us assume protein needs for lifters to be ~1 gram per pound of body weight to to optimize muscle and strength gains.

Those of us in the “evidence-based” space may be more familiar with the 1.6–2.2g/kg body weight recommendation (~0.7–1g per lb), which stems from a 2018 meta-analysis by Morton and colleagues.

However, too many lifters hyper-focus on protein, in my opinion, rather than ensuring that their strength training provides an adequate stimulus for muscle and strength gain.

For example, a recent meta-analysis found that, when paired with resistance training, increasing protein intake increases strength up to about 1.5 g/kg per day. Without resistance training, however, increasing protein did not increase strength.

Additionally, if we look back to the 2018 Morton meta-analysis, there isn’t much of a difference between lower protein intakes (~1.3g/kg) and higher protein intakes (>2.0 g/kg) for hypertrophy (ignore the regression line, and just look at the white circles — I don’t see much difference between ~1.4 and 2.2g/kg).

And if we look at another recent meta-analysis by Nunes and colleagues, there wasn’t much of a difference in lean mass change when comparing 1.4g/kg to 2.2g/kg.

While high protein intakes (well above 0.8 – 1g/kg/day) are good for gaining muscle, and 1.6-2.2g/kg/day (0.7–1g/lb) is a decent general guideline, it’s okay if you can’t reach that target.

I bring this up because I see FAR too many lifters stress themselves out over hitting a precise protein target and see themselves as a failure if they consume less than the magical 1 gram per pound of body weight target.

Don’t get me wrong — high protein intakes are important for building muscle. But if you’re following a well-structured resistance training program, eating sufficient calories, and sleeping well, you don’t need to stress out too much over getting 1.5 instead of 1.6 g/kg of protein.

There are more important things to focus on.

By the way, if you’re looking to work with me 1:1, check out my services to see how I can help you reach your goals!

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