This Is How Much Protein Science Says Is Optimal for Fat Loss

Before looking at the details, here’s a brief recap about protein that you may or may not already know: Optimal protein intake while dieting depe…

Whether you are aiming for fat loss, muscle gain, performance or just maintaining good health, eating enough amounts of protein will be crucial.  Here, enough is equivalent with adequate which means there’s still room for discussion regarding any added benefits from even higher protein intake. In this regard every circumstance (e.g. fat loss, health maintenance, performance) will have its own considerations affecting the amounts. So, when each one of those circumstances is worth examining further, this post will be limited to protein intake with fat loss goals only.

Before looking at the details, here’s a brief recap about protein that you may or may not already know:

  • Optimal protein intake while dieting depends on your weight, age and your level of activity – less if you’re sedentary and more if physically active. (1)
  • When dieting for fat loss a high enough protein intake helps to preserve lean mass, thus making it easier with further fat loss. (2)
  • When comparing carbohydrate, protein and fat, protein is generally reported as the most satiating nutrient and eating insufficient amounts of protein may cause you to overeat in calories. (3)

Not surprisingly, Lifesum will do all the necessary “protein math” for you based on your body mass and recommended calories. So, if you’re fine with this you can be assured that your needs are fulfilled and there’s no real reason to read any further or making it more complicated.  However, some of us are curious by nature and just want to dig into the details. And, fortunately for us, Lifesum has lots of possibilities to individualize and work with details.

Perfect is a moving target

When scientist discuss protein intake in regards of optimal and fat loss there will be some necessary subgroups added to this formula based on variables such as age, weight or body composition and activity level. Below, I’m presenting a broad picture with four subgroups where the recommended protein intake increases with each group. Find the one that fits you the best and jump to the final part, if you’re somewhat in the middle of two groups let your numbers be in the middle of these recommendations as well. The following recommendations will be presented as gram/pound Body Weight (BW) or as g/lb Fat Free Mass (FFM) depending on the underlying research. However, some practitioners will argue that a switch in units (BW to FFM and vice versa) has little real-world effect in context for very lean individuals like athletes or other active adults who are already lean.

1 – Adult, Overweight or Obese:~ 0.55–0.7 g/lb (1.2-1.5g/kg)

If you are overweight (BMI 25-30) or obese (BMI >30) aim for anything between 0.55-0.7g protein per pound of actual body weight. Skewing to the higher end of this range if you are physically active or as you become less overweight and closer to your healthy weight. (4, 5)

2 – Adult, Healthy weight, Sedentary:≥ 0.7g/lb (1.5-1.6g/kg)

If you’re at a healthy weight (i.e. BMI 18.5-25) but relatively sedentary, aim for 0.7 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So, if your weight is 140lb the equation looks like this; 140 x 0.8 = 112g (6, 7)

3 – Adult, Lean + Active: ~ 1.05g/lb FFM (2.3g/kg FFM)

If your body fat percentage is relatively low or if you’re at a healthy weight (BMI 18.5-25) and also living an active which includes continuous exercise, aim for 1.05g of protein per pound of Fat Free mass (FFM) (8)

4 – Adult, Lean or Athlete, Very Active:  ~1.4g/lb FFM (3.1g/kg FFM)

If you’re markedly lean and very active (e.g. athlete) or if you’re lean and regularly do heavy resistance training, aim for 1.4g of protein per pound of Fat-Free mass (FFM).  (8, 9)

If you fit inside one of those “Lean”-groups (3 & 4) you may already be somewhat aware of your current Body Fat % (BF%), if not search for “body fat percentage examples” and make your best estimation – it will be close enough. To make a conversion from your BF% to FFM use this equation:
FFM = Body weight – (Body weight x BF%)

Putting it all together in Lifesum

Now when you have an idea of what amounts we’re talking about – let’s find out if you’re already there! To see your daily intake of protein in Lifesum, click “Diary” and “Details”. If the amounts are matching quite good (e.g. +/- 10 gram) you’re very likely in the range which could be considered optimal for you when fat loss is the goal. However, if you find yourself outside this range some adjustments could lead up to greater results and therefore be interesting for you to try. To set your protein intake higher or lower to match your calculation simply go to nutrition settings and change the balance between your macros (Me > Settings > Nutrition Settings).

Another good option, which could be even easier when it comes to prioritizing and set protein, is the plan called High Protein (aka “Eating for Strength” in Lifesum for those who aims for surplus). Before starting the High-Protein plan you’ll find a slider which asks for your desired protein intake expressed in gram/lbs or gram/kg – just enter your figures from above and you’re ready to go.

If you find yourself in any of those last two groups above (3 & 4) you may want to do one more conversion to get your numbers from the proven FFM-recommendations into the less complex body weight recommendations. To do so use this equation:

Recommended Protein Intake x (1 – BF%)

I.e. for an active female with 20% body fat who fits in the third group will use the following numbers: 1.05g/lbs x (1 – 20%) ≈ 0.85g/lbs body weight. And for a male athlete with 10% body fat in the fourth and last group: 1.4g/lbs FFM x (1 – 10%)  ≈ 1.25g/lbs body weight.
Confused? Borrow my spreadsheet converter.

Of course not all high-protein diets are created equal, the amounts of fibers, vegetables, polyphenols and the other nutrient containing items in your diet will hugely impact the overall effect including health. Keep that in mind, be holistic and pay attention to what’s on your plate more than just protein sources. To get inspired, simply go to Recipes inside Lifesum and put “protein” in the searchfield.

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.