T Nation

Female Daily Protein Needs

I will be helping a lady friend with her daily meal plan. Can anyone recommend a daily protein amount for a female? She is not interested in putting on any mass so the 1 gram per 1 lb of body weight is probably way too high. Her daily workout plan calls for only light-moderate weight training but heavy cardio.

Thanks for your input.

A few questions first. What are her goals beyond ‘not putting on mass’? And why light-moderate weights and heavy cardio? Does she have an injury(s) that would prevent her from lifting heavy (which incidentally burns a ton more overall calories than cardio and should be a priority for anyone looking for fat loss). What’s her training age (number of years spent training) and chronological age? How about her height, weight, and BF as well? Lotsa questions I know, but you’ll get a more complete and useful answer when you provide the necessary data.

Hi, James. Just some of my quick thoughts. . .

Muscle is muscle, whether it is female muscle or male muscle. Protein requirements are the same. The 1g per pound of body weight you mentioned, depending on body composition goals, is a bare MINIMUM. Whatever the number is, your lady friend’s daily protein requirements should be divided into five, six or MORE meals. Make it three meals, three snacks.

If she’s trying to lose weight, taking in enough protein protects LBM (and the number for weight loss should probably be 1.5g of protein per pound of body weight, maybe 2g if calories are more severely restricted). If one were trying to bulk, taking in enough protein promotes the necessary substrates for anabolism. Once again, I probably like 1.5 to 2g per pound of body weight (maybe even a little more if one were using an androgen/steroid/pro-steroid).

I don’t know what your lady friend’s body composition goals are, but heavy cardio (meaning more than four 30-minute sessions per week) can be highly catabolic. Unless post-workout nutrition is handled properly, she’s likely to lose muscle and lower her metabolism.

I’d strongly recommend that you start reading everything you can get your hands on by John Berardi here on t-mag in the article archives. Diet is important, but also the workout part of things, too.

Last thing, even with heavy, monster exercises – i.e., multi-joint, compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, olympic-style lifts, bench presses, chin-ups, bench presses and the like – your lady friend will not put on ANY bulk or mass if she’s eating at maintenance. The only changees she’ll see will be a reduction in BF and increased definition. Her muscles will not get bigger, only harder and more dense.

Just some food for thought, discussion and debate . . .

I’m female, 50, and have given up my hours of cardio for small amounts of cardio and serious weight training, including squats and deads as heavy as I can do with good form. I’ve given up a relatively low fat nearly-veggie diet for 1 gram protein per lb lean body mass. So, basically, I’ve gone from What Women Should Do to lifting.

I did gain mass. While my shape got smaller, I fit into old smaller sizes of jeans, and I looked better in the mirror, I did gain pounds. You fellas probably recognize that as a good thing, but as someone programmed with years of What Women Should Do, I found it quite difficult to deal with at first. But I finally got used to the idea, and I'd recommend it to any woman. Lift heavy weights, eat more protein and good fats, get smaller and never mind if that means heavier.

Just let your lady friend know that it would take more than increased protein to gain ALOT of muscle. Also tell her that any bit of added mass will increase her LBM. Which, I’d think, would be a good thing. Muscle is also shapelier than fat, sleeker than fat.

I agree with Demo: please provide more info.

Thanks for your input everyone–very helpful.