How much protein do you need?

Tom has been bugging me for a while about how much protein I don’t eat. I keep telling him that I am not vegetarian, so probably my protein intake is taken care of, but then he points out that when we eat together, I always eat vegetarian because he is, and since I wrinkle my nose at protein supplements I sometimes get less than he does. So, I decided to try to find out exactly how much protein I’m supposed to get and start keeping score.

The daily recommended dose of protein is as little as 0.8 g/kg bodyweight. However, according to this 1992 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, while sedentary individuals do fine on 0.86g protein/ kg bodyweight diets, strength athletes require more, and perform better with 1.76g protein/kg bodyweight. Other sources recommend 1.2 – 1.4g/kg for marathoners, and 1.4 – 1.8g/kg for strength training athletes who are looking to put on some additional muscle.

So, based on his goals Tom is looking to get an absolute minimum of 57g and ideally closer to 116 g of protein each day, and at roughly 54 kg (120 lbs) my target is in the 65 – 75 g/day range with a minimum recommended intake of 47g.

Which means – Tom is right. (Tom is often right when it comes to these things.) I’m still on the low end of the recommended protein for someone at my activity level. Even if I have some meat in my lunch, it’s often a stretch for me to get more than 40g of protein. Calories down, protein up. It seems like I’m doing a lot of counting these days.