How much protein do you need?

How much protein do you need?

Good question! The answer depends on many factors. The WHO (World Health Organization) set the minimum protein intake at about 1/3 of a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. The first column in the chart below reflects this minimum amount, which is set low enough to include third world countries. However, you need optimal amounts - not minimum amounts - for survival. Begin by looking in the left column below and select your ideal body weight. Protein requirements for most people should fall between the Medium and Typical columns. Daily Protein SuggestionsStudies show weightlifters might need .72g/lb. of bodyweight, highly trained cyclists might need .8g/lb., rigorous exercise training might require 1.3g/lb., and world-class weightlifters may use upwards of 1.6g/lb. A good rule of thumb is to eat protein (grams) to match your ideal body weight.


Where can you get this much protein?

Eat whole foods such as meat, fish, eggs poultry, dairy and soy. If you don't have time for a protein-rich meal, then use a protein powder. Vegetarians tend to need protein powders desperately since complete proteins are usually lacking in their diet.


Protein Quality Ratings

The chart below shows four different rating methods scientists use to evaluate the quality of several proteins. The higher the number shown in the columns, the better your body uses the protein.

B.V. (Biological Value) is the proportion of absorbed protein that is retained in the body for maintenance and/or growth. The highest score of 100 was given for the best protein at the time, egg. However, whey protein came along and proved even better than egg.Protein Source Chart

P.E.R. (Protein Efficiency Ratio) is the gain in body weight divided by the weight of the protein consumed.

N.P.U. (Net Protein Utilization) is the proportion of protein intake that is retained (calculated as BV times Digestibility).

PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) is based on the amino acid requirements of humans. A protein scoring a 1.0 indicates it meets all the essential amino acid requirements of humans according to the Food Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization. However, it does not take into account surplus essential amino acids some proteins have that could compensate for lower levels in another protein like beans.

Whey protein tops the list as the best quality protein due to its specific amino acid array. Lower quality vegetable proteins are at the bottom of the list due to low levels of one or more essential amino acids. However, one protein is not superior to others in all ways. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Whey, Milk, Egg and Soy Protein


Whey Protein

This protein from milk is a by-product of cheese making. About 20% of the protein in milk is whey and 80% is casein. A filtering step converts it to a pure protein.

• One of the highest quality proteins on earth. The B.V. (Biological Value) is 104, higher than all other
animal proteins.
• Good for lactose-sensitive people.
• Digests fast; won't leave you feeling full.
• Supports immune health from certain protein components.
• High in BCAAs (branched chain amino acids), important for bodybuilders and dieters since BCAAs
can be used for fuel, potentially sparing muscle tissue.
• Supports IGF-1(Insulin-like Growth Factor), which is important for bodybuilders.

• Because it digests fast, it won't keep you satisfied for very long.
• Lower in naturally occurring glutamine than milk proteins, which is why glutamine is added
to some formulas.


Milk Protein (Casein)

• This slow digesting protein keeps you full longer since it must form a gel during digestion before
it is absorbed. This slower transit time may extend the exposure of the protein in the intestines
and may help increase absorption.
• Has a naturally high glutamine content, higher than whey, soy or egg.
• Very low in lactose.
• One of the best proteins for building muscle.

• Some people have allergies to casein protein. If you have milk allergies from lactose only,
then casein should not pose any problems since it is very low lactose.


Egg Protein (egg white or egg albumen)

This protein used to be the 'gold standard' that all other proteins were measured against until whey protein came along. Most formulas contain very little egg protein.

• Excellent amino acid profile with sulfur-bearing amino acids.

• Slightly bitter taste.
• People unjustifiably perceive it to be high in cholesterol. But the bad rap on egg comes from the yolk, not the egg white. The egg in protein powders is egg white.


Soy Protein

Soy protein is processed from the soybean plant. Most of the fat, fiber and carbs are removed. Since it is a vegetable product, it has no cholesterol.

• Reduces heart disease risk. The FDA has approved a health claim as follows, "25 grams
of soy protein daily in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."
It is thought that the isoflavones, found only in the protein portion of soy, account for its heart-healthy benefits. 
• May help with normal thyroid function to keep your metabolism steady.
• High in glutamine, about the same as casein.
• Has phytoestrogens which may temper symptoms of menopause in middle-aged women.

• Not as high quality of a protein due to limiting essential amino acids.
• Not as good as whey or milk proteins for building muscle.
• Does not taste very good.
• Some brands use GMO soy, meaning it is from Genetically Modified Soybeans. Most brands
are switching to the more expensive non-GMO (non-genetically modified) soy for this reason.


In summary, different proteins offer varying advantages. We suggest you consume a variety of proteins in your diet but be sure to get optimal amounts for optimal health!

Previous Next Back to Top
More Related Articles