A study conducted by scientists at the McMaster University in Canada provides insights into the upper limit of protein that gym-goers need to build muscle.

The meta-analysis reviewed a total of 49 high-quality studies with 1,863 participants in total, including both men and women across various age groups, and experienced weight lifters and novices, to determine optimal protein intakes.

Finding the limit

According to Stuart Phillips, lead author of the comprehensive study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of 0.8g per kilogram of body weight is not sufficient to maintain muscle and strength.

Those who train with weights need more protein but based on the research, there’s an upper limit to the amount that should be consumed on a daily basis.

That figure is 1.6g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Above that, little additional benefit is derived.

A day of eating protein

But what, exactly, does 1.6g of protein per kilogram look like? Well, it’s important to first establish that this figure is derived protein, which denotes the protein content of whole foods or supplements, rather than the net weight of the food source itself.

For example, a 100g skinless chicken breast only provides 23g of protein. As a reference, here are three ways someone who weighs 65kg can meet their daily protein requirements of 104g per day (65kg x 1.6g/kg/day).

Day 1

  • Breakfast: 1 cup cooked rolled oats = 9g
  • Snack: Protein bar = 25g
  • Lunch: Quinoa & bacon bowl: 1 cup cooked quinoa = 8g & 50g cooked bacon = 18g
  • Post-workout shake: 1 scoop of whey = 24g
  • Dinner: 150g of lean mince = 21g

Total daily protein intake = 105g

Day 2

  • Breakfast: 2 ready mix protein pancakes = 28g
  • Snack: 50g cottage cheese = 5g
  • Lunch: 100g beef strips = 25g
  • Post-workout shake: 1 scoop of plant protein = 20g
  • Dinner: 125g serving of salmon = 25g

Total daily protein intake = 103g

Day 3

  • Breakfast: 3 boiled eggs = 18g
  • Snack: 1 protein cookie = 10g
  • Lunch: 100g of tuna = 28g
  • Post-workout shake: 1 scoop of whey – 24g
  • Dinner: 100g skinless chicken breast = 23g

Total daily protein intake = 103g

Note: Quoted figures are indicative and used for reference only. Values may vary between brands and products.