Understanding what your body needs can be complicated. There might be people around you who are thriving on certain types of diet, but those same choices have left you feeling off your game. Whether this be upping your daily protein intake, or how to balance those macros effectively for your goals, everyone’s requirements are slightly different. Even the terminology can be confusing, but that’s why we’re here - to give you a comprehensive rundown of how to calculate what you need!
Defining your goals is a great way to get started on understanding your protein requirements and how to balance your diet and lifestyle to achieve your aims. Even if your aim is to maintain your current weight or level of fitness, then understanding what your body needs to do this is very important.
In this guide, we will start by asking whether your age and gender are important to your protein requirements, defining your goals and activity levels, and showing you how to use this information to calculate the protein you need. You can then amend your diet or introduce the best protein powder to suit your needs. Remember, as your diet or lifestyle changes, your protein requirements may well change too. You might need to review your protein intake on a regular basis to check that it is still right for you.
- Gender and age; do they matter?
- What are my goals?
- How active am I?
- How do I make sure I'm getting enough protein?
- How do I know if I'm having too much protein?
Gender and age; do they matter?
Ultimately, the amount of protein that the body requires is based on your body mass (weight) and your goals. As women typically weigh less than men, their protein requirements for similar goals are likely to be smaller. Although this might not necessarily be the case in every situation, the upper limit for protein for women is slightly lower than for men.
Age, however, does play a part in the amount of protein we need. As we age, our muscles need more help to maintain themselves as our levels of muscle protein synthesis decrease. This is equally true of men and women, and should be taken into consideration when planning your meals and supplements. This is particularly important for those over the age of 50 when the body can begin to lose muscle mass in a process known as sarcopenia, reducing your muscle mass by up to 8%.
Alongside the protein we consume through food, protein powders can help us to meet our goals and provide us with better recovery, an amino acid boost, and some of the vitamins and minerals we also need. Protein powders are not made differently dependent on biological sex, which means you can focus on getting a flavour you enjoy!
We have previously released guides on what men and women need to know about protein, including how age can affect our ability to process protein within the body. You can find that information below if you would like a more in depth read.
What are my goals?
Goal setting, or goal management, is an important step in recognising your ideal daily protein intake. Setting a goal and breaking it down into small sections is a great way to start. This will help you to understand how to get the most from your goals, and how you can use protein to help you accomplish this. Let’s take a look at three common goals:
Whilst many people understand the principles of using protein supplements to help with gaining weight and muscle, it is less widely known that protein powders can be used as an aid to weight loss.
If this is a goal for you, then using protein with exercise and a healthy diet can help you to achieve it. Protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, and a higher protein intake has been observed to help retain lean muscle mass in conjunction with a calorie deficit. This means that your weight loss will come from fat and not the loss of muscle. Bonus!
A protein powder can be an excellent way of upping your protein intake without a huge amount of calories, carbs and fat, throwing your macro balance out. We’ve gone into more detail about this in our protein powder for weight loss guide.
Maintain healthy weight:
Just because you’re not looking to bulk up or trim down, doesn’t mean that your need for protein diminishes. In fact, proteins play so many roles in the body that ensuring you’re getting enough is always going to be important.
Protein plays a key role in keeping your hair, skin and nails healthy, maintaining bone strength and density (vital as we age!) and keeping your heart and red blood cells healthy. Protein is responsible for helping you to maintain and repair muscle, so once you’ve reached your goal, you’ll need to keep working to maintain it. Whether you choose to do this with diet, exercise, or both, protein will play a part.
Gains, gains, gains:
Muscle building is possibly the best known use of proteins, particularly protein powders and supplements. Protein is vital for muscle protein synthesis, which aids in the growth and repair of muscle tissue, meaning that it not only plays an important role in the growth of muscle itself, it is equally as important for recovery.
Protein powders for muscle gain is an important topic, as you will want to ensure that you are gaining muscle in the healthiest way possible. Ensuring that you are taking time to rest and recover and eating healthily being amongst them the ways that we need to understand our limits.
If you are aiming to bulk up, then you are probably aware of the notion that animal protein is the best way to gain muscle mass, but our nutritionist’s guide to vegan bodybuilding shows you all the methods of gaining muscle mass on a plant based diet.
How active am I?
Your level of activity is another important factor in understanding your ideal recommended daily protein intake. A sedentary person, for example, requires less protein day to day than their counterparts who have a very active lifestyle. This is because the body uses more proteins to offset the work it does in exercise and training, and because more protein is needed for recovery after exercise. On rest days, you might find that you don’t need or want as much protein, as your body isn’t working as hard.
How do I make sure I’m getting enough protein?
Right, time for maths! There are lots of numbers out there, but the recommended daily value for proteins is between 0.8 and 1.2 grams of protein for every kilo of bodyweight. This is where your activity levels come into play, with 1.2 grams of protein being the levels needed for an athlete and anything below that is dependent on how much exercising you’re doing.
This equates to a daily protein intake of roughly to 45g-55g per day for the average sedentary person, and up to 120g or more for professional athletes.
It’s possible for your protein requirements to change depending on how far along you are with your goal, or if that goal changes. Reviewing your protein intake on a regular basis will help you to understand what your body needs for you to see the results you want.
If you’re not a fan of maths, or if you want a quick and easy way to understand your goals, then this calculator will help you to understand your protein requirements.
How do I know if I’m having too much protein?
There are warning signs that you’re ingesting too much protein, and this is something that you shouldn’t ignore. There are studies which suggest that protein muscle synthesis has an upper limit, around 1.8 grams per kilo of bodyweight for an elite athlete. This means that those of us who train for fun and fitness need less than this for an effective balance.
Check out these four signs that you are having too much protein, and keep an eye on your activity levels, whether you are building muscle, and how you feel when you think about protein rich foods or supplements.
Above all, listen to your body, it has a tendency to tell you when you’re overdoing it or if you’re not giving it everything it needs. It’s a very clever piece of evolutionary engineering, and understanding what it needs can be tricky, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll begin to feel amazing. Go for it!
Our VEGAN PROTEIN is made from pea, hemp and pumpkin and can add 20g of protein to your daily routine. Or try our PERFORM: Vegan protein powder with BCCAs - it’s packed with 25g of protein per serving, as well as 6g of BCAAs.