How Much Protein Do You Need to Put On Muscle? Here’s What the Scientists Have to Say

grams per lb

Bodies are different. Each person has a different ideal weight, muscle mass, and metabolism. Considering all that, you’d think that protein needs would differ from person to person.

They do, but not as much as you’d think. The biggest difference in the amount of protein you need is your goal: not your current form.

Read on to learn your perfect protein grams per lb ratio.

Protein Determining Calculation

Your ideal protein amount is a calculation, here it is 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

Let’s do some examples.

Grams per Lb Examples

If someone was trying to build muscle, they’d want to be in the top range. Let’s say they weight 180 pounds, they’re a sedentary regular-set male. If they’re going for 1.1 grams per pound, their intake is 185 grams per day.

Let’s change that situation and say the same person is trying to maintain, not gain. They need around 148 grams of protein per day.

Let’s change the gender, but leave all other things the same. For maintenance, she needs around 135 grams a day. To gain muscle, 172, to lose fat, 161.

Why does the amount go up when she’s trying to lose fat? Protein keeps you full and energized longer, so you need more of it to prevent you from over-eating.

The numbers for the woman (of the same stature) and the man aren’t that different! About 10 grams of protein less for the woman.

Is Too Much Protein Bad?

Yes! Do not eat more than 1.5 grams per body pound of protein unless you’re directed to by a professional. Excess protein turns to fat.

It happens the same way other calories your body doesn’t use get stored for the winter, so to speak.

Once the protein is fat storage, it doesn’t matter that those calories came from a lean source and not a bag of chips. Fat stored is fat stored.

What Are the Best Sources of Protein?

The best kind of protein is from animal sources – it’s the most complete source and easiest to absorb. You can get protein from plant sources, but not all of them will absorb without another agent.

There’s a reason you always hear about beans and rice. Beans are a protein, but you won’t get the full protein amount unless you eat them with the amino acid types in rice.

Quinoa is a rare complete source of plant protein, that’s why you’re seeing it everywhere. It doesn’t need a helper food to make sure your body gets every last drop.

If you’ve heard quinoa called a perfect protein, that’s what they meant.

Here’s a list of the best protein sources, plant and animal included!

  • 4 Oz Chicken Breast – 35 grams
  • 4 Oz Turkey Breast – 34 grams
  • 4 Oz Hamburger (beef) – 28 grams
  • 6 Oz Steak (beef) – 42 grams
  • 3.5 Oz Lean Fish – 22 grams
  • 1/2 Cup Tofu – 20 grams
  • 1/2 Cup Cooked Beans – 7 to 10 grams
  • 1/2 Cup Split Peas – 8 grams
  • 1/4 Cup Almonds – 8 grams
  • 1/4 Cup Peanuts – 9 grams

When you look at the comparisons between the plant and the animal sources, you see why its hard for plant-only diets to get enough protein. It would take you a double serving of tofu to equal one serving of chicken or turkey.

Complete vs. Incomplete Protein

Let’s go back to the idea that protein is complete or incomplete. This isn’t referring to the amount of protein something has, rather its amino acids.

Complete proteins have more amino acids (protein building blocks) than incomplete proteins. When you eat something without a complete amino protein profile, you don’t absorb all the grams of protein available.

It’s like if you have two teams of eight builders. One team of eight builders has a construction guy, a floor guy, a carpenter, a leader, etc, all different roles that make the project work.

The other team of eight has four construction guys, no carpenters, and 4-floor guys, with no leader.

When you look at the numbers, they have the same resources, but the team with the different roles (amino blocks) will get more done.

Unless team two calls in reinforcements that have the roles they lack (like beans and rice), they won’t get as much done as team one.

The amino acids relevant in the complete vs incomplete profile are:

  • Tryptophan
  • Threonine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine + Crystine
  • Phenylalanine + Tyrosine
  • Valine
  • Histidine


To sort out the whole complete vs incomplete protein mess with the least confusion, we use the PDCAAS. The PDCASS score stands for protein digestibility corrected amino acid score.

A complete protein is a 1.0 on this scale, with the perfect example being one egg.

To find the PCDAAS score of most foods, google “food item PCDASS”. Find a site that is .org or .edu and you can trust that information.

Using Protein to Build Muscle

To wrap everything up, you don’t need to overdo the amount of protein to gain muscle. Your body’s preferred range is somewhere between .08-1.5 grams per lb.

You can build a perfectly good muscle profile without slamming protein shakes all day every day. If you drink or eat too much protein, it turns to fat and gets stored.

To learn how much protein you need, do a quick calculation. Then, track your macros for a week to see how much protein you normally eat.

Take the averages at the end of the week and increase or decrease your protein based on that.

Feed your body appropriately and you won’t be skinny fat for long! Don’t know what that means? Get the low-down here.