This post is about How to determine how much protein you need.
How to determine how much protein you need
You need protein to live – if anybody has told you otherwise then they lied to you. But since you already know that, how do you determine how much protein you actually need? Your body type, whether it is Ectomorph, Mesomorph, or Endomorph, will largely how much protein your body can actually use.
There are many books out there that give you a one size fits all method. Such as if you are a couch potato you need “X” amount of protein, or if you are an Olympic athlete you need “X” amount of protein. The only problem with this is not every body reacts the same way to protein; furthermore, your body type AND your physical activity level will also determine how much protein you need. Look at it this way, how is it that some people can eat two Mrs. Fields Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chip cookies and gain 20 pounds, then the next person can eat the exact same thing and lose 3 pounds?! No matter where you live in the world we all have either seen this or experienced this first hand.
My own story
Years ago when the book Body-for-Life by Bill Phillips came out, and EAS (when it stood for Experimental Applied Sciences) was at the top of the heap, I was on the whole 1 gram of protein per pound of weight ratio, I also had a friend who did the same thing. My body type was and still is a split. My upper body is Ectomorph and my lower body is Mesomorph. My friend was and still is pure Mesomorph in his upper and lower body. I weighed about 180 pounds at the time and he weighed about 210 pounds at the time. We both ate respective 1 gram/1lb protein ratio, and he would get straight up cut and strong in a matter of weeks in both his upper and lower body, while I would do the exact same thing and my lower body would get crazy strong in a matter of weeks, while my upper body would get stronger but no noticeable muscle mass gains would occur. So I tried every different type of protein (whey, soy, casein) different types of glutamines, different types of creatine. Basically, I tried almost everything that was sold at my local Power Nutrition store and I got absolutely ZERO muscle mass gains. Sometime it just made me bloated, caused me to retain water, or I would just piss it out. This brought me back to the very popular German saying of “Über seinen eigenen Schatten springen” or, “you can’t jump over your own shadow.” Which basically means when it comes to protein, there is not much I can do (short of drugs or surgery) in a matter of a few months or weeks that is going to change my physical make-up that was given to me by my ancestors who honed it over the last few thousand years probably somewhere in the middle of Africa. So I came up with my own modified theory of how much protein I need.
So how do I determine how much protein I need?
Here is the standard theory
Couch Potato – You don’t do jack, or YOUR workout is watching Biggest Loser and identifying with those people – 0.5g/1lb body weight.
Couch Potato who does not have a maid to bring your nachos – Exercise to you is making that long 50 foot trip to the refrigerator to get a block of Tillamook Pepper Jack Cheese. : 0.6g/1lb body weight.
People who go for walks during their 15 minute break at work – 0.7g/1lb body weight.
People who think they workout because they go to the gym and chit-chat- 0.8g/1lb body weight.
People who really workout – 0.9g/1lb body weight
Pro athletes – 1.0/1lb body weight
These *old* rules apply if you have a mesomorph type of body and you gain muscle mass fairly easily; but have a tougher time than the average skinny person losing weight.
My problem with these rules is that they don’t account for different body types, nor do they account for the fact that men need more protein than women, because of the whole testosterone / estrogen muscle mass thing. I have yet to see anybody address this fact.
How to determine how much protein you need
Here are my rules that apply if you are either an Endomorph (typically big person) or an Ectomorph (typically skinny person). If you are a split body type like me, then split the protein difference.
Since you have a generally high nutrient absorption rate you need to adjust your protein intake as follows:
If the Endomorph is trying to lose weight then you are going to have to deal with the fact that you will also be losing both muscle mass and strength. Consequently, if you are trying to become a power lifter you will need to increase you protein intake. It’s not by mistake that all the World’s Strongest Men shows on ESPN are ALL Endomorphic people. I have found in my experience that even at peak levels a male Endomorph athlete can absorb more than 10% of their body weight in grams of protein. Also, since men have between 20 – 40% more muscle than women, a woman’s protein level should also be adjusted accordingly.
Weight Loss = g/lb. In order to lose weight you HAVE to be active, even more so because of your body type.
- Active: 0.5/1 (Men AND Women because weight loss for an Endomorph woman is much harder than for a Endomorph man)
- Very Active: 0.6/1 (Men AND Women)
- Athlete: 0.7/1 (Men AND Women)
Endomorph Muscle Mass Gain
- Active: 1/1 (Men) 0.6/1 (Women)
- Very Active: 1.25/1 (Men) 0.75/1 (Women)
- Athlete: 1.5/1 (Men) 1.1/1 (Women)
True Ectomorphs have no issues losing weight. it’s the equivalent of the Endomorph trying to gain weight. I have found in my experience that even at peak levels a male Ectomorph athlete cannot absorb more than 8% of their body weight in grams of protein. Also, since men have between 20 – 40% more muscle than women, a woman’s protein level should also be adjusted accordingly.
Muscle gain – Since your body largely dumps what it does not , a high protein diet is like throwing money out the window. And generally Ectomorphs have high stomach acid levels which make gaining muscle mass even harder.
- Active: 0.6/1(Men) 0.4/1 (Women)
- Very Active: 0.7/1 (Men) 0.5/1 (Women)
- Athlete: 0.8/1 (Men) 0.6/1 (Women)
This person gains muscle mass easily, but also gains fat fairly easy as well. Also, since men have between 20 – 40% more muscle than women, a woman’s protein level should be adjusted accordingly.
- Active: 0.8/1 (Men) 0.6//1 (Women)
- Very Active: 0.9/1 (Men) 0.7/1 (Women)
- Athlete: 1/1 (Men) 0.8/1 (Women)
Instead of just following the crowd and what most books say, I look at what actually makes sense and make my determination based on my own thinking and what is logical. Even being in the fitness industry I have never heard of any major publication actually addressing the fact that men’s and women’s bodies ARE different and adjustments HAVE to be made.
This concludes my post on how to determine how much protein you need.