How Much Protein Should I Take to Maintain Lean Body Mass

Protein is found in every cell and tissue in the body. While it has many vital roles in building and repairing muscle tissue. It also helps keep your immune system strong, make hormones, and regulate many body functions.

By: Adam Wright, Published on: 2023-12-11, Last Updated: 03-08-24

Reviewed by: Brene Brown

Table of Contents


Maintaining lean body mass is important as you age to support strength, metabolism, and health. Protein is found in every cell and tissue in the body. While it has many vital roles in building and repairing muscle tissue,. It also helps keep your immune system strong, make hormones, and regulate many body functions.

If you don't eat enough protein, your muscles will start to shrink. This is because your body is breaking down muscle tissue for energy. On the other hand, if you eat more protein than your body needs, it can help you build more muscle and get stronger. This is especially true if you are also lifting weights. Tracking your calorie and protein intake with a calorie maintenance calculator can help you achieve your lean body mass goals.

Importance of Protein for Maintaining a Lean Body?

When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into amino acids, which are like the building blocks of your body. These amino acids are used to repair and build new tissues, including your muscles. In order to build muscle, you need to eat more protein than your body breaks down. This is called a net positive nitrogen balance.

Protein is high in nitrogen, and when you eat more protein than your body breaks down, the extra nitrogen is stored in your muscles. This helps to build new muscle tissue.

Sources of Protein

There are many excellent sources of protein, both animal-based and plant-based. Here's a list of protein-rich foods:


Protein per serving

Meat: beef, pork, chicken, lamb, fish, and seafood

20-30 grams

Poultry: chicken, turkey, and duck

25-30 grams


6 grams

Dairy products: milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese

7-8 grams

Legumes: beans, lentils, and peas

15-20 grams

Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and sunflower seeds

7-8 grams

1. Animal-Based Protein Sources

Meat: Beef, pork, chicken, lamb, fish, and seafood are all excellent sources of protein. Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry to minimize saturated fat intake.

Poultry: Chicken, turkey, and duck are lean protein sources packed with essential amino acids. Opt for skinless poultry options for lower fat content.

Eggs: Eggs are a versatile and nutrient-dense protein source, providing all nine essential amino acids. Enjoy them in various forms, such as poached, scrambled, or omelets.

Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese offer a combination of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients. Choose low-fat or fat-free options for a healthier choice.

2. Plant-Based Protein Sources

Legumes: Beans, lentils, and peas are excellent plant-based protein sources, providing fiber and other nutrients alongside protein. Include them in soups, stews, salads, or as a protein-rich side dish.

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds are nutrient-packed protein sources, offering healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants. Snack on them or add them to yogurt, granola bars, or trail mix.

Tofu and Tempeh: Tofu and tempeh are fermented soy products that provide a complete protein source, mimicking the amino acid profile of animal-based protein. Enjoy them in stir-fries, salads, or as a meat substitute.

Whole Grains: Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, and oats offer protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Incorporate them into your meals as breakfast cereals, side dishes, or grain bowls.

Vegetables: While not as protein-dense as other sources, some vegetables contribute to your daily protein intake. Broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus are notable examples.

How Much Protein Is Enough to Maintain Lean Body Mass?

The amount of protein you need depends on several factors, including your age, activity level, body weight, and body composition. The recommended protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. However, if you are trying to build muscle, you may need to eat more than that. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you would need to eat about 54 grams of protein per day.

The amount of protein you need depends on your individual needs and goals. If you are trying to maintain lean body mass, you should aim to consume 0.8–1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. If you are trying to build muscle, you should aim to consume 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.

What happens if I don’t get enough protein? If you don't get enough protein, your body will start to break down muscle tissue for energy. This can lead to decreased muscle mass, strength, and performance. It can also make it harder to lose weight and keep it off.

When Is the Best Time to Take Protein?

The best time to consume protein supplements can vary depending on whether your goal is weight loss, building muscle, or preserving muscle.

The best time to take protein depends on your individual goals and preferences. However, some general guidelines can help you optimize your protein intake.

For Muscle Growth and Repair:

Post-workout: Consuming protein within 30–60 minutes after a workout is considered ideal for muscle growth and repair. This is because your muscles are in a heightened state of anabolism, meaning they are actively building new muscle tissue. Protein provides the necessary amino acids for this process.

Pre-workout: Consuming a moderate amount of protein before a workout can help provide energy and support muscle performance. However, avoid consuming too much protein close to your workout, as this can cause digestive discomfort.

For Maintaining Lean Body Mass:

Spread throughout the day: Distributing your protein intake evenly throughout the day helps maintain a steady supply of amino acids for muscle maintenance and overall protein synthesis. Aim for protein sources at each meal and snack.

Before bed: Consuming a small amount of protein before bed can help prevent muscle breakdown during sleep. Slow-digesting protein sources, such as casein protein, are often preferred for this purpose.

Recommended Protein Intake on Activity Level

Activity Level

Recommended Protein Intake (Grams per Kg / Day)



Moderately Active




Very Active


Recommended Protein Intake for Different Groups of People


Recommended Protein Intake (Grams per Kg / Day)

Sedentary Adults


Moderately Active Adults

1.0 - 1.2


1.2 - 2.0

Older Adults ( >50 Years)

1.0 - 1.2

Pregnant Women


Lactating Women


Children (0–12 months)


Children (1-3 Years)


Children (4-6 Years)


Children (7–12 Years)


Factors That Affect Protein Needs

Here are some factors that affect protein needs:

1. Age

  • Children and adolescents: Children and adolescents need more protein per kilogram of body weight than adults because they are growing and developing.
  • Adults: Adults need about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
  • Older adults: Older adults may need slightly more protein than adults to help maintain muscle mass.

2. Activity level

  • Sedentary adults: Sedentary adults need less protein than active adults.
  • Active adults: Active adults need more protein to help repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
  • Athletes: Athletes need the most protein to support their training and recovery.

3. Body weight

People who weigh more need more protein than people who weigh less. This is because muscle tissue is metabolically active, meaning it burns calories at rest. Having more muscle mass can help increase your metabolism and burn more calories.

4. Body composition

People with more muscle mass need more protein than people with less muscle mass. This is because muscle tissue is constantly breaking down and rebuilding, and protein is required for this process.

5. Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more protein than non-pregnant women. This is because protein is needed for the growth and development of the baby.

6. Overall health

People with certain health conditions, such as cancer or kidney disease, may need more protein than healthy people. This is because these conditions can lead to muscle loss.

7. Dietary factors

The quality of protein in the diet is also important. Animal-based proteins, such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, are considered complete proteins because they contain all of the essential amino acids. Plant-based proteins, such as beans, lentils, and nuts, are considered incomplete proteins because they do not contain all of the essential amino acids. However, eating a variety of plant-based proteins can provide all of the essential amino acids.

Are High-Protein Diets Harmful?

While high-protein diets can offer numerous health benefits for people who are actively exercising, they can also be harmful if you do not follow them correctly. Here are some potential risks associated with high-protein diets:

  1. Kidney damage: High-protein diets can increase the workload on the kidneys, which are responsible for filtering excess protein from the blood. In some cases, excessive protein intake can lead to kidney problems, particularly for individuals with pre-existing kidney conditions.
  2. Dehydration: Protein metabolism produces waste products that require adequate water to be eliminated through urine. If you're following a high-protein diet, it's crucial to stay well-hydrated to prevent dehydration and potential kidney stones.
  3. Nutritional imbalances: Focusing solely on protein intake may lead to neglecting other essential nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced diet should include a variety of foods from all food groups to ensure you're getting the nutrients you need.
  4. Muscle loss: While high-protein diets can help build muscle, excessive protein consumption can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue to provide amino acids for gluconeogenesis, the process of producing glucose from non-carbohydrate sources.
  5. Excess calorie intake: High-protein foods tend to be higher in calories compared to other food groups. If you're not careful, consuming too much protein can lead to weight gain if it is not balanced with physical activity.

Final Words

Protein is an important macronutrient that plays a major role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Consuming enough protein is important for people who are looking to build muscle, lose weight, or improve their overall health. The amount of protein you need depends on your individual needs and goals. If you are not sure how much protein you need, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian.

There are many different sources of protein, both animal- and plant-based. Choose a variety of protein sources to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.

If you are looking for a quick and easy way to boost your protein intake, protein powder can be a good option. However, it is important to choose a protein powder that is of high quality and made from a good source of protein.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I take protein for best results?

15–60 minutes after exercise. This time frame is known as the “anabolic window” and is said to be the perfect time for getting the protein.

How much protein per day to lose weight?

In order to lose weight, aiming for 25–35% of calories as protein may be optimal. 30% of calories amounts to 150 grams of protein on a 2000 calorie diet

What are signs of too much protein intake?

Consuming more protein than the body needs can cause symptoms such as intestinal discomfort, dehydration, nausea, fatigue, headaches, and more.

Is 200g of protein too much bulk?

200 grams of protein is generally required if you want to bulk up and workout a lot. 200 grams of protein is too much if you don't workout and live a sedentary lifestyle.

What is the best source of protein?

Animal-based foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy foods) tend to be good sources of complete protein.

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