Daily Protein Intake for Optimal Health—What the Latest Research Shows

How much protein should you actually eat each day?

By Michael Ormsbee, PhDFlorida State University
Edited by Kate Findley and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, The Great Courses Daily

You know that protein is good for you, but precisely how much should you consume each day? It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Professor Ormsbee shares the most current research about protein consumption as it relates to weight and activity level.

Beans rich in protein
Adequate daily protein intake varies per individual according to body weight and age. Photo by barmalini / Shutterstock

Daily Protein Intake

Research shows that consuming a high-protein diet can lead to improved body composition, health, and performance. Professor Ormsbee recommends, at minimum, a daily protein intake greater than 0.8 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight. 

When it comes to the recommendations for daily protein consumption from different organizations, the answer varies. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 10–35% of your total calorie intake to come from protein, which equates to about 200–700 calories in a standard 2,000-calorie diet. They also recommend increasing protein intake to one g per kg of body weight around age 50 and increasing it even further in active, older individuals.

For highly active individuals, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4–2.0 g of protein per kg of body weight to improve training adaptations to exercise—this is strongly endorsed by the most current research.

Other international organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism recommend a daily protein intake somewhere between 1.0 and 1.7 g per kg of body weight, depending on your activity level and health status.

High-Protein Benefits

Over the years, the recommended daily protein intake has increased as a result of new research demonstrating the benefits of a high-protein diet. Eating protein is not only good for athletes and bodybuilders.

Protein also helps regular men and women to lose body fat, build or maintain muscle mass, and prevent the atrophy that typically accompanies aging. Studies have shown that increasing protein intake is a more effective weight-loss technique for obese men and women than calorie reduction alone.

Good sources of protein include eggs, lean chicken, beef, and fish. If you’re vegetarian, Greek yogurt, nuts, peas, tofu, seeds, and quinoa also pack a protein punch. 

Addressing Protein Risks

Despite increasing evidence that protein carries many benefits, some people still wonder if consuming a high-protein diet will have negative impacts on their health—particularly their kidney health. It is true that your kidneys perform more work to handle the protein. 

However, increased action does not equal damage. This is because, like all our other bodily functions, the kidneys can adapt. 

One study found that markers of kidney function are not affected in strength athletes with multiple years of high protein intake. However, according to Professor Ormsbee, you still want to avoid consuming too much protein.

More than 1.5 g per pound (lb), or 3.3 g per kg, of body weight is not needed or recommended. Eating one g per lb (2.2 g per kg) of body weight is enough; and, it far exceeds the 0.36 g per lb (0.8 g per kg) that is traditionally recommended. 

Overall, there is no overwhelming evidence that protein harms the body, but anything in excess can potentially be damaging. This is something to keep in mind when considering a new diet or eating fad. Finally, always double check with your healthcare provider to make sure a high-protein diet is a healthy choice for you. 

This article was edited by Kate Findley, Writer for The Great Courses Daily, and proofread by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.
Dr. Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University.

Michael Ormsbee is an Associate Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food, and Exercise Sciences and Interim Director of the Institute of Sports Sciences and Medicine in the College of Human Sciences at Florida State University. He received his MS in Exercise Physiology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in Bioenergetics from East Carolina University.

About Kate Findley 298 Articles
Kate is a writer, novelist, and blogger living in Los Angeles. She has been writing for The Great Courses since 2017. It incorporates her two favorite things: writing and learning.