How Much Protein Do You Really Need? Balancing Protein Intake for Muscle Maintenance and Growth

In this video, the host discusses the amount of protein one needs to maintain or build muscle. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, which is sufficient for basic nutritional needs. However, individuals engaged in higher intensity exercise or those focusing on muscle growth may require more protein intake. The video provides a range of protein recommendations for different types of athletes and exercisers, ranging from 1.2 grams per kilogram to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. It also highlights that ultra-endurance athletes may require higher protein intake due to increased protein breakdown and energy demands. The video concludes by discussing the safety concerns of excessive protein consumption and the potential toxicity of ammonia byproducts.

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Key Insights:

  • Protein is made up of amino acids, and there are 20 amino acids that our body utilizes to build various proteins.
  • Protein is constantly being broken down and synthesized in our bodies.
  • To determine the amount of protein needed, researchers measure nitrogen balance, which is the difference between nitrogen intake and nitrogen loss.
  • The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • The protein intake recommendation for different athletes and exercisers varies based on their goals and exercise intensity.
  • A recreational athlete might need more than the RDA, while bodybuilders and strength athletes might need up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • Ultra endurance athletes may also need higher protein intake due to increased protein breakdown and utilization for energy.
  • Protein intake recommendations are not universal and can vary based on individual physiology and caloric intake.
  • Excessive protein intake can lead to ammonia toxicity, so the upper limit is recommended to stay around 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.
  • It’s important to experiment and adjust protein intake based on individual needs, goals, and exercise routines.


How much protein do you really need, especially if the goal is to maintain or even build muscle? When I was younger and first trying to build muscle (key word: trying), I was told by many people that I needed to consume one gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. For me at the time, that would have been about 175 grams of protein each day. Was that too much? Too little?

Well, in today’s video, we’re not only going to discuss the proper amounts of protein, but we’re also going to talk about why bodybuilders and strength athletes are not the only ones that need to be concerned with their protein intake. For example, runners and other endurance athletes might need more protein than you actually think. So we’ll talk about those recommendations for different people and even get into a little bit about if too much can ever be unsafe.

A few quick basics on proteins: a protein is made up of hundreds to even thousands of amino acids bonded or strung together. Amino acids are compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and even nitrogen. This nitrogen is going to be important for our discussion about potential safety concerns, and even when we talk about something called nitrogen balance.

Now, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein for adults is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, or about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight per day. So with my example of when I was younger at 175 pounds, according to the RDA, I would need about 63 or 64 grams of protein per day.

But the RDA is the amount of protein that you would need to maintain your basic nutritional needs. If you’re relatively active or do higher intensity exercise, you would need a higher amount of protein. The recommended range could be from 1.2 grams to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

For example, someone who exercises a few times a week, like a recreational athlete, would need to be above the RDA level. If you’re a middle-distance endurance athlete or a consistent gym-goer, you would fall into the green range on the protein recommendation chart. Bodybuilders and serious muscle builders might need to be at the higher end of the range, around 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

There are even cases where ultra-endurance athletes, who might not fit the traditional muscular body type, would need to consume the same amount of protein as bodybuilders due to the high volume of exercise they do.

It’s important to note that these recommended protein intakes have a range because individual factors, such as physiology and genetics, can affect how much protein an individual needs.

Now, let’s talk about the safety concerns of consuming too much protein. When proteins are broken down in our bodies, ammonia is produced, which is toxic to the body. The liver converts ammonia into urea, which can be excreted in urine. Consuming excessive amounts of protein can lead to an increased production of ammonia, thus causing potential safety issues. Most data suggests that consuming up to 2.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight is relatively safe, but going beyond that could be risky.

In conclusion, the proper amount of protein intake depends on various factors, including exercise intensity, type of exercise, and individual goals. It is generally recommended to consume protein above the RDA level, but not excessively, as it may pose safety concerns. It’s important to find your own balance and consult with a healthcare professional or nutritionist if you have specific goals or concerns.