T Nation

Protein: Some Math!


I've been a "long term lurker" but after reading so much sh** (esp. about protein) in the mythbuster 7 discussion thread - I decided to sign up!

Some little math.
Let's say you build 1 pound of muscle every week - that equals 52 pounds of muscle a year.
1 pound equals 450 g // 52 pound equal 23,5 kg or 23500 g.
A year has 356 days and if you divide the 23500 g of muscle build a year by 365 you get 64 g of muscle build every day.

Ok - now start thinking: do you really believe that you need a protein intake of 300 - 400 g to optimize muscle growth? Well - no! The optimum protein intake for an adult male is about 1 g of protein per kg - so a male adult with 200 pounds (91 kg) needs about 90 g of protein daily.
To the 90 g protein needed add the 64g of protein needed to build the muscles (and add 50% just to feel better) - and you get 90g + 90g = 180 g protein!
There is NO WAY you need 300g to 400g of protein DAILY!

Thank you.


So glad you signed up.


so thankfull for your great post thumbs up


Not everyone advocates 300-400g of protein daily. When I first started reading about nutrition for hypertrophy the conventional 'wisdom' set the bar at 2g per kg of bodyweight, which AMAZINGLY for your 90kg guy is 180g. This is what your long-winded calculations arrived at. AFAIK this is still a guideline that's used frequently.

Then again, if you want to eat more steak and chicken breast to get you over 180, why not? It beats stuffing your face with fries because you're 'on a bulk' and 'trying to get the calories in'.

Just my 0.02



Although the OP's calculations seem to make sense, this is yet another attempt to create a single rule for something that is different for every person. While your calculation might be correct for most people it won't be for everyone. I read an article on here by TC or Thibaudeau or some other expert that claimed he did not notice real gains until increasing protein intake to 400gr a day. This does not fit your calculation at all but I am dead sure that he (whoever it was) knew enough about bodybuilding and about his own body to deduce the gains to the increase in protein.

Personally I'd rather take in a little too much protein than not enough, so even though I may not need more than 180gr a day I'm still going to continue taking in 250-300gr a day.


I know that not "everybody advocates" 300g - 400g of protein intake. The point is that people believe that they need such a high protein intake - which is just not true. It has nothing to do with "believe" - it's just pure facts.

It's okay if you "eat more" with steak and chicken - and I agree that it is better than "stuffin your face with fries", but it's just not necessary trying to reacxh 400g protein with shakes and stuff.

It's like overfilling your cars gas tank and believing that it is necessary to drive - sure big cars need more gas but ... yeah, you get the idea.


I'm not trying to create a rule or something - I'm just saying that you can't negate physiological facts/rules.

I'm not saying you should stop eating protein - eat how much you like - if it feels better - go ahead - placebos work great too - but just don't get obsessed with protein intake and dont advocate it as a "must be" in gaining muscle (I know you didn't).


And I do agree you make a valid point. As you noted, many people get hung up on the idea that they need at least 300-400gr of proteine a day to make any kind of progess. Approaching bodybuidling from a more scientific angle and actually calculating how much one is likely to need might improve diet overall (no 4 not-so-tasty shakes a day) or if nothing else it might save the low-cash college students on here some money.


I agree with this. I do however eat more protein, simply because it keeps me full, and stops me wanting to stuff my face with crap food. (I am a fat boy trying to lose weight).

One of my first ever posts was about this very same subject, and I got a fair bit of: 'you're an idiot for not eating enough protein.'

I weighed 270ibs at the time. I know I need to lose about 70lbs, and am slowly doing just that. I had guys telling me I needed to eat 300+ grams of protein a day. My thinking being: 'Why feed 70lbs of fat?' I currently eat approx 200grms a day and I am losing weight, AND getting stronger (shock, horror!!)


It's more to protein synthesis and digestion than simple math.


'Pure facts'? No. You have taken an arbitrary figure for the amount of muscle gained (52lbs a year/1lb a week) and then rather erroneously assumed that this gain is a linear 64g a day. This is almost certainly not what actually happens. Do not mistake your random choices of figures as pure fact. Not everyone can even gain 52lbs of lean mass consistently year after year anyway.

And as matko5 said, there are numerous other factors at play here like protein digestion, absorption and nitrogen balance. These are all likely to vary immensely from person to person. For this reason alone, eating 200g a day might be fine for one person, but woefully insufficient for another.

That being said, if your point was to say that not everyone needs to eat 300-400g of protein a day, then you are correct. But no-one was saying that anyway.


Class of 2009 fail.

Yes, sure that 64g/day or 450g/week is going to all go into build muscle. Forget all the extra energy needed to actually move around and live, during the day and night. What about the energy spent actually lifting weights? No sir, that doesn't count, does it? Because we've perfected the art of human science down to a T, haven't we? You should probably consider those magic 256 calories of protein will be converted to energy.

Find me 1 person with an appreciative amount of muscle mass that built it on 180g of protein a day.


ok, as a former fat boy, i'll get a larger portion of my calories from carbohydrates. thanks for the advice!!


Protein doesn't simply accumulate and occupy space in your body like pennies in a jar.


"Everybody needs more protein !"


Protein synthesis and muscle repair is slightly more complicated than 100% of your protein intake is dedicated to muscle repair and building.


If you have any muscles you have to eat protein just to keep that, not to mention how much you need if you want to build muscles.


Exactly. Many experts advocate 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to build muscle anyway, so for the 200 pound male example works out to 200 grams, which is pretty close to 180.


Positive nitrogen balance?
There's more protein is used for besides skeletal muscle.

/End thread


Thank you, I'm glad someone mentioned positive nitrogen balance. Plus, 4 scoops of whey doesn't contain 90 grams of BCAAs.