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
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.
|Portion Size||Grams of Protein|
|Meats, Poultry, and Fish|
|Beef/Turkey Jerky 1 oz dried 10-15||15-Oct|
|Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Lamb 1 oz||7|
|Fish, Tuna Fish 1 oz||7|
|Imitation Crab Meat 1 oz||3|
|Seafood (Crabmeat, Shrimp, Lobster) 1 oz||6|
|Soy and Vegetable Protein|
|Soy milk 8 oz||7|
|Edamame, fresh or frozen ½ cup||8|
|Edamame, dry roasted 1 oz||13|
|Tofu 1 oz||3|
|Legumes and Nuts|
|Lentils ½ cup||9|
|Lima beans ½ cup||7|
|Kidney, Black, Navy, Cannellini beans ½ cup||8|
|Refried beans ½ cup||6|
|Hummus ⅓ cup||7|
|Chili with beans, drained ½ cup||10|
|Peanut butter/Almond butter 2 Tbsp||7|
|Tahini, 2 Tbsp||5|
|Nuts 1 oz (¼ cup)||6-Apr|
|Sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds 1 oz5||5|
|Almond milk 8 oz||1|
|Hemp milk 8oz||3|
|Milk and Dairy|
|Milk, skim or 1% 8 oz||8|
|High protein ultra-filtered milk, fat free or 1% 8 oz||13|
|Yogurt, plain, non-fat or low fat 6 oz||5|
|Greek yogurt, plain, non-fat or low fat 5 oz||18-Dec|
|Cheese, hard (low fat) 1 oz||7|
|Cheese, Feta 1oz||4|
|Cheese, Goat 1oz||6|
|Cottage cheese/Ricotta cheese (part skim) ½ cup||14|
|Bread 1 oz slice||3|
|Cereal ½ cup hot (ex: oatmeal)||3|
|¾ cup cold (ex: kashi)||3|
|Millet, 1/4 cup||5|
|High protein cereals ¾-1⅓ cup (ex: magic spoon)||15-Jul|
|Rice/Pasta ⅓ cup||3|
|Chickpea Pasta 2oz||11|
|Quinoa ⅓ cup||6|
|Fresh, frozen, canned ½ cup, 1 cup||2|
|raw leafy greens||2|
|Avocado, 1 small||2|
 Exercise and the Institute of Medicine Recommendations for Nutrition (Accessed Nov 30, 2022) https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2005/08000/Exercise_and_the_Institute_of_Medicine.3.aspx
 Dietary Reference Intakes, Chapter 10 (Accessed Nov 30, 2022) https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/10490/chapter/12
 Is the Optimal Level of Protein Intake for Older Adults Greater Than the Recommended Dietary Allowance? (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
 American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. (Accessed Nov 30, 2022) https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2016/03000/Nutrition_and_Athletic_Performance.25.aspx
 Protein, amino acids and obesity treatment (Accessed Nov 30, 2022)
 Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 (Accessed Nov 30, 2022) https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-12/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans_2020-2025.pdf
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