Protein recommendations are all over the map. Is it the most annoying thing in life?
It’s a toss up between that and the “close door” button that doesn’t actually do anything on elevators. Between those two things, it’s enough to drive a person crazy.
I can help you out with one of them (hint: I’m not an elevator mechanic).
Successful Weight Loss
Part of the reason protein information varies so much is because advice changes depending on the context.
I’ve pared this article down to one protein recommendation specifically for if you want to lose weight.
It’s not “the” protein advice you should follow in all circumstances for the rest of your life (although you could). It’s a simple math equation, and it will give you a reliable guideline to set you up for success.
First, though, what is success?
When it comes to losing weight, success is:
Actual fat loss, not lean mass loss
Sustainable fat loss, not short lived results
Weight loss promoting health, not at its expense
Getting enough protein is a major part of all of that. We’ve written about this in other articles, so I won’t go into the details as to why, but I encourage you to do your homework.
Read this article to understand the health aspects of protein.
Read this article to understand how to use protein in conjunction with other factors to prioritize sustainable fat loss (rather than the loss of lean mass).
And read this article to see the other considerations necessary for weight loss, because perfecting your protein intake alone won’t do it.
Then come back here for a more specific protein recommendation for losing weight.
If you’ve ever figured out the price of a discounted item on a shopping trip, you can do this math. Simply take your weight, and “discount it” by whatever percentage of body fat you carry.
For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, and you think you’re at 25% body fat, take your weight and multiply it by .75 (because if your body is 25% fat, there is 75% left over that’s lean mass).
The answer (150), is approximately how many grams of protein you should aim for on a daily basis. Written out:
200 X .75 = 150 or…
your weight X your lean mass = daily grams of protein
If you’re wondering how to determine your body fat percentage/lean mass, there’s a simple solution. Do a Google image search for “estimating body fat percentage” and pick any one of the images you see, then take a guess at where you’re at.
(Find one that’s gender specific to you.)
Is that accurate? Not especially. But it’ll get you close enough.
Even the best body fat measurements aren’t much more accurate. This approach, which is free and quick, will get the job done just fine.
If, after looking at the images, you still can’t decide, go with the more conservative estimate (e.g. if you’re 20-25% body fat, go with 20.)
If You Hate This
This approach might not be for you. Maybe you hate math, or have no desire to estimate your body fat percentage. Whatever it is, if you hate this… no hard feelings.
There are other strategies.
For most of my clients, we take a more relaxed approach — but just as accurate — and track palm sized servings of protein rather than grams and calories (as you can see here).
If anything, this could still be a fun, temporary experiment for you.
Use the formula to figure out how many grams of protein you need. Then track what you’re eating for a week or two and see how close you are.
If you’re already eating enough protein, good job! Find something else to work on.
However, odds are good that you won’t even be close.
At that point, you’ll have to decide if losing weight successfully (as defined earlier) is important to you. If it is, what’s the best strategy for you moving forward?
Whether you decide you need help with protein or something else, download our free ebook, “Forever Fat Loss” for ideas on how to start making a difference right now.