How to Calculate Your Protein Needs

by , | November 19, 2023 | Articles, Nutrition

foods high in protein

Written by Erica Gittleson, RD; Select sections of article written by and article reviewed by Dr. Bojana Jankovic Weatherly.

Protein is needed by every cell and tissue in our body. It is part of the three main macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fat.

The amount of protein one needs per day depends on a few factors including, weight, physical activity level, and age. Protein needs can also vary during pregnancy, lactation, and illness. For our guide, we will focus on the protein needs of general healthy adults.

Daily Protein Needs

Protein needs can be determined based on how many grams of protein are needed per day.

Grams of Protein per Day

The current Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein is 0.8 to 1.0 grams per kilogram per day for adults. There is a growing consensus that the RDA might be adequate for sedentary adults to prevent protein deficiency but doesn’t reflect the amount of protein needed for daily physical activity or for optimal health.

Protein Needs for Exercise

A Joint Position Statement between The American College of Sports Medicine and The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that a protein intake range of 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram per day is needed to support exercise, muscle repair, and growth.

Higher protein levels of 2.4 grams per kilogram per day for healthy weight individuals, may be needed during periods of particularly high intensity training and for adults wanting muscle gain.

Overweight adults have a lower recommended protein intake of 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per day. This amount should help preserve muscle and lean tissue as the individual loses weight.

Calculate Your Protein Needs in 2 Steps:

Use your current body weight to find your daily protein needs in two steps.

Step 1: Calculate Your Body Weight in Kilograms

Take your body weight in pounds and divide by 2.2 to get your body weight in kilograms.

Example 150 pounds ÷ 2.2 = 68.2 kilograms of body weight

Step 2: Multiply Your Body Weight by Protein Range

Multiply your body weight in kilograms by the appropriate protein range for your activity level.

A summary of the recommended protein ranges are:

  • Normal weight sedentary adults: 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kg per day
  • Normal weight active adults: 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kg per day
  • Normal weight active adults for muscle gain: 1.2 to 2.4 grams per kg per day
  • Overweight adults: 1.2 to 1.5 grams per kg per day

Example: The formula for a normal weight 150-pound adult would look like this.

68.2 x 1.2 to 2.0 = 82 to 136 grams of protein per day

Next Steps

Once you’ve determined how many grams of protein you need per day, you can translate grams of protein into ounces on your plate. Protein is found in a variety of foods including lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, lentils, and peas.

Many animal-based protein foods offer as many as 7 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving. Take a look at the protein content of the foods in your pantry, you may find protein in unexpected items.

Shared from


Portion SizeGrams of Protein
Meats, Poultry, and Fish
Beef/Turkey Jerky 1 oz dried 10-1515-Oct
Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Lamb 1 oz7
Fish, Tuna Fish 1 oz7
Imitation Crab Meat 1 oz3
Seafood (Crabmeat, Shrimp, Lobster) 1 oz6
Egg 16
Soy and Vegetable Protein
Soy milk 8 oz7
Edamame, fresh or frozen ½ cup8
Edamame, dry roasted 1 oz13
Tofu 1 oz3
Legumes and Nuts
Lentils ½ cup9
Lima beans ½ cup7
Kidney, Black, Navy, Cannellini beans ½ cup8
Refried beans ½ cup6
Hummus ⅓ cup7
Chili with beans, drained ½ cup10
Peanut butter/Almond butter 2 Tbsp7
Tahini, 2 Tbsp5
Nuts 1 oz (¼ cup)6-Apr
Sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds 1 oz55
Almond milk 8 oz1
Hemp milk 8oz3
Milk and Dairy
Milk, skim or 1% 8 oz8
High protein ultra-filtered milk, fat free or 1% 8 oz13
Yogurt, plain, non-fat or low fat 6 oz5
Greek yogurt, plain, non-fat or low fat 5 oz18-Dec
Cheese, hard (low fat) 1 oz7
Cheese, Feta 1oz4
Cheese, Goat 1oz6
Cottage cheese/Ricotta cheese (part skim) ½ cup14
Bread 1 oz slice3
Cereal ½ cup hot (ex: oatmeal)3
¾ cup cold (ex: kashi)3
Millet, 1/4 cup5
High protein cereals ¾-1⅓ cup (ex: magic spoon)15-Jul
Rice/Pasta ⅓ cup3
Chickpea Pasta 2oz11
Quinoa ⅓ cup6
Fresh, frozen, canned ½ cup, 1 cup2
raw leafy greens2
Avocado, 1 small2


[1] Exercise and the Institute of Medicine Recommendations for Nutrition (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
[2] Dietary Reference Intakes, Chapter 10 (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
[3] Is the Optimal Level of Protein Intake for Older Adults Greater Than the Recommended Dietary Allowance? (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
[4] American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
[5] Protein, amino acids and obesity treatment (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
[6] Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
[7] How to Calculate Your Protein Needs According to a Dietitian | Sunrise Health Foods


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