Expert Q&A

Protein: Do your needs increase if you workout?

Do I need additional protein because I work out?

In general, experts recommend that approximately 55-60% of our calories come from carbohydrates, 25-30% from fat and 10-15% from protein. I usually recommend individuals consume 55% of their calories from carbohydrate, 30% from healthy fats and 15% from protein. Many athletes on strength training programs or who participate heavily in sports, or even individuals who work out regularly are told that eating additional protein or taking protein supplements will help them gain muscle weight and is needed for replenishment.

However, the true secret to building muscle is establishing a good strength training program and consuming enough calories. While some extra protein is needed to build muscle, again most American diets provide more than enough protein. Approximately 1.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is sufficient if your calorie intake is adequate and you're eating a variety of foods. For a 150-pound person, that represents about 70 grams of protein a day (rounded up from 68). For a person consuming 1800 calories each day, 70 grams of protein makes up 15.5% of their total calories, right on target!

Source: Holland A. “Dietary intake and nitrogen balance in athletes with and without consumption of a protein supplement.” Hum Nutr Appl Nutr. 1987;41(5):367-72.

Michèle Turcotte, MS, RD/LDN
Contributing Expert

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