Getting Sufficient Protein From The Right Sources


For many sports, superior muscular strength is an important component of success and performance. Anyone performing a strength training program, in fact, also needs more protein than someone who is sedentary. The same applies to endurance exercise. As a result most dedicated athletes follow a strength training regime, usually involving weight training equipment, in order to continually increase their muscle power and to guard against muscle atrophy and strength decrements during the off season and during the aging process itself. 

In previous articles this month, I have explained the key principles of strength training and its associate benefits. There remains little doubt that the most effective way to increase muscular strength and lean mass development is through the implementation of a properly designed weight training program. Weight training stimulates the involved muscles to lay down a increased number of protein contractile bands known as myofilaments. By increasing the number of myofilaments, each muscle fiber can then contract with increased force, thus providing increased strength capacity of the muscle. 

A key point is the fact that the new contractile bands (myofilaments) synthesized within each trained muscle fiber are made out of protein. Thus, one of the questions frequently asked by individuals involved in strength training is how much protein should I consume each day to maximize muscle growth and strength? Scientific investigation into this matter has now shown us that the amount of protein one requires is dependent upon their body size and work out program. 

As a general rule you can calculate your protein needs by multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7 or 0.8. 

You can estimate your protein need in grams per day by following the steps below:

 Step 1 Review the descriptions and values of the following five activity levels and determine which type most accurately reflects your current activity level.

Sedentary No exercise, no heavy manual labour, work or job.

Value: 0.4

Mildly Active 30 minutes of fat burning aerobic exercise 5 to 7 times per week and no heavy manual labour, work or resistance training

Value: 0.5

Moderately Active 30 minutes of fat burning aerobic exercise program 5 to 7 times per week and weight training program 3 or more times per week or heavy manual labour job

Value: 0.6

More Advanced:Activity Level Minimum of 30 minutes of fat burning aerobic exercise 5 to 7 timer per week and 1 hour of high intensity weight training 5 or more times per week

Value: 0.7

Heavy Training More than 90 minutes of weight training 5 or more times per week with additional aerobic participation

Value: 0.8 

Step 2 Determine your activity level type from Step 1, and write its assigned value here: (e.g., 0.5) 

Step 3 Estimate your protein need in grams per day by multiplying your weight (lbs.) x the assigned value of your activity level type:

Your Weight (lbs.) x Assigned Value = 

My protein requirement per day is ________

Now that you have identified your approximate protein needs in grams per day, become familiar with the following low fat, high–protein foods that are available. It is often difficult to attain your protein goal once you factor in your increased requirement imposed by exercise. Thus, many recreational and elite athletes consume low fat, low carbohydrate protein shakes and protein bars to make it easier to attain their protein requirement. 


Food Portion

Gms of Protein

Food Portion

Gms of Protein

Chicken 3 oz.


Oysters 6 medium


Turkey3 slices: 3 ½ x2 ¾ x 1 ¼


Egg white -one 


Chicken ¼ broiled



Dairy Cottage Cheese 5-6 tbsp.


Most fish 3 oz.


1% Yogurt or 1% milk 8 oz.


Tuna ½ cup


Soy milk low-fat 8 oz.


Tuna 3 oz.


Soy cheese low-fat 1 oz.


Kidney Beans ½ cup


Rice ½ cup cooked


Corn ½ cup


Green beans ½ cup


Green peas ½ cup


Baked Potato 1 medium


White bread 1 slice


Whole Wheat bread 1 slice


Typical breakfast cereal 1 serving

2 – 4

Saltines 4 crackers


Tomatoes 1 medium


Banana 1 medium


Most fruits 1 serving

0.3 – 0.8

Bagel 1 medium


Pasta 1 cup cooked





You now know how much protein you need per day to optimize your muscle growth and strength development.  An excellent way to ensure you are getting enough high quality and total amount of protein is to use a whey-based protein shake each day, that provides 25 grams of protein per serving.



Lemon P.W. et al. Protein requirements and muscle mass/strength changes during intensive training in novice body builders. J. Appl. Physiol 1992; 73 (2) 767-775. 

Lemon P.W. et all. Effect of initial muscle glycogen levels on protein catabolism during exercise. J. Appl. Physiol;1980; 48(4): 624-629. 

Lemon P.W. Protein and exercise update. Med. Sci. Sports Exer.;1987; 19 (suppl): 179-190. 

Friedman J. E. et al. Effect of chronic endurance exercise on retention of dietary protein. Int. J. Sports Med.; 1989; 10:118-123. 

Evans W.J. et al. Protein metabolism during exercise. Physician and Sports Med.; 1983; 11:63. al. The influence of muscular activity on nitrogen balance and on the need of man for proteins. Nutr. Rep. Int., 1974; 10:35. al. The influence of adaptation to physical effort on nitrogen balance in man. Nutr. Rep. Int., 1975; 11:231. al.Food intake, nitrogen, and energy balance in Polish weight lifters during a training camp. Nutrition and Metabolism 12:259-274, 1970. 

Laritcheva K. A. et al. Study of energy expenditure and protein needs of top weight lifters. In Parizkova and Rogozkin (Eds.). Nutrition, physical fitness, and health; pp. 155-163, University Park Press,Baltimore, 1978.

 Hickson Jr. J. F. et al. Human protein intake and metabolism in exercise and sport. In Hickson and Wolinski (Eds.). Nutrition in exercise and sport, pp. 5-35, CPC Press,Boca Raton, 1989. 

Grunewald K.K. et al. Commercially marketed Supplements for Bodybuilding Athletes Sports Medicine 1993; 15(2); 90–103.

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