Protein Calculator: Ultimate Guide for Calculating Your Protein Requirements

A photo of a toy dino, who I'm sure doesn't bother with a protein calculator.

So, you want to know how much protein you need?

Well my friend, you’ve arrived at the right place.

We built a protein calculator to help our Online Coaching clients and I’m excited to share it with you today too!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

You look like you’re in a hurry, so let’s jump right in!

The Nerd Fitness Protein Calculator

The Nerd Fitness Protein Calculator

On the Metric System? Click here

Boom! 

You now have a range for the amount of protein you need in a day!

I know…we just threw a lot at you. 

A gif of a confused Michael Scott, who doesn't know how to use our protein calculator.

Let’s explain some of these numbers and equations in case you want to nerd out on the details. 

How Much Protein Should I Eat in a Day?

A LEGO holding a hot dog, which may help with his protein goals.

As we cover in our guide How Much Protein Do I Need to Eat, you’re going to find all sorts of different recommendations for how much protein you should be consuming.

For example, the current international Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.4g per pound of bodyweight (0.8 g per kg of body weight).[1]

Case closed?

Nope.

This gif shows a confused John Reily, who probably can't use a calculator.

In our opinion, and as described in this review article[2] the RDA for protein is too low and should be higher regardless of your body composition.

Our calculator actually starts you off at 0.54–0.82g per pound of bodyweight (1.2–1.8 g/kg), which tops out at over twice the level of the RDA.[3]

Also, the amount of protein you eat will depend on your individual goals. That’s why we have so many variables in our protein calculator.

The RDA’s blanket recommendation for protein intake is oversimplified.

We’ll dive into this further in the subsequent sections.

One final point: we gave you a wide recommended range of protein, because people vary quite a bit in their protein needs.

Chef saying "Everybody's different, but that's okay."

So don’t take our protein recommendation as gospel!

Consider your results here as a starting point. Try one range, see how you feel, and take it up or down from there.

If you respond well to a protein intake that’s not within our recommended range, don’t sweat it!

The protein recommendations here come from studies, and studies are based on averages. You may be an outlier.

Use our calculator as a starting point, and assess your results over time. We give this same advice to our coaching clients when they ask us about protein.

How Much Protein Should I Eat to Build Muscle?

A photo of LEGO Hulk, who I don't think eats protein to look like that.

If you’re trying to build muscle, you’re going to want to eat enough protein to induce muscle repair and growth. 

Proteins are the building blocks of muscle, so you’ll need plenty if you’re looking to build a muscular physique!

How much?

If you’re of healthy weight, active, and wish to build muscle, aim for 0.64–1.09 g/lb (1.4–2.4 g/kg).[4]

There is some evidence that a higher range might be beneficial. Not so much in gaining more muscle, but to minimize fat gain during a bulking phase.[5] 

As we mention in our guide, 12 Tips to Gain Weight Quickly, you might put on a little fat when eating in a caloric surplus to grow muscle.

Yep, the bigger you are, the more calories you need.

More protein may counteract this a little.[6] 

If you’re an experienced lifter on a bulk, intakes up to 1.50 g/lb (3.3 g/kg) may help you minimize fat gain.

Now of course, if you want to grow muscle, you can’t just eat protein…you also need to strength train!

Luckily, we’re experts on that.

Here are some resources to begin your training:

  1. 5 Best Strength Training Workout Routines For Beginners. If you don’t know where to start your strength training journey, start here. This guide will walk you through bodyweight exercises onto becoming a full gym warrior (here’s how to build a home gym if you’re avoiding public facilities). 
  2. The Beginner Bodyweight Workout. If you’re looking for an exercise routine that can be done ANYWHERE, look no further. Our beginner routine has jumpstarted many Rebels in their strength training. You’d be surprised how much muscle you can build with your own weight, a milk jug, and a sturdy table. 
  3. Build Your Own Workout Routine. After you do a workout or two, it’s time to strategize. What should you train and on what days? When should you rest? Our guide will walk you through building a complete routine. 

Another option is to check out our Online Coaching Program, where a trained expert can build you a customized workout, then adjust it each month based on your progress:

How Much Protein Should I Eat to Lose Weight?

This runner definitely has a strong core!

If you’re looking to lose weight, eating plenty of protein will be an important part of the equation. 

Why is protein important for weight loss?

Think of it this way: protein is the only macronutrient you don’t store.[7] 

  • Carbs are stored as muscle glycogen.
  • Fat is stored as body fat.

Your body can use either as a fuel source while it’s in a calorie deficit.

Not so for protein.

Meaning most of the protein in your body is currently doing a job: building muscle tissue, making enzymes, strengthening bones, etc.

If you don’t eat enough protein, your body will turn towards your muscles for its needs.

So if you’re not careful when you’re losing weight, you could lose muscle AND fat.

Obviously, from a health and physique standpoint, this is not good.

Cartman's Mom saying "Oh Dear" to not eating enough protein.

That’s why you need to eat plenty of protein and strength train when you’re in a calorie deficit – so you lose fat while retaining your hard-earned muscle mass.

This is something we cover extensively in Can I Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?

(Spoiler alert: you can with the right plan.)

The other important point about protein and fat loss: protein will help you stay full.[8]

If you’re trying to lose weight, keeping your hunger at bay will be critical. Luckily, studies have found that those on a high-protein diet tend to eat fewer calories overall.[9]

If you can’t seem to lose weight, start eating plenty of protein!

Are you currently on a weight-loss mission?

We can help

Here are some resources to get you going:

  1. The 5 Rules of Weight Loss. If you’ve ever been on a diet, or are currently on a diet, give this a read. Here we discuss why people succeed with popular dieting programs and why they don’t, plus actionable steps you can take to achieve sustainable weight loss.
  2. Start Eating Healthy Without Being Miserable. If you’re confused about healthy eating (“Should I nix carbs? Do I have to count calories?”), start here. We’ll explain how to consistently build healthy meals while still eating the foods you love. Nobody should be forced to give up pizza forever. 
  3. How Many Calories Should I Eat Every Day? We’re not going to make you count calories for the rest of your life. However, we do want you to have some awareness of the number of calories you are eating. We’ll give you a range to shoot for, plus some tips on how to portion control

You can also download a Free 10 Level Diet Guide too when you join the Rebellion and sign up in the box below:

Can I Eat Too Much Protein?

This poor lego is about to be eaten by a raptor, but at least he'll provide some protein.

Now that I’ve drilled it into your head that you should be eating plenty of protein, a natural question will arise:

How much protein is too much protein?

We’ve got good news for you: as long as you’ve got a healthy liver and kidneys, you can eat lots of protein with no ill effects.

As Examine points out in its research on protein:[10]

“Higher protein intakes seem to have no negative effects in healthy people,”** 

**Of course, if you have specific kidney or medical issues with regards to protein intake, PLEASE go with your doctor’s recommendation for required protein consumption!

Go ahead and aim for the high end from our protein calculator

One final note: if our current recommendation  for protein is a lot higher than what you normally do, ease into it.

The Dude telling you to "take it easy" with your protein ramp up.

Don’t go from minimal protein intake to woofing down steak and eggs while chugging a protein shake.[11]

Studies have found that immediately doubling protein intake can have negative effects.[12] 

Increase your intake gradually, a little more each day, and you’ll be fine!

How to Get Enough Protein (Next Steps)

I'm not sure what this photo of Abe Lincoln riding a Raptor has to do with a protein calculator, but it is awesome.

Now that you have an estimate of the amount of protein you need, the last question to answer is: how do I eat all this protein?

Our #1 recommendation is to get protein from whole foods whenever possible. This will ensure you get plenty of vitamins and minerals.

A serving of protein is about the size and thickness of your palm:

A serving of protein should be about the size of your palm, like so.

Protein can come from any number of sources, including:

  • Meat (steak, bison, pork).
  • Fowl (chicken, turkey, duck).
  • Eggs[13]
  • Fish and shellfish (salmon, tuna, shrimp).
  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas).

Not a meat-eater? Read our massive plant-based guide!

However, if you’re aiming for the higher ranges of protein intake (or you’re on a serious bulk,) you might need to supplement. 

Personally, I drink a protein shake daily to help me reach my goals. 

A blender can help you obtain more calories for weight gain.

Some protein supplements to consider:

  1. Whey protein powder, a milk byproduct widely used as a protein supplement.[14]
  2. Egg-based protein powders
  3. Pea protein powder, a popular supplement in the plant-based community

Check out The Ultimate Protein Shake Guide for more protein powder recommendations and recipes on how to make delicious smoothies. 

Whether through whole foods or supplements, protein should be a main part of every meal you eat. It’s one of our top recommendations for being a healthy nerd. 

Calculate your protein needs, determine the proper portion sizes to reach your target, and see how you feel!

You can always adjust up or down based on your results.

A gif of frogs on a seesaw, who probably balance their protein intake by eating lots of flys.

If you need any help along the way, we got you. 

Here are three ways to continue your journey with Nerd Fitness. 

#1) Our Online Coaching program: a coaching program for busy people to help them make better food choices, stay accountable, and get healthier, permanently.

As I said before, we teach portion control to our clients who struggle with overeating, so we’ll provide a non-judgmental expert to help you reach your goals.

You can schedule a free call with our team so we can get to know you and see if our coaching program is right for you:

#2) If you want an exact blueprint leveling up your nutrition, check out Nerd Fitness Journey! Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

If you follow our Nutrition missions, you’ll learn to eat more protein while earning XP! Sah-weeeet.

Try your free trial right here:

#3) Join the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion.

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our Rebel Starter Kit, which includes all of our “work out at home” guides, the Nerd Fitness Diet Cheat Sheet, and much more!

Alright, I want to hear from you:

Did you calculate your protein requirements?

Do you generally consume around this target?

Have any tips or tricks for getting enough protein?

Let us know in the comments!

-Steve

PS: Check out the rest of our protein series:

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Photo source: When Dinosaurs ruled the Earth, Bruce “green” Banner, Who wants a hot dog?, Morning run with the Fitbit, Sneaky Raptor, This one’s for you, Robert E. Lee!

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