What’s A Good Daily Protein Intake? Average Daily Protein Intake For Adults

We speak with dietitian Carissa Galloway for expert tips on how to optimize our protein intake.

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We often hear about the importance of eating enough protein, both for overall health and for increasing satiety.

But, how much protein do you actually need to consume per day? What is the average daily protein intake for different individuals?

We spoke with Carissa Galloway, RDN, a Registered Dietitian and the Premier Protein Nutrition Consultant about a good daily protein intake based on body size, activity level, and age along with tips to optimize your protein consumption.1smithbrosagency.com, S. B. A. |. (n.d.). Protein Shakes & Bars | Energy for Every Day. Premier Protein. https://www.premierprotein.com/

Let’s get started!

A variety of proteins such as eggs, fish and meat.

What Is a Good Daily Protein Intake for Adults?

The daily value (DV) for protein (which represents the average intake that works for most people) for adults is 50 grams per day. This equates to 200 calories of protein.

The recommended daily intake of protein is set at 46-63 grams for most adults, and up to 65 grams per day for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

The RDI represents the nutrient requirements for 97-98% of healthy individuals.

These protein recommendations tend to be lower than how much protein most adults eat on average, and may only be appropriate for smaller adults and those who are relatively inactive.

“For adults, a common recommendation is to consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight,” says Galloway.

“If you engage in regular physical activity or strength training, protein needs may be higher, ranging from 1.2 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. Athletes and individuals with specific fitness goals might benefit from the upper end of this range.”

Note that to convert your body weight in pounds to kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.

Protein powder and shakes.

For example, if you weigh 180 pounds: 180 pounds / 2.2 = 82 kilograms 

So, if you are relatively inactive or not exercising vigorously or strength training, you would then multiply 82 kg x 0.8 g because the recommendation for daily protein consumption for adults is 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight.

This comes out to approximately 66 g of protein.

Because there are 4 kcal per gram of protein, you can multiply 66 x 4 = 264 calories of protein per day.

Keep in mind this is the low end of the daily protein recommendations and most adults, particularly active individuals, will consume more protein per day. 

The upper range for the grams of protein to eat per day is 2.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for a strength training athlete or someone who is exercising vigorously and regularly.

An active 180-pound person should eat 180 grams of protein per day (180 pounds / 2.2 = 82 kilograms. 82 kg x 2.2 = 180 pounds).

A variety of protein sources.

What you will notice about these protein intake recommendations provided by Galloway is that the upper end of the range of how much protein an active person should eat per day ends up being 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

This is because converting pounds to kilograms uses a conversion factor of dividing by 2.2 and the recommendation for a good daily protein intake is to have 2.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, which cancel each other out.

Galloway adds that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding also have increased daily protein needs in order to support the development of the fetus and milk production for lactation.

“The recommended intake during pregnancy is approximately 1.1 grams per kilogram of body weight,” she advises.

“Individuals with certain health conditions, such as kidney disease, may require adjustments to their protein intake. It is advisable to consult with healthcare professionals, including dietitians, to determine appropriate levels based on your specific health needs.”

A variety of protein sources.

How Does Body Weight Affect How Much Protein I Should Eat Per Day?

Galloway explains that protein recommendations are often expressed in relation to body weight because body weight is a key factor for determining your metabolic rate (basal metabolic rate, BMR) and overall energy expenditure. 

“It provides a more personalized approach to dietary recommendations,” says Galloway, referring to the protein recommendations given in terms of grams of protein per pound of body weight or grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

“Individuals with a higher body weight may have proportionally higher protein requirements to support their metabolic demands, muscle maintenance, and overall health.”

Keep in mind that lean body mass (muscle mass) is going to require more protein than body fat.

How Does Age Affect Protein Needs?

“Protein needs may change with age due to factors such as changes in body composition, muscle mass, and overall metabolism,” suggests Galloway.

“Older adults, especially those over the age of 65, may benefit from slightly higher protein intake (1.0 to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight) to support muscle retention and prevent age-related muscle loss (sarcopenia).”

These elevated protein recommendations for seniors are based on the 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight recommendation for younger adults who are not engaged in structured training programs, weightlifting, or endurance exercise.

Active seniors should follow the protein recommendations for active adults, striving to eat closer to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.

A runner on a track.

What Is A Good Protein Intake for Athletes?

Galloway says that the primary differentiating factor for how much protein you need per day is the type of exercise that you do and the intensity of your workouts.

“Protein intake for endurance athletes should generally fall within the range of 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight,” advises Galloway.

“Protein needs for individuals engaged in weightlifting or other strength training activities are typically higher than protein needs for endurance athletes. A common recommendation for this type of activity is 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.”

The higher protein requirements for power athletes and strength training athletes are due to the fact that heavy resistance training causes muscle fibers to incur microscopic tears.

In order for muscle protein synthesis to occur, which is the process by which muscles are repaired, rebuilt, and strengthened to increase strength and muscle mass, the body needs an ample supply of amino acids.

These amino acids come from breaking down the proteins that you eat, so it’s important to get enough protein and add consistent doses when you are doing weightlifting workouts or other forms of heavy strength training.

“For individuals engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity to meet general health guidelines, a protein intake of approximately 1.2 to 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight is generally sufficient,” says Galloway.

“This range provides ample support for overall health, muscle maintenance, and recovery from regular physical activity. Be mindful of any kidney issues as you increase your protein intake.”

A salad with a chicken breast.

How Much Protein Should You Have Per Meal?

As mentioned above, what a good daily protein intake is is only part of what you need to consider with your protein intake.

How you distribute the grams of protein you should eat per day also matters.

“Spreading protein evenly across meals can optimize muscle protein synthesis and overall protein utilization,” explains Galloway.

“Try including a protein source in each meal and aim for a balanced distribution of protein, rather than consuming a large portion in one meal and minimal amounts in others.”

Galloway says that the ideal range for how much protein to eat per meal to maximize muscle protein synthesis is between 20 to 30 grams per meal.

This range is somewhat dependent on your body size but also on the quality or source of the protein. Not all proteins are “complete proteins.“

Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, which are the amino acids that your body cannot manufacture endogenously; you have to consume them in your diet.

Incomplete proteins are lacking at least one of the nine essential amino acids if not more. Plant-based proteins tend to be incomplete proteins, with the exception of soy and hemp.

This is why vegans, vegetarians, or those following a plant-based diet need to be mindful of eating a wide range of plant-based proteins.

Salmon and vegetables.

Is It Bad to Have Too Much Protein or Too Little Protein?

Because protein is an essential macromolecule that plays crucial roles in various physiological functions, consuming an insufficient amount of protein can have a number of adverse effects on your health and overall well-being.

According to Galloway, “An inadequate protein intake can lead to several adverse effects including muscle loss, decreased immune function, slow wound healing, hair, skin and nail issues, fluid imbalance, fatigue and weakness, and hormonal imbalances.”

However, registered dietitians and nutrition experts advise against consuming too much protein.2Santesso, N., Akl, E. A., Bianchi, M., Mente, A., Mustafa, R., Heels-Ansdell, D., & Schünemann, H. J. (2012). Effects of higher- versus lower-protein diets on health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition66(7), 780–788. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2012.37

‌For example, studies show that chronic high-protein intake that exceeds 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day for adults may cause digestive, renal, and vascular dysfunction and should be avoided.3Wu, G. (2016). Dietary protein intake and human health. Food & Function7(3), 1251–1265. https://doi.org/10.1039/c5fo01530h

‌“While protein is essential for overall health, excessive protein intake can have various consequences and potential health risks,” warns Galloway. ”These can include kidney strain, dehydration, digestive issues, nutrient imbalances, and bone health issues.”

A meal plan calendar.

Tips to Optimize Your Daily Protein Intake

Eating enough protein, and optimizing your protein intake in terms of the timing and the high-protein foods that you eat, are important for supporting your overall health, maintaining and repairing muscles, and carrying out various physiological functions. 

Galloway shares some tips to help you ensure you get an adequate and balanced amount of protein:

#1: Plan Ahead

If you have a busy schedule, plan the protein in meals ahead of time and keep snacks with convenient, high-quality protein nearby. 

“My go-to’s are Premier Protein High Protein Shakes (my favorite is the chocolate flavor), Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, and nut butter with whole-grain crackers or vegetables,” says Galloway. 

In terms of an optimal post-workout high-protein snack for recovery, Galloway loves the Premier Protein High Protein Shakes

“In addition to their smooth and creamy texture, Premier Protein High Protein Shakes have 30g of protein, 160 calories, and 1g of sugar,” she notes. “It’s a perfect grab-and-go way to ensure you have the boost of protein you need whenever and wherever you need it.”

Pre-made meals.

#2: Eat Diverse Protein Sources

Include a variety of protein sources in your diet, including lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, beans, tofu, and nuts. 

“This ensures you get a spectrum of essential amino acids and additional nutrients,” advises Galloway.

#3: Don’t Focus Just On Protein

“Plan meals that include a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats,” suggests Galloway. “This helps provide a well-rounded nutritional profile and ensures you meet your overall energy needs.”

#4: Read Food Labels and Look at Serving Sizes

This can help you make informed choices and monitor your daily protein intake.

For some tips on how to eat more protein, check out our guide to high-protein snacks you can grab on the go here.

Boiled eggs.

References

  • 1
    smithbrosagency.com, S. B. A. |. (n.d.). Protein Shakes & Bars | Energy for Every Day. Premier Protein. https://www.premierprotein.com/
  • 2
    Santesso, N., Akl, E. A., Bianchi, M., Mente, A., Mustafa, R., Heels-Ansdell, D., & Schünemann, H. J. (2012). Effects of higher- versus lower-protein diets on health outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition66(7), 780–788. https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2012.37
  • 3
    Wu, G. (2016). Dietary protein intake and human health. Food & Function7(3), 1251–1265. https://doi.org/10.1039/c5fo01530h
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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