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How Much Protein Should You Eat to Lose Weight?


How much protein should I eat to lose weight?

Ways to View This Blog:

1. Video 2. TL;DR 3. Read On...


“Protein is important, I get it. But how much do I really need? Does it change for weight loss or should I always eat the same amount?”


Good questions.


It might seem like it would be helpful to know the exact number of grams to eat (and I’ll give you an answer to that). But there’s an even more practical way to make sure you get enough protein — I’ll cover that, too.


So be sure to stick around to the end.

Successful Weight Loss

I remember, years ago, I would chug whey protein shakes twice a day just because that’s what the fit people I followed were doing. As a person whose stomach doesn’t tolerate a lot of dairy, it made for some unpleasant experiences (I’ll spare you the details).


One reason protein recommendations vary so much is just because there’s a lot of bad nutrition advice out there.


The other reason is because even good protein recommendations can change depending on the context.


For instance, the Food and Nutrition Board in the U.S. recommends eating a certain amount of protein just to not get sick or die. But a professional bodybuilder who wants to build as much muscle as humanly possible may be advised to eat 3x that amount.


“Not dying” and “building superhuman amounts of muscle” are clearly very different goals.


Neither one is “wrong” — they just won’t provide super realistic guidelines for the average person who simply wants to lose some weight and be a little healthier.


That’s why I’m here.


This advice isn’t for bodybuilders or professional athletes, but it also isn’t for anyone whose only goal is to have a quality of life one step above “not dead.” If you want your weight loss journey to be TRULY successful so you have:


✅ Actual fat loss, not lean-mass loss (e.g. muscle, bone, etc.)

✅ Results that are sustainable, not short-lived

✅ Healthy habits so you feel stronger and have more energy


…then it’s important to get a certain amount of protein each day.


(This article is specifically about “how much” protein to eat. If you’re curious as to why it even matters, read “Is Protein Really All That Important”).

Quick Disclaimer


The equation I’m about to share will help you see how many grams of protein you need each day, but I do NOT recommend actually trying to count grams of protein. I repeat…


I do NOT recommend trying to count grams of protein.


The practical step will come in a minute, but you have to start here first…


The Equation

A common guideline is to say you should eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. But this advice is flawed for many reasons. One big reason is that someone who’s 50 pounds overweight doesn’t need to eat 50 extra grams of protein.


It’s fine to eat extra protein but, for most people, it can put a difficult goal even more out of reach.


A better guideline is to eat ~1 gram of protein per pound of lean mass (i.e. the amount of weight in your body that isn’t fat). That may sound more complicated, but 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 (I’ll explain how to estimate body fat in a sec).


For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and you think you’re at 25% body fat, take your weight and multiply it by 0.75 (because if your body is 25% fat, there’s 75% left over that’s lean mass).


The answer (150) is approximately how many grams of protein you would aim for on a daily basis. Written out:


200 X 0.75 = 150 or…


your weight X your lean mass = daily grams of protein


As for determining your body fat percentage/lean mass, do NOT trust your home scale or even a fancy machine at a gym, health store, supplement shop, etc. They are laughably (or cry-ably) inaccurate. (See our video on it here.)


Instead, you could simply 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, since men and women carry different amounts of fat.)


Is that accurate? Not especially. But it’ll get you close enough.


If, after looking at the images, you still can’t decide, go with the more conservative estimate (e.g. if you’re 30-35% body fat, go with 30.)


Or, you could skip the math altogether and go to the next step.


Even Easier

You can still do the math to calculate lean mass if you want to see roughly how many grams you need, but I’ll tell you a little secret:


Most people’s lean mass falls somewhere between 100-150 pounds.


Unless you’re extraordinarily tall and “big boned” or exceptionally petite, 100-150 grams of protein is gonna get you pretty close.


However, tracking literal grams of protein every day is tedious, time-consuming, and pretty much just awful. We recommend an easier approach — but just as accurate — by tracking palm-sized servings of protein (as you can see in the pic below, and in the blog “Stop Counting Calories”).

Portion control using your hand as a guide

Depending on the size of your hand and the specific food you eat, a palm-sized portion averages out to 20-30 grams of protein. Which means 4-7 portions of protein per day is pretty standard, with 5-6 being the most common.


(And if you ARE an outlier as far as the size of your frame, your hand will reflect this, giving you more or less grams per portion anyway.)


You can split those portions up into however many meals or snacks you want, and it’s way more convenient than weighing your food and tracking grams precisely — especially since your results will be the same.


Make It Your Own


Eating enough protein is always important, just slightly more so during weight loss (see why in “The Top 3 Factors for Sustainable Fat Loss”).


But even after weight loss, these guidelines hold pretty true. It might make sense to go down to 4-5 servings per day rather than 5-6… maybe. The point is that it’s not a drastic difference, so it’s best to view this as building a lifelong habit, not a temporary “diet” strategy.


Most people struggle to get this much protein, which I understand. It took me a while to figure out how to do it without destroying my insides (and my bathroom) with protein shakes.


Now I tend to eat slightly more protein than I need without even trying — and without protein shakes — all because I’ve created habits that have made it easier.


But don’t expect to master this right out of the gate.


What I recommend is that you track what you eat for a week or two without attempting to make any changes and see how close you are to getting 5-6 portions every day.


If you already eat enough protein, great!


But more than likely you’ll have plenty of room to improve (a lot of our beginning clients discover they’re only eating 1-2 portions per day).


At that point, you’ll have to decide if losing weight successfully (as defined earlier) is important to you. If it is, you can work on it slowly.


Add in one extra serving of protein to your routine, week by week, or even month by month, until you hit your mark. You may need to adjust your eating strategies a bit (e.g. eating more regularly, finding some new snacks, etc.), but eventually it WILL be easier.


That’s something we can help you with. Check out our private, online coaching here.


TL;DR

Your protein needs — for weight loss AND health — are based on your body size, but NOT on your total weight. Most people end up needing somewhere around 100-150 grams of protein each day.


But don’t weigh your food and literally count grams. Instead, aim for 5-6 palm-sized servings of protein spread out however you want throughout the day.


This will be difficult at first, so view it as a lifelong habit to build up slowly over time, not a temporary “diet” strategy. Eventually you CAN get to where you eat this much protein or more without even thinking about it.


That’s something we can help you with. Check out our private, online coaching here.




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