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Protein Calculator – Including Complete and Incomplete Protein Advice

Protein Intake Calculator

How much protein per day is required to build or maintain muscle mass?

In order to make life easier, Fitness Savvy has developed a unique protein calculator like no other – and thrown in some advice on incomplete proteins for good measure. Use this unique tool to discover how much protein you need per day.

Evidence Used to Create this Protein Calculator

  • If not partaking in exercise, we believe the standard recommendation (government and nutritional guidelines) of protein intake to be sufficient.
  • The debate regarding optimum protein intake tends to relate to strength and hypertrophy training (bodybuilding); the latter being the one most associated with higher protein requirements.
  • If engaging in endurance or cardio based exercise, protein requirements will be higher than standard recommendations, but lower than levels required for strength and hypertrophy; at around 1-1.6 g/kg per day[1,2]
  • Many studies have conflicting conclusions: one of the most comprehensive reviews we discovered[3], found that many of the papers concluding there to be little or no benefit of increased protein consumption had very narrow spreads compared with those whose results concluded the opposite – 66.1% g/kg/day between group intake spread compared to 10.2%.
  • Under a caloric deficit, protein requirements tend to be higher[4]. In this study, the spread is high (i.e., the high protein group is consuming 100% more than the low protein group), and the higher protein consumption is at levels typically above average habitual intakes. However, a further review by Helms, Zinn, Rowlands and Brown, 2014, found higher levels of protein during caloric restriction to be beneficial, and that requirements increase further, the leaner one becomes[5].
  • Greater than 4.4g/kg per day has been shown to be of no benefit in strength and hypertrophy[6], 3.4 g/kg to be of benefit compared with 2.3 g/kg[7], and another found no beneficial difference between 2.6 and 3.3g/kg. This final study compared habitual consumption with increased levels inexperienced, resistance trained men. It showed no benefits of 3.3 g/kg per day[8]. This leads us to our high-end number of 3 g/kg per day within the calculator. This is for very lean individuals, working out more than 5 times per week, who are also in a caloric deficit.

Complete & Incomplete Proteins

When counting calories and recording macros, you must remember that protein requirements refer to complete proteins – i.e., those containing the full chain of all nine essential amino acids.

Complete Protein Sources:

  • Animal proteins – meat, fish, poultry, cheese, eggs & milk (whey protein & casein protein)
  • Some plant proteins – potatoes, chickpeas, black beans, pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, cauliflower, quinoa, pistachios, black-eyed beans and soy.

Incomplete Protein Sources:

  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Some legumes such as peanuts and baked beans
  • Most vegetables

When calculating your total protein intake, you should only count “complete” proteins. However, a combination of incomplete sources can form complete protein chains. Such examples are as follows:

  • Beans on toast – baked beans lack enough Methionine+Cystine, but this is complemented by the levels found in bread, which is lacking in Lysine
  • Peanut Butter Sandwich – peanuts lack enough lysine, but with bread, enough is present to make a complete protein.
  • Chilli and Rice – rice lacks enough lysine, however, when combined with chilli (which is typically made using kidney beans), the kidney beans fill in the gap

If in doubt, there is a fantastic site called SELF Nutrition Data where you can search food types and it shows how complete the protein is. Scores of less than 100 mean the protein source is incomplete. You can click to view complimentary sources to transform your incomplete proteins into complete proteins. How about that, then?!

For those following the Paleo diet, Stay Healthy Ways has some suggestions about the types of Paleo protein powder you should look for.

If you are still struggling to reach your daily protein intake, and want to know which protein supplements are hot at the moment, check out our article on best protein powders for some detailed info.

References

  1. Lemon PW, Proctor DN. Protein intake and athletic performance. Sports Med. 1991 Nov;12(5):313-25.
  2. Tarnopolsky M. Protein requirements for endurance athletes. Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):662-8.
  3. John D Bosse, and Brian M Dixon. Dietary protein to maximize resistance training: a review and examination of protein spread and change theories. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2012; 9: 42.
  4. Longland TM, Oikawa SY, Mitchell CJ, Devries MC, Phillips SM. Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):738-46.
  5. Helms ER, Zinn C, Rowlands DS, Brown SR. A systematic review of dietary protein during caloric restriction in resistance trained lean athletes: a case for higher intakes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014 Apr;24(2):127-38.
  6. Antonio J, Peacock CA, Ellerbroek A, Fromhoff B, Silver T. The effects of consuming a high protein diet (4.4 g/kg/d) on body composition in resistance-trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2014 May 12;11:19.
  7. Jose Antonio, Anya Ellerbroek, Tobin Silver, Steve Orris, Max Scheiner, Adriana Gonzalez, and Corey A Peacock. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12: 39.
  8. Antonio J1, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, Vargas L, Peacock C. The effects of a high protein diet on indices of health and body composition–a crossover trial in resistance-trained men. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Jan 16;13:3.
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