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How Many Grams of Protein Per Day Do You Need?

How Much Protein Do You Need to Stay Healthy as a Runner?

Runners know by now that we need to pay attention to the food we eat to recover fast and prevent injuries (or heal a current injury), and most of us know that protein is the best way to assist with the recovery process.

But protein can be confusing. Protein is for weightlifters, right?

When it comes to protein for runners, how many of these have you searched for:

What is the recommended amount of protein for a casual runner per day?

Will protein make me bulk up and put on weight?

How much protein powder should I take and at what times?

Are there benefits to taking a protein shake after a run?

Does chocolate milk count as a protein recovery drink?

What type of protein is best?

Should I be taking a protein supplement?

Do we need to go on? (We could!)

It’s a lot to think about, but today, we are going to answer your protein questions (the ones you have asked us about!) and get you all the answers you need to be confident in what you are eating as a runner and how much protein you need to run your best.

How Much Protein Do Runners Need to Train & Recover?

Let’s start at the basics.

Let’s imagine (wouldn’t it be nice!) that you are completely injury free, and you just want to know how much protein an everyday runner needs for their training.


The amount of protein a person needs when they are not training is .8 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of body weight.

When you add in endurance or resistance training, your need for protein increases.

For optimal recovery as a runner, use the following recommendations:

1.2 to 1.7 g of protein per kg of body weight.

If you fail to consume enough protein when training hard, your body will break down muscle to fuel your body on training runs.

The goal with running is to build and maintain lean muscle mass, not break it down for fuel.

Prefer pounds to kilos? Convert your weight to pounds using this formula:

Divide your current weight in pounds by 2.2

Example: 160 pound male is (160/2.2=) 72.7 kg

How much protein do YOU need?

Calculate your individual protein requirement using this formula:

Your weight in kg multiplied by recommended protein intake.

Example: (72.7kg x 1.4 g of protein) = 102 g of protein per day required for a 72.7 (160lb) runner

How Much Protein Do I Need For My Training?

Training for a 10k – 1/2 marathon

Start at 1.2 g of protein per kg of body weight.

If you feel great and you are recovering quickly, this is the perfect amount for you.

If you are not recovering well or find you keep getting injured, you may need additional protein while you are training.

Increase your protein uptake to 1.5g per kg of bodyweight.

You can also change your protein intake based on the intensity of your training day.

On hard workout days, increase your protein intake to 1.5g

On easy recovery days or rest days, keep your protein intake to 1.2g.

What’s the bottom line?

Keep experimenting with slight changes in your protein intake until you notice a positive difference in your recovery rate.

Training for a marathon

While you are committed to following your marathon training schedule, give this a try:

Start at 1.4 g of protein per kg body weight and apply the same process as the 10k-1/2 marathon group.

Give yourself about a week at each protein level to determine if it is the right amount for you.

What’s the bottom line?

Don’t feel like you have to watch every gram you consume.

As long as you stay within a range of about +/- 10g of protein from the suggested amount for your body weight, your recovery will be fine.

Won’t Protein Cause Me to Put on Weight or Bulk Up?

All runners are hyper aware of their weight and body size.

Most of us know that every pound counts, and additional pounds increase stress on our joints and require more energy with each mile we run.

It’s also a common myth that carbohydrates are king and protein is for weightlifters.

This may come a surprise, but let us say this once and for all:

Protein, in and of itself, doesn’t increase muscle mass.

So, what does make us bulk up?

Heavy resistance training, in combination with a high protein diet, will increase muscle mass and weight.

Here’s the deal:

Endurance training with the correct amount of protein will simply facilitate faster recovery and allow you to train harder on workout days by repairing and growing lean muscle mass.

Is Chocolate Milk a Good Recovery Drink for Runners?

Chocolate milk has been toted as a great recovery drink for runners, but is it really all it is cracked up to be?

When you break down an 8 ounce glass of reduced fat chocolate milk nutritionally you get :

190 calories

5 g of fat

2 g fiber

24 g of sugar

7 grams of protein

This isn’t terrible, but chocolate milk does lack a few key amino acids essential for optimal recovery.

Chocolate milk does not provide the body with the amino acid L-Glutamine, which can boosts the immune system and can help manage aches, pains, and soreness by reducing inflammation.

How does chocolate milk compare to a protein shake?

Let’s take a recovery shake made with 1 cup almond milk, 1 scoop protein powder, and 1/2 cup blueberries

180 calories

3.5 g of fat

4 g of fiber

8 g sugar

26 g protein

In addition to having more than three times the amount of protein, less fat and 3 times less sugar, this specific protein shake offers 5,000 micrograms of L-glutamine.

Calorie for calorie, the protein shake with blueberries is a healthier recovery drink than chocolate milk.


If it is the chocolate you crave, there are plenty of options of high quality protein powders, supplements, and milk alternatives that come in a chocolate flavor.

Do I Need A Protein Supplement?

Determining whether or not to take a protein supplement depends on what your traditional days look like.

Here is a typical 2500 calorie day, for a 160 pound male, who runs moderately (5 days a week), but works a sedentary job.

Remember, this runner from the example above requires 102 g protein a day, but here is what they currently have:

Grande iced caffe latte + 1 cup oatmeal & fruit = 16 g protein

Tuna salad sandwich + chips + banana = 29 g protein

Apple + 2 tbsp peanut butter = 8 g protein

5oz Baked Chicken Tenders + 1 cup brown rice + 1 cup steamed vegetable = 25 g protein

1/2 cup ice cream = 4 g protein

Total protein: 82 g

As you can see, 82g of protein is 20g of protein less than the 160 pound man in this scenario needs to consume.

Check this out:

If this 20 g protein deficit continues over a series of days, his body will not be able to rebuild or repair the muscle fibers and he will start to lose muscle mass.

But it gets worse:

He may notice an increase in general fatigue and a slowing of his typical easy run and workout pace.

Obviously, these are outcomes runners desperately want to avoid.

Adding a protein shake or a protein bar is an easy fix for this protein deficit diet.

Try this:

Protein + Almond Milk + Blueberries = 26 g protein

Grande iced caffe latte + 1 cup oatmeal & fruit = 16 g protein

Tuna salad sandwich + chips + banana = 30 g protein

Apple + 2 tbsp peanut butter = 8 g protein

5oz Baked chicken tenders + 1 cup brown rice + 1 cup steamed vegetable = 25 g protein

Total Protein: 105 g protein

If adding a shake takes too much time in your busy schedule, try mixing some protein into your morning oatmeal and grabbing a protein bar for a snack.

See the article I wrote on Healthy Energy Bars for Runners to find the bar that fits best with your daily diet and nutritional requirements.

As you can see, getting enough protein to match the amount of running you are doing is very important, and it is something that often takes some planning.

A typical diet doesn’t always supply enough protein for the serious runner.

As you can see, protein intake varies on your individual circumstance, but hopefully this helps you understand how to figure out your best intake for your running.

How Many Scoops of Protein Powder Can You Take per Day?

So you’ve been working out and doing your best to show up at the gym. You can’t help but feel like you need a little extra in your fitness routine.

After some research, you decided that starting to use protein powder shakes may be the answer to add a little extra to your workout.

There is a lot of noise out there though on how many scoops of protein powder a day do you need and how much protein in a shake is needed.

As people who love fitness, we know that protein powder is one way of reaching your health goals, and we know exactly what you need for it to work effectively for you.

How Many Grams of Protein Per Day Do You Need?

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

Our team includes licensed nutritionists and dietitians, certified health education specialists, as well as certified strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers and corrective exercise specialists. Our team aims to be not only thorough with its research, but also objective and unbiased.

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by our trained editorial staff. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to medically peer-reviewed studies.

The information in our articles is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.

With strict editorial sourcing guidelines, we only link to academic research institutions, reputable media sites and, when research is available, medically peer-reviewed studies. Note that the numbers in parentheses (1, 2, etc.) are clickable links to these studies.

When it comes to following a healthy, balanced diet, a common question is: “How much protein do I need?” So how many grams of protein per day do you need?

High-protein foods are essential for building muscle, burning fat, supporting metabolism, and even bolstering the health of certain organs like your thyroid and adrenal glands — in other words, we need protein to be healthy.

How much protein should you have per day? It really depends on your specific health goals and some other factors.

How Much Protein Do I Need? (How to Determine Protein Intake)

To discuss how many grams of protein per day you need, it’s helpful to break it down into three categories or questions:

How much protein do you need to support healing and body regeneration? How much protein do you need to burn fat? How much protein do you need to build muscle?

In general, if you just want to support overall health and longevity, consuming about 50 percent of your body weight in grams of protein per day is ideal. In this case, if you weigh 160 pounds, then getting about 80 grams daily from healthy protein sources is recommended.

Therefore, if you’re eating three meals a day, you want to aim for about 25 grams from high-protein foods in each meal.

Second, let’s say you’re trying to really burn body fat fast and looking for the right fat-burning foods. This increases your protein requirements.

In fact, many people (especially women) who hope to lose body fat actually have a protein deficiency, which is why it’s recommended to consume about 0.7 grams to 0.75 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily to burn fat and lose weight. Essentially, you’re going to replace some of those extra carbohydrates in your diet with more sources of protein.

In this case, if you weigh 160 pounds, then multiply that figure by 0.75. At this weight, you’ll want to consume close to 100 to maybe 120 grams total daily. So if you eat four meals a day, aim to consume 25 to 30 grams worth of high-proteins foods.

Third, if you’re trying to build muscle, take your weight and multiply it by one to determine how many grams you need from high-protein foods daily. So if you weigh 160 pounds and want to pack on some muscle, then you should be trying to get 160 grams of protein daily. Over four meals, that’d be 40 grams of protein intake for each.

In a nutshell, to figure out how much protein you need in a day depends on your health and fitness goals, so use these general guidelines to help you find the right protein intake for you.

Benefits of Protein

Protein is not only important for building lean muscle tissue, but it’s also critical for organ function. In fact, a lot of your organs, cells and tissues require protein for proper regeneration. Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of proper protein intake:

1. Boosts Muscle Mass

Increasing your protein intake will boost muscle mass, while also supporting your tendon, ligaments and other body tissues. Whether you are focused on bodybuilding or developing a learner, toned appearance, adequate protein intake is critical.

Research also suggests that eating good-quality meat or plant-based proteins also supports muscle recovery and promotes muscle synthesis.

2. Helps with Weight Loss

Research shows that proper protein intake increases satiety and promotes the retention of lean muscle mass, while improving metabolic profile. High-protein dietary choices can help you avoid excessive snacking between meals and prevent increased total daily calorie intake, which can contribute to weight loss.

3. Boosts Mood

The amino acids in protein foods help with neurotransmitter function, support hormone balance and help to control mood, which has been shown in studies. This explains why it’s possible for people who lack key amino acids to experience mood-related issues like anxiety, depression and irritability.

4. Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Insulin production depends on adequate protein intake, and unlike high-carbohydrate or high-sugar foods, protein does not result in fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Research suggests that dietary protein can also slow down the absorption of sugar during meals.

5. Supports Bone Health

Studies indicate the positive association between eating more foods with protein and better bone health. Adequate protein intake helps treat broken bones and improve bone weakness.

6. Supports Cardiovascular Health

Research shows that protein intake is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, and a diet high in protein may help reduce high blood pressure.

7. Promotes Healthy Brain Function

Amino acids are needed to make hormones, neurotransmitters and enzymes that are critical for cognitive function. Studies indicate that the brain needs a steady supply of amino acids to maintain healthy energy levels, focus and concentration.

Best Sources

Now that you know that protein intake is associated with just about every body function, you may be wondering about the best sources of protein for healthy eating. You can increase your protein intake with plant-based and meat foods.

Here are some of the best foods for a healthy protein diet:

Grass-fed beef Organic chicken breast Whey protein powder Lentils Wild-caught salmon White beans Black beans Natto Hemp seed protein powder Kefir Sprouted whole grain bread Collagen protein powder Nutritional yeast Eggs Goat cheese Yogurt Almonds

Too Much vs. Too Little (Risks and Side Effects)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the recommended daily intake of protein for adults at an average weight and activity level is 56 grams daily for men and 46 grams daily for women. This is the minimum required protein intake, and the amount can increase depending on your goals.

It’s ideal to eat smaller amounts of protein throughout the day instead of getting your protein requirement in one or two meals. This allows your body utilize what it needs throughout the day instead of storing what isn’t used as fat.

It’s true that eating very high levels of protein is correlated with some health risks. If you’re not cutting calories from carbohydrates while increasing calorie intake from protein, you may experience weight gain instead of weight loss.

Very high protein intake may also cause digestive issues, including constipation, gut-related issues and changes in blood sugar levels.

Finally, it’s important to maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet that doesn’t completely neglect any nutrients. This will ensure that you’re getting the micro- and macronutrients you need for optimal health.


Eric Carter