The U.S. government sets the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein, as well as for vitamins, minerals, fiber, fats, and carbohydrates. The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for sedentary adults 18 and over, or about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. (The RDA for children is higher, at 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.)
This translates into 60 grams of protein per day for a 150-pound person. But that doesn’t mean that’s the target you should be aiming for. For active people, athletes, and elderly people, these guidelines are considered by most experts to be too low.
“A majority of researchers have been saying for decades that the protein RDA is well below where it should be—even too low for non-active people, let alone active people,” says Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., RD, the co-founder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
In Bodybuilding.com’s Foundations of Fitness Nutrition Course, Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., RD, recommends a baseline intake of 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for everyone, or 0.6 grams per pound. For a 150-pound person, that equates to 90 grams per day.
Of course, getting all of those grams in a single meal would likely leave you with a stomachache. For this reason, our experts recommend spreading them across several meals containing at least 20-30 grams, and as much as 40 grams.
“If you’re looking for one protein number to shoot for per meal, make it easy and go for 30 grams,” Kalman says. Once you calculate your ideal daily intake, you can work backward to plan out your meals. You can also use our guide to show you what 30 grams of protein looks like from common foods.