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How Much Protein Per Day if Working Out?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How Much Protein Per Day if Working Out?
People are working out in a fitness class. Photo Credit IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

If you work out regularly, you may need to consume more protein than sedentary people. When combined with exercise, protein helps you maintain and build additional muscle mass. Consuming adequate amounts of protein can also help with recovery post exercise. How much protein you need daily depends on the types of workouts you perform and the intensity of these sessions.


The Institute of Medicine recommends 0.8 g of protein per kg of body weight per day. This recommendation is appropriate for approximately 97.5 percent of healthy adults, but may be too little for people who exercise. During exercise, you burn protein and amino acids and the Institute of Medicine minimal recommended amounts may not adequately offset this burn. In addition, this recommendation may not provide enough amino acids to promote muscle growth and repair.


The International Society of Sports Medicine recommends that endurance athletes consume between 1 and 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight. If you are extremely active, such as an elite cyclist or marathoner, you should aim for the high end of this range. Because strength training puts even more stress on your muscles, power and strength athletes should consume between 1.6 and 2.0 g of protein per kg of body weight daily. Competitive bodybuilders might aim for the high end of this range.

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You should aim to get most of your protein from whole foods, such as lean meats, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, soy and beans. Supplements such as whey and casein powder may occasionally serve as an additional source of protein. If you suffer from any medical conditions involving the kidneys, consult your physician before increasing your protein intake.


Your body can only utilize about 30 g of protein in one sitting for muscle synthesis, as shown by a study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" in 2009. Your body excretes extra protein through urine or burns it off for energy. When you add protein to your diet, try to schedule one serving to eat around the time of your workout. Eating protein before exercise provides amino acids for your body to use during the session. When you eat protein immediately after, it can help facilitate repair, growth and recovery.

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