#4: Is the RDA for protein enough?


Today I’m looking at the governments RDA’s with todays questioning being – Is the RDA for protein enough?

Well… Nopeeeee. The RDA for protein (0.8 g/kg/day) is completely inadequate for individuals seeking to maximize muscle gain or retention. It’s also completely inadequate for older individuals at risk for sarcopenia/muscle loss.

The following 5 points break down the major findings in protein research pertaining to the optimization of health and body composition in a variety of circumstances. Note that the dose in second-to-last bullet point is in reference to fat-free mass (FFM), while all other figures refer to total mass (total bodyweight).

  • Total daily protein for optimising health and protecting against lean mass loss (general & elderly population): 1.2-1.6 g/kg/day
  • Total daily protein for maximising resistance training adaptation in non-dieting individuals: 1.6-2.2 g/kg/day
  • Optimal protein distribution for maximising rates of muscle gain: 0.4-0.55g/kg per meal, consumed in 4 meals per day
  • Total daily protein for maximising muscle retention whilst dieting (lean, resistance training subjects): 2.3-3.1 g/kg FFM
  • Optimal protein distribution & frequency of feedings for fat loss or maintenance: For these goals the body can accommodate very low to very high meal frequencies. Go with what you personally prefer & can adhere to, because it really doesn’t matter.

So, is the RDA for protein enough? No, but Protein dosing is not a complicated topic once you narrow it down to the goal and the context.

Have an awesome day!

Liked this? Check out episode #3 in the 1000 interesting things series, “Strict dieting vs flexible dieting – which is better”

Key literature:
Phillips SM, et al. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 May;41(5):565-72.
Morton RW, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar;52(6):376-384.
➤ Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10.
➤ Aragon AA. Behind the paper: Clearing up protein distribution. AARR. Feb 2018. www.alanaragon.com/aarr
➤ Helms ER, et al. 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.
➤ Aragon AA, et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: diets and body composition. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 14;14:16.


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