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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 24 2013

How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?

By Mark Sisson
206 Comments

RibsI get a lot of emails on a lot of subjects. “Mark, is toothpaste Primal?” “How many micrograms of wheat germ agglutinin can I safely consume each day?” “Did Grok even lift?” Usually, I manage to address them in the Monday Dear Mark posts, but sometimes a question deserves its own dedicated midweek post. Today’s question, or rather pair of questions, definitely qualifies. First is the titular question, “How much protein should I eat?” I get that one a lot, even though I’ve covered this in my books and in various blog posts. The second question is “How much protein do you eat, Mark?” Before we get to my protein intake (which has changed in recent years) let’s explore how much protein you should be eating. The answer – wait for it – depends on who (and what) you are. Your goals, your age, your activity levels, your size, and your health status all impact how much protein you need. And although individual protein requirements ultimately depend on dozens of variables that we can’t really know, there are some baseline intakes that can serve as a foundation for different groups. Let’s take a look.

The Sedentary

The RDA of 0.8 g protein/kg bodyweight or 0.36 g protein/lb bodyweight assumes you are sedentary, uninterested in gaining muscle, and free of health issues that might compromise your lean mass. If that describes you, the RDA is a good baseline from which to experiment. Just don’t go below that.

The Active

Athletes need more protein than the average person, but perhaps not as much as most fitness enthusiasts think (or consume). A 2011 paper on optimal protein intakes for athletes concluded that 1.8 g protein/kg bodyweight (or 0.8 g protein/lb bodyweight) maximizes muscle protein synthesis (while higher amounts are good for dieting athletes interested in preserving lean mass), whereas another settled on “a diet with 12-15% of its energy as protein,” assuming “total energy intake is sufficient to cover the high expenditures caused by daily training” (which could be quite high). One study even found benefit in 2-3 g protein/kg bodyweight (0.9-1.4 g protein/lb bodyweight) for athletes, a significant increase over standard recommendations. That said, I wouldn’t be too quick to discount anecdotal evidence or “iron lore.” A significant-enough portion of the strength training community swears by 1-2 g protein/lb bodyweight that it couldn’t hurt to try if lower amounts aren’t working for you.

The Dieters

Weight loss involves a caloric deficit (whether arrived at spontaneously or consciously). Unfortunately, caloric deficits rarely discriminate between lean mass and body fat, while most people are interested in losing fat, not muscle/bone/tendon/sinew/organ. Numerous studies show that increasing your protein intake during weight loss will partially offset the lean mass loss that tends to occur. In obese and pre-obese women, a 750 calorie diet with 30% of calories from protein (about 56 grams) preserved more lean mass during weight loss than an 18% protein diet. Another study in women showed that a 1.6 g protein/kg bodyweight (or 0.7 g protein/lb bodyweight) diet led to more weight loss, more fat loss, and less lean mass loss than a 0.8 g protein/kg bodyweight diet. Among dieting athletes, 2.3 g protein/kg bodyweight (or a little over 1 g protein/lb bodyweight) was far superior to 1.0 g protein/kg bodyweight in preserving lean mass. And, although specific protein intake recommendations were not stated, a recent meta-analysis concluded that high-protein weight loss diets help preserve lean mass.

The Injured

Healing wounds increases protein requirements. After all, you’re literally rebuilding lost or damaged tissue, the very definition of an anabolic state. One review recommends around 1.5 g protein/kg bodyweight or close to 0.7 g protein/lb bodyweight for injured patients.

The Elderly

The protein RDA may not suffice for older people, who lose thigh muscle mass and exhibit lower urinary nitrogen excretion when given the standard 0.8 g protein/kg bodyweight. What’s good for the goose may not be good for the elderly, frail gander. More recent studies indicate that a baseline intake of 1.0-1.3 g protein/kg bodyweight or 0.5-0.6 g protein/lb bodyweight is more suitable for the healthy and frail elderly to ensure nitrogen balance. As always, active seniors will probably do better with slightly more, and evidence suggests that increasing protein can both improve physical performance without necessarily increasing muscle mass and increase muscle mass when paired with extended resistance training in the elderly.

These are just starting points, mind you. Guidelines. Play around with your protein intake.

I also get a lot of people asking me about my protein intake, and apparently some people have the idea that I’m eating entire racks of ribs for meals. Actually, though, I’ve slightly modified my protein intake over the past couple years. Or, rather, it’s more accurate to say that my protein habits have changed. It wasn’t really a conscious effort; it was a gradual shift that simply happened, spurred by my body’s own appetites. You might even say it was a Primal shift. So, what’s changed about how I eat protein?

I’m eating less meat. The urge to eat large steaks on a regular basis has simply diminished. I still might have meat at most meals, but I’m having 4-6 ounces at a sitting instead of 8-12. This wasn’t a conscious decision. The craving simply isn’t there, and I’m merely eating to appetite.

My protein intake is more cyclical, than regular. Some days, I’ll finish the entire steak and be ready for more. Other days (maybe most), I’ll have a few bites and save the rest for later.

I’m eating fattier, more gelatinous cuts, like short ribs, oxtails, and shanks and making bone broth more often. I’ve always enjoyed my animal fat, so that hasn’t changed, but the gelatinous focus is definitely newer. It may have been the Masterjohn “bones and skin” post from a few years back that got me thinking more about gelatin and spurred me to be more regular with the stock-making. After all, a cow isn’t just sirloin tips and ground beef. It’s bones and skin and organs and joints, too. A 1000 pound cow will provide about 430 pounds of “retail cuts” (PDF) – steaks, roasts, things like that. Some of the leftover is water weight, but the majority of the remaining 570 pounds is gelatin, offal, bones, skin, and other “waste products” that our ancestors certainly utilized. It’s only very recently – and in select places (ahem, United States) – that people began thinking of food animals as “meat” and nothing else. Demi-glace, consomme, pho, Jamaican oxtail stew anyone?

The end result is that while I’ve reduced my “meat” intake, I’m still eating a good amount of protein. It’s just that some of it is coming from broth and gelatin now, which have the effect of “protein sparing.” In other words, eating gelatin reduces the amount of meat required to maintain muscle mass and perform all my regular protein-related physiological functions. Adding more stock and gelatin-rich meats, particularly at dinner, has also seemed to improve my sleep. Eating the whole animal makes everything easier – who knew?

Anyway, I’m eating a bit less meat nowadays and a few more plants and odder animal bits, which may be a huge shock to some of you. You know why? My needs have probably changed and my body is responding accordingly.

I want to reiterate: this was not a conscious decision borne of theorizing. My “decision” to eat less meat has only happened because I crave it less. As to why my cravings might have diminished, I have a few ideas:

I’m no longer catabolizing my lean mass through excessive endurance training, nor am I actively recovering from it. Endurance athletics (and really, any activity, but especially catabolic training like marathons and triathlons) increases the need for protein. You’d better heed that need unless you like losing muscle and bone. Since I’m not doing Chronic Cardio anymore, I don’t need to eat so much to preserve my muscle.

I’m maintaining, rather than seeking to build more lean mass. There was a short stint of deliberate mass building several years ago where I overate (especially protein) and managed to get up to the high 170s, but I didn’t enjoy it and maintaining that kind of lean mass was tough and required too much food. I’m happy where I am – both aesthetically and functionally – and so I don’t really have to eat a ton of protein to maintain.

My training is far more moderate than it ever was. I focus on play and strength training, but I mostly do bodyweight stuff (sometimes supplemented with a weight vest). This reduces the protein I need to recover and rebuild.

My “nitrogen sink” (muscle tissue) has become more efficient, allowing more variation. I don’t have any bloodwork to back this up, I just know that I’ll have 45 gram days (where I have, say, four ounces of lamb, some yogurt, maybe a bit of aged cheese and a few nuts) right alongside 160 gram days (where I indeed approach full rack of ribs territory). But those big protein days are less frequent now, and my average daily intake is right around 100 to 120 grams. I suspect this is closer to how people traditionally consumed meat – in intermittent bursts. Some days, you’d get relatively little, while other stretches were outright feasts. It definitely feels right to me.

Again, that’s what I’m doing. I think this works for me because I’m extremely clued in to my body (I’d better be after all these years!). If it tells me something – like “eat some protein!” – I trust it. If you’re not quite so far along your journey, you may not place as much trust in your body’s messaging. That’s fine. We can’t always trust our bodies at all times. In that case, start with the basic guidelines outlined above and revise upwards or downwards based on your feedback.

Losing strength/muscle during weight loss? Increase the protein.

Your favorite cut of meat suddenly disgusts you? Try reducing the protein.

Not recovering from workouts? Increase the protein.

Ideally, you should be able to bump the protein up and down depending on what your body requires. I’ve reached that point myself, and I think once you get there, it gets a lot easier. You shouldn’t have to count protein grams and I don’t want you to obsess over the numbers listed above, as they are merely guidelines to consider. As long as you’re observing the “best practices” like eating offal, incorporating gelatinous cuts and/or stock, and eating a variety of foods, your protein intake should be fairly intuitive.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful, and maybe illuminating, without being too much for you guys. Going Primal doesn’t necessarily mean gorging on meat, especially lean meat. It certainly can, from time to time, if that lines up with your goals and needs, but it doesn’t have to be that way. And as time goes on and you grow more attuned to your body, you may find yourself simply requiring – and thus craving – less meat. Or more meat, if that’s what your body needs. Bodies are funny like that.

What do you think about all this? How much protein do you eat on average? How has that changed over the years?

Thanks for reading!

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206 thoughts on “How Much Protein Should You Be Eating?”

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  1. How much protein for children? Should it vary from a boy to a girl?

    1. If you’ve always offerend healthy food and haven’t done too much intervening in their eating habits, you can probably trust their appetite. My (healthy sized) 5 year old sometimes eats relatively light on protein hitting mostly veggies, fruit & cheese, and then sometimes he demolishes pork chops, ribs, crab or meatballs like it’s going out of style. YMMV if your kid is heavilly invested in junk food or if you’ve been micromanaging their eating habits.

      (I won’t lie, you put crab & a hammer in front of him and he will pretty much always demolish it.)

  2. Sorry if this is a silly question, but does this include protein from plant sources? E.g. seaweed is ~25% protein. Thanks!

    1. Yes silly question. Protein is protein. That’s how vegetarian body builders exist.

      1. I didn’t think it was a silly question. I thought it was a valid question. The only protein Mark specifically mentions in this article is from animal flesh. So I think Rachel’s question shows good critical thinking.

        1. Thanks for the support 🙂 Trying to sort out the protein thing in my macros

      2. Incorrect. Studies using soy protein show it doesn’t grow muscle any better than water. That is based on pee, and what is metabolically assumed to be measured regarding protein/muscle synthesis. It is a matter of balance. Yes, it is complete protein, but there is less of one or two amino acids that are the primary ones needed to grow muscle. Supplements with individual aminos care a modern way around that for non meat people.

        1. Thanks, Dr. J – appreciate your science-y response. Although I know the ratios of amino acids differ in the various cuts/types of meat or other animal products, where plants fit in the whole thing still puzzles me because they each lack different amino acids. Might try not ‘counting’ the veggies I eat in my total daily protein.

      3. Protein from plants is harder for your body to use than protein from meat. Vegetarian body builders use a lot of protein supplements (and so do non-vegetarian body builders).

      4. I don’t think it was silly either. Most vegetable proteins aren’t complete, and even then, the bio-availability may be significantly less, requiring much more protein to get to a similar amount.

      5. Not a silly question at all. Other nutrients vary in their bio-availability and efficacy between meat and vegetable sources, so it’s not silly to think that the same thing may be true with protein. As they say: “the only silly question is the one that isn’t asked.”

      6. Protein is not protein. That’s like saying fat is fat. There are different kinds of fats and there are different kinds of proteins, some are more beneficial than others.

        Legume and nut protein is mostly useless by the body. It is incomplete, and half of what is there cannot be absorbed. Egg protein is over twice as bioavailable as protein from peanuts – you’d have to eat over 100g of protein in peanuts to equal the protein quality of 50g of egg protein, and the peanuts would still be incomplete. Same thing goes for wheat protein, soy protein, rice protein…it’s mostly junk.

        If it doesn’t come from an animal source – meat, dairy or eggs – I don’t count it.

        1. not counting protein from a non-animal source is completely silly. your body combines amino acids from incomplete proteins quite nicely. happens all the time. vegetarians/vegans are, as a group, healthier than most. protein deficiency is largely a myth.

      7. Gluten is a protein (or two)

        Since “protein is protein”:

        Eating a gluten steak must have exactly the same effect on the body as actual meat steak.

        Hmmm……..maybe it wasn’t such a silly question.

    2. Not a silly question! All proteins are not created equal. Although, in this scenario, seaweed isn’t a good example of a plant source, as seaweed (and other algae) are not technically plants, so I think their proteins may differ somewhat.

      1. Thanks for the info on seaweed not technically being a plant – learning stuff like this is always interesting!

  3. MARK, You left out those trying to build lean mass. The difference between an athlete and somebody trying to build is big. Lots of people here have lost a lot of fat with primal living/eating and are now trying to build muscle on the exact same plan they did to lose weight. Doesn’t work!

    1. Mark said to eat more protein!

      Mark wrote, “That said, I wouldn’t be too quick to discount anecdotal evidence or “iron lore.” A significant-enough portion of the strength training community swears by 1-2 g protein/lb bodyweight that it couldn’t hurt to try if lower amounts aren’t working for you.”

      I consume around 300 grams protein per day and it is working well with my weight training/body building program. I eat 6 meals per day and shoot for 40-50 grams of protein per each meal. On my work out days, I consume around 150-200 grams of carbs and on my non-work out days I drop the carbs to around 100 grams. I’m staying lean and building muscle!

      1. Thanks, Max. Out of curiosity, how old are you and what’s your lifting schedule?

        1. I’m 43 and I work out 5 days per week. My split is:

          A: Chest & Triceps
          B: Legs & Shoulder
          C: Back & Biceps.

          I rotate thru the slit Mon thru Fri and take the weekends off. My rotation looks like this:

          Week 1: A B C A B
          Week 2: C A B C A
          Week 3: B C A B C

          I perform mostly compount excercises, with a rep range of 6-12. I take all sets to near failure. I rest 30 seconds between sets and 60-90 seconds between excercises. I do not rest any longer than this between sets and excercises.

          The set rep schedule looks like this

          First Chest, Legs, or Back compound exercise is 4 sets of 6-8.
          Second Chest, Legs, or Back excercise is 3 sets of 8-10
          Third Chest, Legs, or Back excercise is 2 sets of 8-10
          Fourth Chest, Legs, or Back excercise is 2 sets of 10-12

          First Tricep, Shoulders or Bicep excerise is 3 sets of 6-8
          Second Tricep, Shoulders or Bicep excerice is 2 sets of 8-10
          Third Tricep, Shoulders or Bicep excercise is 2 sets of 10-12

          This routine takes about 30-35 minutes to complete.

    2. I agree with maximus. if you are strength training and looking to gain muscle you HAVE to eat more protein, especially if you are living the low carb primal lifestyle. I cant imagine not being hungry for a big juicy steak!
      The past several months i started really getting into bodyweight strength training via the book ‘convict conditioning’ (which is an awesome book!). I just do whey protein after every heavy workout plus 3-4 eggs/day and some chicken or beef at most meals on top of heaps of veggies(and absolutely no grains/pasta/sugar as i am T1 diabetic). I have gained about 12 lbs of lean body doing this over the last few months, and never been in better shape!
      And for anyone that thinks you need to supplement heavy exercise w/ simple carbs, you dont…Im living proof! Just load up on the fat and protein! 🙂

      1. Shawn, great story. I’m looking for type 1 diabetics to interview about low-carb living. If you’re interested you can drop my wife (also T1) and I a line at info@diabeticdharma.com.

        I’d love to know what your carb intake is for the day and some other details. My wife has started the Primal Fitness program and a low 30-50g carb/day diet (8 weeks now) and is getting stronger and healthier much quicker than we expected.

        1. Hey John I’m t1 and been primal for a couple of years. I’ll be in contact.

      2. Shawn, my grandson has type 1 diabetes. I want to ask if you get ketones on a low carb diet. Ketones are fine for most people, but type 1 diabetics are prone to ketoacidosis. I would very much appreciate your answer. Thank you.

        1. Hi Elena, Ive actually never checked my ketones, only blood sugar(ive only been t1 for about 2 yrs now). I dont really understand the reasoning behind checking ketones…i know if my bs is high there will be ketones and vice versa.
          If you follow a very low carb diet you will have ketones in your blood, but this is due to ketosis rather than ketoacidosis. ketosis is when your body is burning fat for energy due to low carb consumption and is actually healthy. ketoacidosis is when your blood sugar goes high due to too little insulin and your body starts breaking down fat for energy instead, this is extremely dangerous.
          i eat about 100 carbs/day, so im probably not in ketosis, and definitely not in ketoacidosis. ……So to answer your question, no i probably dont have ketones, but they are ok for diabetics as long as they are from ketosis and not ketoacidosis.

        2. Hi, Elena, my son (3yr) has T1 diabetes and woke up one morning with a headache. Since I myself has tried doing ketosis on purpose, I thought he might be in ketosis. Rightly so, his ketone level was 2.6 mmol/L. His blood glucose was very low as well, so we just adjusted with carbs and less insulin the next night. I don’t worry about ketoacidosis when his BG is low, but I can’t get him to drink broth when he is in healthy ketosis either (the transition to very low carb can cause a headache and can be treated with sodium, among other minerals), so I rather give him a few carbs to fend off the headache.
          Hope my answer helped you a bit.

        3. Elisa I’m a t1 and been primal for a couple of years. No need to worry about ketoacisosis. Primal is the way forward and also check out Dr Bernsteins book.
          More of an idea here about ketones etc ketogenic-diet-resource.com/ketoacidosis.html

        4. Elisa I noted you shouldn’t worry about ketoacidosis which is incorrect. I should have said don’t worry about low carb causing ketoacidosis. And don’t confuse producing ketones with being in ketoacidosis. Check the link below or search the web for an explanation of the differences. You’ll then have a more in depth knowledge than most health professionals who dont understand the difference!

  4. It’s nice to hear a breakdown of guidelines for specific groups of people. I’ve always just heard the 1g/lb bodyweight thrown around by different people.

    I just try to get my calories in this form:
    fat>protein>carbohydrates

    Although it doesn’t always work out that way, it’s a good way for me to check if I’m eating enough fat and protein. I was eating many more protein calories back when I was lifting 5 days/week, but since I’m mostly moving around at a slow pace, I’ve altered my eating habits. Plus protein can be quite heavy to carry around for a couple miles (to and from the grocery store–I don’t have a car!)…

  5. I do not know how much protein exactly I eat on average. I do know that it is a huge amount more than it used to be. I eat a portion of meat at almost every meal. At least 4 or 5 ounces, often 8 or 12 ounces. It seems to have improved everything to consume more protein than even my boyfriend does. I’m 48 and spent most of my adult life thinking meat and protein was not important. I was very wrong.

    1. Me too, especially for 14 years out of 21 (in two stints) as a vegetarian (and all through my Ironman racing days … hand across eyes emoticon)!

      At just turned 46 (female) I agree how much better I feel eating meat and fish again and in reasonable portions.

      Animal proteins are more complete amino acid profiles and bio-available for humans who evolved to access plant nutrition via the herbivores! I suppose it isn’t rocket science when you think about it but I didn’t want to think about it at the time!

      1. Yep, that’s the worst part – this isn’t rocket science, just sound theory that meshes with medical research, anthropology, and even grandma.

        I used to push away the idea that sugar consumption was detrimental. (It was the fat, right?? 😉 ) I was totally wrong there. 🙁

  6. How many hours a day are you training(assuming you’re weight training) X 1 pound of steak = your protein needs.

    So if I train for 4 hours 2 2 hour sessions a day I need to find a way to eat 4 pounds of beef, along with starch, veggies and extra fat.

    Or if I only do 1 45 min session that’s only 1 pound of beef so it’s a lot easier.

  7. A classic and hugely debated topic but a refreshing primal approach which just shrugs its shoulders and says ‘Don’t stress about it!’

    I appreciate the g protein/kg body-weight guidelines but have never used them myself, preferring to allow my body to indicate to me when I’m eating too little or too much protein. Unless you’re living off scoops of whey protein, I find it a tedious to try to measure out meat portions/nuts/beans etc…

    On a side note, I ate lamb kidney last night and really quite enjoyed it. I don’t eat animal organs very often at all but figure the variety of meat is good! It’s all about flavouring your meat with quality, fresh ingredients =)

    1. I bought lamb kidney once from Whole Foods (it was very inexpensive, so I thought I’d give it a try). I swear it smelled just like pee!!! I couldn’t even cook it after I opened the package.

  8. Are you reading my mail? Over the last few days I’ve consumed a rather large amount of fish because, well, I felt like it. A little voice was shouting “PROTEIN!!” and I decided to heed it.

  9. I’ve always eaten protein to appetite. If I eat too much it doens’t sound appetizing, and if I eat to little I crave it. It’s the one macronutrient I know I can trust my body on. Carbs, on the other hand, are tricky for me to distinguish if I’m getting too much/little. But I don’t really know; I am far from a lean, fat-burning machine … yet!

    1. This works for me too. I lose interest in eating protein when my body has had enough. If I have meat and eggs for breakfast, I find I’m satisfied with a smaller than usual portion of protein at dinnertime. The reverse is also true. I’ve never bothered with the grams thing. I just leave it up to my body to tell my how much protein I need. Since I don’t eat sweets or grain products, I don’t worry about overeating other carbs.

      1. Carbs are tricky for me too. I can never tell if I am eating to little or too much. Especially now that I’m on thyroid medication.
        But protein- I ALWAYS want meat. Always. Usually beef. I don’t eat it with every meal, but wouldn’t mind if I did. I love it.
        I wonder sometimes if I eat too much meat… I can out-eat some men I know with the amount of meat I can consume. I stop eating when I feel that I’ve had enough. But sometimes I could keep eating.
        It’s odd to me. No one else I know is like that.
        Is anyone here able to eat a lot of meat at one time and not feel sick?
        And is this a bad thing?

        Also, After losing 30lbs and keeping it off for a bit, I was under an intense amount of stress and developed adrenal fatigue that also triggered thyroid issues. I have since gained 25lbs (in about 10 months). 🙁
        I can’t figure out what to eat/not to eat (yes, I’m primal) because no matter what, I gain fat. Also I noticed that sometimes when I exercise I feel heavier as if I’m gaining fat and not muscle. WHY in the world would that happen?

        1. @framistat – it was synthroid for a while but I wanted to try something else, so now I’m taking NatureThroid.

        2. Good for you. There could be other hormone imbalances…

          Recommended books: Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Thyroid Guardian of Health, Stop the Thyroid Madness, The DHEA Breakthrough, possibly What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause.

          What worked for me (all available at Amazon): adding Raw Thyroid, 1/2 Iodoral, DHEA, CoQ10 mornings; B12 drops and pregnenolone at noon; Vitamin D at each meal (has your level been tested?); progesterone cream morning and evening. Two courses of Standard Process Adrenal Dessicated. Also reestablishing gut flora with Culturelle and kefir.

          It was the combination of all these + Primal that worked for me to restore balance. Yes, tricky. Hope this helps. Best of luck.

  10. Great topic and well stated, Mark. I find it interesting that the focus in your article and most of the responses is meat (animal offal, gelatin) is the source of protein. Quite frankly, I think that fish, mollusks, shellfish should not be ignored and far too often is in the primal and paleo community. It is highly likely that Grok, as most of our ancestors, lived in a coastal environment and relied on sea creatures for much of his protein.

    1. “It is highly likely that Grok, as most of our ancestors, lived in a coastal environment and relied on sea creatures for much of his protein.”

      Not necessarily. Grok would have gotten most of his seafood by scavenging along the shoreline. During fish runs, he could probably wade into a stream and scoop fish into a basket (while keeping a wary eye out for the local Ursus etruscus (large, ravenous paleo-bear).

      “Collagen analysis of human remains found in a cave on Favignana, an island west of Sicily, shows that settlers there 20,000 to 25,000 years ago relied on land animals—deer and boar—rather than fish, even as rising seas isolated the island. They may have lacked well-developed fishing technology.” (Samir S. Patel, Archaeology Magazine)

      1. Australian coastal groks ate huge amounts of shellfish, crabs & spear fished.

        1. Again, adapting to their environment. I bet my probably coastal ancestors in Norway ate more fish than my inland-dwelling German and Austrian mountain-dwelling ones did. If the Groks got enough protein from their land animals I’m thinking they didn’t NEED to develop a fishing technology—did they recognize that fish were edible?

  11. What about pregnant and/or breastfeeding mammas? Over the past 3 years I have between either one or both of those. Would my protein requirements be similar to those of an athlete (I also consistently lift 2-3 times per week), or less?

    1. Kelly, I followed 80-100 when pregnant. Followed Dr. Brewer’s diet with some paleo modifications.

    2. I assume an athletes’ recommendation, even if not still lifting, since you’re literally growing a whole second person from scratch. The Brewer Diet is a good reference for many. They suggest 80-100g, but I personally think they’re making this suggestion in reference to a population that tends to hover in the 50-60g range. I’ve got significantly more lean tissue than the average woman (genetically “dense”), so my personal protein requirements pre-pregnancy we’re already in that 80-100 range. Now that I’m pregnant, I definitely have noticed my increased need for protein over and above my usual, so I scale the Brewer diet recommendations up based on my body as a baseline and eat intuitively from there.

  12. Hey Mark, can you follow up this post with your bone broth recipe?

  13. I can certainly relate to intuitive eating of protein. I’m pregnant right now, which makes my protein requirements a bit higher, and I’m consistently finding that a 4 oz serving of meat isn’t nearly enough anymore. I can easily plow through a full pound of steak in a sitting, but I try to stop myself at around an 8 oz serving, just to keep my budget more manageable! I also upped my daily egg consumption from 2/day pre-pregnancy to 3+ every day now. I’d say before, I was eating 80-100g protein a day, but now I usually meet or exceed 120g.

    1. I’m also pregnant and have found that I could do eggs for every meal some days, and that often, only protein food sound good. This has been especially true since the weather has warmed up and I’m outside doing yardwork and walking more too. Short ribs have been a real favorite–now know why. It’s the gelatin!

      1. Thanks for this. I’m also pregnant and have been ‘anti-craving’ meat and eggs (my 2 go-to’s for meals pre-pregnancy); I was wondering if it was pregnancy or me, helpful to see that it’s me.

        1. I had horrible all-day sickness during first 3 months of both of my pregnancies—coildn’t stand the sight or smell of any raw meat most of the time, especially during the first one (then-husband wasn’t much of a cook). Used as much milk as I could stand; didn’t know about whey protein then (early-mid 1980s). Probably did about 90 gms/ day so nutritionally we did OK after the sickness stopped

  14. If a particular person needs an average of 120gms of proteing a day, however one should not consume over 30gms per meal, how does one achieve the target amount given that most people on the primal diet dont feel hungry enough to have more than 3 full meals?

    1. Sneha, the 30 grams thing is a little more complex than that. Mark addressed it in:
      “Dear Mark: How Much Protein Can You Absorb and Use from One …
      Jul 9, 2012”
      And I believe some other places as well.
      Anecdotally, I’ve been eating one meal a day for a few years now, and I’ve never felt like I wasn’t absorbing all my proteenz.

  15. On a separate topic, I have been on the Paleo/Primal diet for about 6 weeks now. I just had a physical and had my cholesterol checked. Compared to 6 months ago, my LDL increased from 141 to 185, my HDL from 63 to 73, and my triglycerides decreased from 102 to 83. What am I doing wrong? Other than my LDL I am happy with the results. My doctor is planning on putting me on some statin drug.

    Other things you need to know about me is that I am 70 years old and suffer from muscular dystrophy(I was diagnosed 30 years ago).

    Any comments would be kindly appreciated.

    Tom

    1. Tom – be sure to query the MDA website, Mark did/has done a few comprehensive blood work postings to help you decipher your numbers. I also think 6 weeks of primal may not be sufficient for seeing a new “trend” in your blood work. You are not alone in some confusion about this, this might be a starting point and then at the bottom of the article are some more links:

      https://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-10-things-you-need-to-know-part-1/#axzz2RPAMZmLe

    2. dont do the statins! Like others have said, work on cutting out grains/sugars/simple carbs to lower the trigs. 73 isnt bad for HDL, but exercise will raise that even more.
      You may be seeing a brief rise in LDL as your body adjusts to a higher fat primal diet. This should go down somewhat over time but will probably always be higher than most health professionals consider ‘ideal’. Mark covers all of this in his posts that are linked in comments above.
      My last chol test was 6 months ago: trigs 25, LDL 121, HDL 95. Ive been primal for over a year, exercise quite often, and eat no grains/sugars/carbs other than those found in vegetables and nuts. Funny thing is, the one comment my dr had when she saw the results was “the ldl is a little higher than we like to see, but i dont think we need to do anything about it right now’. i think my dr knows better than to ever try putting me on statins

    3. Hello Tom,

      I think you should also get your Vitamin D level checked. Cheers

  16. I love the idea of eating the whole animal and having a variety of choices. Eating the same stuff can get boring after a while, so I’m going to try some gelatinous cuts this week! Mmmm, jelly food 🙂

  17. Am trying to find the link to unsubscribe. As a vegetarian..all the post about steaks and meat eating upset and depress me.

      1. Don’t feed the troll! Especially if you’re only feeding it salad…

    1. Unsubscribe? I rarely get a newsletter by email. Most of the time I have to go on the website. If you’re a vegetarian, I wonder how you got subscribed to this website in the first place. And why are you reading the comments if they depress you? Maybe Tim is right and you really are a troll.

    2. Your depression is caused by a stressed out thyroid that has to figure out how to make what you need without the stuff it needs and instead use all the crap you’re eating to make up for your predilections. I’m going to eat meat whether you do or not, so as long as the cow is dead, you may as well.

    3. I’m a vegetarian who drinks a lot of whey protein shakes and eats a lot of eggs (obviously not vegan) who finds all the other aspects of Mark’s blog and the paleo lifestyle to very informative and often inspirational. I lost a lot of weight, 20+ pounds by eliminating grains over a year ago (was not really trying to lose weight, just happened with ease) even though my diet otherwise was pretty clean … finally got over the multigrains and whole cererals are healthy myth. BTW the unsubscribe link is at the bottom of your e-mail.

  18. I have no idea how many grams of protein I’m getting per day, but I can tell you that I lost 20 pounds last year (my goal was 17) simply by changing my snacking habits from carb snacks to protein snacks. This was before I went primal. Simply switching from chips and pretzels to jerky and nuts made a HUGE difference for me in terms of weight loss and keeping lean muscle. I’ve been primal since the first of this year and I really do not eat any more actual meat now than I did before. My body can’t metabolize non-heme iron so I HAVE to eat a certain amount of meat to avoid anemia, but I’m not eating it at every meal and my portions at meals are reasonable. I do hit the bone broth pretty hard, though!

  19. What a timely post! I’m on my 20th day of one meal a day, and the first week I was all about slabs of meat, like 9 ounces, and no veggies, just some berries. 2nd week, I began adding in some leafy greens or shredded cabbage to hold my creamy salad dressing together. Now, third week, I’m eating 3-4 ounces of protein, leafy greens every day, and some soup (if the cafeteria has gluten free.)

    It’s all from following my cravings. Which, eating Primally, are far more trustworthy than I’ve been used to.

  20. I know this is a difficult answer for this question, but about how much protein is in a cup of bone broth?

    Thanks

  21. I’d like to know what 100-120 grams of protein would look like through food. I used to be a compulsive calorie counter and have tried my best to steer clear of counting my macros for fear of getting compulsive again.

    1. 1 medium-size egg: ca. 7g protein
      100g meat, fish etc.: ca. 20g protein (leaner cuts have a bit more protein, fatty cuts a bit less)

  22. Hi Mark, I find I can pretty much trust my body to tell me what it needs and what wasn’t such a good idea to eat! My issue at the moment is sourcing animal protein that has been raised and slaughtered ethically. I lose my appetite when I consider the horrific treatment of animals. Any suggestions?

    1. Bernadette,

      I share your struggles but am fortunate to have many options where I live. Here’s a website that you can track down some localest sources. Eatwild.com

      Also consider a meat share and get some friends on board to bring the price down.

    2. Get to know a local, small-scale producer of grass fed beef, etc. They will probably be delighted to give you a tour of the farm.

  23. This might be me, but I’ve found if I want to lose weight quickly, I can focus on consuming large amounts of meat. It’s not something I purposely did, but found after 2 instances where I consumed over a pound of meat in one sitting with very few carbs I wake up the next day a pound or 2 lighter. Most likely this is caused by my body entering a mild ketogenic state as well as it’s usually the only meal I would eat that day due to the filling nature of protein….not sure if this would work long term or if this is just a quick boost that can be done every now and then. Anyone else have any similar experiences?

  24. Professional bodybuilder Jay Cutler claimed that when he was training for the 2005 Mr. Olympia contest, he took in over 600 grams a protein a day. He ate 8-10 meals a day. He said he even got up two or three times in the middle of the night to have a meal. He knew he didn’t need that much protein; he was just trying to prevent muscle loss.

  25. If you are a female trying to lose weight and you have over 100 lbs to lose, should you be eating the .7g per desired bodyweight or current bodyweight and then gradually reduce your protein as you lose weight. I just used the .7g from the above example.

    1. I wondered this as well–whether to base the calculation on actual versus ideal body weight. You would think that, if someone were very overweight and calculating based on actual weight, he/she would be eating way too much protien.

        1. I think you should eat the protein grams times your IDEAL body weight – it has probably been mentioned elsewhere..

    2. You would want to choose the goal body weight for the total calories consumed, not your current weight. Eat 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound using your goal body weight for calcuations.

    3. check out” the leptin reset “by Jack Kruse. The 50 to 70 grams of protein for breakfast will slow down digestion as mentioned in Marks’ earlier blog, to keep you full until late afternoon or diner. Many on this site are athletes who have no idea and no ideas about how to lose 100 pounds. You should eat more and exercise LESS until you lose enough weight that you naturally want to move more. Have you noticed how many posters do not really follow Marks advice and are still over exercising? I love this site but it can not hold a candle to Jack Kruse when it comes to weight loss or fixing medical problems. People with 100 pounds to lose, always have more hormonal issues than the athlete who just wants to loss “the last stubborn 5 pounds”.

  26. What age is elderly? My husband is 76 and he is very active. Is he elderly? I’m 63 am I elderly? Or is this a state of mind?

    1. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” (Mark Twain)

    2. I get the age is a state of mind and applaud it, but elderly is defined as well past middle age. “Well past” is subjective. Factor in the average lifespans for males and females compared to your ages, and yes, you are elderly. Perhaps outliers as fit elderly, but elderly nonetheless 🙂

      1. Which is why someone came up with the idea of chronological age vs. biological age. I’ve seen some pretty “old” twenty-thirty-forty-somethings!

        1. I have, too. It’s a pretty obvious from those addicted to drugs that’s it’s possible to speed up the aging process. A 50 year old who has done hard drugs for the last 3 decades might be much older than a 70 year old who has taken care of themselves.

  27. I am a young guy (24) and I eat 120+g of protein a day while on a calorie deficit. If I ate whatever I wanted, I’d easily eat over 200g. My father was the exact same way at my age. Nowadays, he still loves meat, but he doesn’t crave the large blocks of it. In fact, he simply eats less than he used to, and he prefers more fruits and other foods. I’ve noticed this trend among my parents’ friend circle. I suspect that Mark is simply aging. He still loves his protein, but his body just doesn’t crave it like it used to.

    1. Out of curiosity, how do you eat that much protein (looks like 1.5 pounds meat/day) while maintaining a calorie deficit? Is there a protein shake involved?

      I’ve been trying to cut calories as of late to get a little leaner, and keeping protein high and calories low has been a challenge, especially when you factor in carbs post-workout.

  28. I think the best part of the Paleo lifestyle is that, while guidelines are often helpful (especially for those with a specific goal in mind), they’re not always necessary. Just like Mark explaining his body’s change in the type of protein it desires, our bodies often tell us when we need more of something, or less.

  29. Great post and kudos to those who asked. This was always a question of mine. When I look back to my heavy lifting days I think I ate only protein (eggs, chicken – entire populations, steak and tuna) but now my views on weight have changed. I’m about 190 and would love to get back down to 180ish and maintain while focusing just on lean muscle.

    Great article as usual Marky Mark.

  30. A great recipe for kidneys is “Kidneys Turbigo”, uses sherry and chipolata sausages. We used to have it on toast when I was growing up – a favourite. Oxtail stew and liver with bacon were also part of our diet. I was much more receptive to trying new foods when I was young, maybe of necessity as it was a case of “the quick and the hungry” with no leftovers to worry about!

  31. What about protein powder? I am 46, 171lbs, male and trying to work out pretty hard again. I can’t seem to consume 170g of protein per day via raw food. I feel incredibly bloated all the time. But if I consume less protein, I can really feel I am not recuperating as well (like huge leg soreness after a ride, or lactic acid in my shoulders a day after working out). I only do two hard (really hard) workouts a week and scatter in light play. The protein powder allows me to easily get in my amount.
    Thanks, OD

    1. Protein powder is absolutely fine. If you are on a budget, whey concentrate is an excellent choice. Whey Isolate isn’t mostly marketing hype, so you really don’t need to waste your money on it unless your budget allows you too. Stay away from soy protein.

  32. If I understand research right it’s also about protein quality, timing and cooking. It’s the most scarce amino acid that dictates the needed quantity and what you can build with the rest of the amino acids. If you are a frutarian and take a little extra methionine; suddenly the total protein quality skyrockets. It’s always the weekest link. Even if a meal contains all the amino acids, your DNA blueprint may think that there is still not enough of a certain amino acid and can’t start building with the rest. So; if you want to build muscle, you may need a lot less protein from muscle meat than you would if you got it from lentils and rice. I think.
    And about timing… If you eat more protein than you need for construction purposes it turns into glucose (glycogen) or fat. And that’s an unnecessary process that costs body energy and money. It would be better to eat sugar or fat if that is what your body needs. And how much protein you need for construction depends on you activity level. If you do nothing you need very little protein for reconstruction because the body’s amino acid pool is there to help the body break down and rebuild proteins it’s own proteins. But if you squat heavy 5 x 5 you may need more. So; if you weight train on Mondays and Thursdays and do nothing on the rest of the days you need a lot more protein on Monday and Thursday night than for breakfast on Wednesday (for example). Also; some research indicate that protein cycling in itself enhances the protein synthesis. Especially in the elderly.
    And last but not least. If you use heat to cook meat you not only alter the protein structure (denaturation) but there is also the generally accepted Maillard reaction to consider. It says that protein and creatin reacts with each other and turn into a new compound; severely cancerous “heterocyclica amines”, HCA’s. And my sense of logic tells me that protein and creatin can not turn into a completely new thing, but at the same time stay the same. Which would of course mean that both the creatin and protein would be useless for our bodies; since it doesn’t exist anymore. And that the new HCA’s on the other hand seem like something to avoid.
    What do you think? Am I completely out skating on thin ice?

    1. Skating on this ice I’d say. Excess total calories is what turns into fat. You can consume large amounts of protein without it turning into fat, as long as the total calorie consumption is not excessive.

      As you age your body’s sensitivity and responsiveness of muscle protein synthesis to amino acids decreases, so you need to consume more protein/amino acids as you age.

  33. In am in the ‘Dieter’ category. How should I define “bodyweight” for this calculation? My actually full mass? My current Lean body mass? My target full mass? My Target lean body mass?

    1. I would recommend you use target goal weight for calculating total protein and total calories

  34. Great post! It also goes great in line with the Denise Minger’s presentation “Meet your Meat”.

  35. I’m a huge fan of beef cheek meat for gelatinous tender meat. It’s like tenderloin, only more rich. Usually I do it up in a crockpot to get broth and meat at the same time

  36. Oh. And another thing. Since protein spikes insulin just as much as sugar, it’s not good to eat to much in one sitting. And it’s not about the question if the body can use the protein or not. The most common way to slow both sugar and protein down (causing less of an insulin spike) is to consume fat at the same time, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat extra fat just because you feel like bingeing on either sugar or protein. And in my mind; oils are just as “unpaleo” as sugar. Refined. We are not supposed to be able to eat more fat than is contained in the unprocessed food we find (e.g. yolks, offal, nuts…).
    The more I read about health and exercise, the more convinced I get that we should:
    Empty our glycogen and protein stores about twice a week with really heavy exercise.
    Then we should spend a long time refilling the glycogen stores and a short time refilling the protein stores. Protein synthesis does taper of pretty soon after exercise so it’s most beneficial to try to eat extra protein then. For construction purposes. The rest of the time should be spent slowly filling the glycogen stores via the least toxic sources of starch and sugar. And I guess that would be fruit and yams. And as you all know; consuming to much fruit in one sitting tops of liver glycogen (which means you start turning fructose into fat) and causes insulin spikes. So; in my example above; you should focus on protein (preferably meat with creatine, maybe even a supplement like BCAA) on Monday night and Tuseday morning and on Thursday night and Friday morning. The rest of the time you only need protein for reconstruction, not “new” construction. So you can eat a balanced diet of salmon, eggs, yams and fruit on the rest of the days.

    1. Fred, you are driving yourself crazy. Try meditation and hope for the best! My glycogen stores are fine with a handfull or two of fruit a week and lots of veggies. Maybe a yam once or twice a month. Don’t over think it!

    2. Fed, you should not make false assumptions and then give some of the worst advice I have seen on this site. Have you read Marks Book?

      1. @Nocona
        I find it kind of interesting that we have three pages of comments and a complete post dealing with how much protein we need, but when I question the timing and need from a little less of a “meat is always right”-view I am automatically “over thinking”. I actually agree with you; I am over thinking it, but so is everyone else commenting here…

        @Greg
        Please enlighten me; what assumptions are false:
        1. That protein spikes insulin?
        2. That fat slows down sugar release into the blood?
        3. That oils are refined? Where do you find oils in nature but unrefined in food like fish or coconut?
        4. That the extra protein synthese induced by exercise tapers off in about 36 hours?
        5. That redundant protein (not needed for (re-)construction) is converted to glucose or fat?
        6. That large carbohydrate meals cause unhealthy insulin spikes?
        7. Or maybe (and I understand that this i blasphemy here) that eating unneeded protein from meat may be less than perfect?

        I thought these “assumptions” were pretty well backed up by science, but maybe you have another opinion. So please let me know. And I mean it, I would really like to know, I am not meaning to be ironic or sarcastic.
        Thanks.

  37. Through geeky self-experimentation (with a digital food scale), I’ve figured out a lot of things, including:

    1) I feel best when I eat no more than 4 oz of protein at a time;

    2) I’m usually way off when I try to estimate the weight of an amount of protein (e.g. what looks to me like 4 oz can be more like 7 oz).

    So, for me, it’s worth weighing.

    1. I don’t know if this works for everyone but I’ve found that a protein portion the size of my fist (yup, I put my fist, and those of my children, on plates, as comparisons) is usually the right amount of protein, when balanced with a plateful of vegetables and a starchy carb like squash. Given the size of my particular fist, that is just under 4 oz for a serving. It’s a nice visual for me because it means that when I eat out, I can easily eyeball what’s been served and determine how much I’m going to eat at the restaurant. The result is that generally my husband and I split a meal AND take some home in a box for later. 🙂

    2. I find the same. I have to weight the meat and chicken i eat and for me 3-4 oz max. I’ve also had regular blood test as higher levels previously caused me to have elevated Uric acid (way out of range) and also higher than normal liver enzymes. This is despite exercising daily and doing interval training (quite intense) and usually some weights although I’ve been having a break from this lately. I also bought a scale and I even travel with it. And for the time being I log things on myfitnesspal.com to see the macronutrient breakdown when I can.

  38. Recent articles about diet tend to be more about meat vs. vegan. There also appears to be an increased awareness for organic and whole foods. Which provides comprehensive information to better understand the benefits of the Paleo or Cave Man diet.
    From my research, paleolithic era had many classes of diets depending upon region. Contemporary Paleo diets tend to focus on hunter-gatherers consumption habits. I find this diet to be superior to post-agricultural diets, but am not convinced that it extends longevity or prevents disease. Evidence shows that mankind lives longer now than those during the paleolithic period, and it is unclear whether the effect is due to diet or lifestyle (modern medicine). Regardless, Paleo’s still suffered from cancer and heart disease.
    Another problem is that organic does not equal wild. The distinction can be made through the following comments: selection of the strongest applies to plant life, today we cultivate our organic crops; pollution and cultivation has diminished crop potency, resulting in a need to increase caloric intake to achieve similar nutrient value; plant genome has been artificially altered in ways that are not fully understood how they will effect health. For the same reasons, animal meat is different now than during paleolithic periods. Conclusion, it is extremely difficult to mimic an authentic paleo diet, meat or vegetables. At best we can mimic but not duplicate the paleo diet.
    How much protein did the caveman consume per pound body mass? Even if we knew, it wouldn’t do us much good, and it probably varied throughout the seasons. Today’s global market provides everything we want, regardless of the season. Question: Should we vary our diet to mimic regional foods by season, or enjoy an abundance of variety.
    Personally, I diet is predominantly organic vegetables (focus on greens and roots) and fruits, with 5% meat sources (mostly non-predatory fish), supplemented with seeds and nuts. I am sure that unconsciously, due to price fluctuations, I am attracted to seasonal harvests. This is my mimic of the paleo diet. Bon Appetite!

    1. This makes sense to me. Food today is not the same as the food our prehistoric ancestors ate. It isn’t even the same as the food our recent ancestors ate.

      The ancient Celts, who were admired for both their physical prowess (a “fat tax” was levied on warriors), and their innovative genius, thrived on a diet that included both meats and grains. They were also well known for their fondness for grain-based alcohol. And fruit-based alcohol. ANY alcohol, really.

      The Romans created a massive empire on a diet that included copious amounts of bread and wine.

      The wheat, barley, meats, etc. these cultures ate, were most definitely NOT the same as the ones we find today on our supermarket shelves.

  39. Per Dr. Steven Gundry…Cardio-Thoracic surgeon; author Diet Evolution
    “Sadly, we think that we require large amounts of animal protein for health. Nothing could be further from the truth! We have no ability to store excess protein, converting any extra to sugar, and taxing the kidneys to get rid of the ammonia! Sound fun? ”
    ” The amount of protein you need daily is equivalent to 3 eggs! “

    1. Sorry, you’ll have to try again. Do 12 pullups and 50 pushups and 30 squats 3 times in 25 minutes and go eat your 20 grams of protein (for the whole day)…you’ll be dead in no time! You won’t be storing any excess protein, you will be using every precious gram of it and be screaming for a shitload more!

  40. I had to smirk at the comment of 750 calories for an overweight woman desiring to lose weight. That kind of starvation diet would only cause her body to go into surval mode and hang on to the fat. As one who was formerly in that state – I lost 85 lbs and have kept it off for going on three years now…simply by changing the color of my dinner plate to be primarily greens, reds, orange – complex carbs. With lean meats, primarily organic/grass fed in terms of red. We no longer char our meats on the grill due to the carcinogens. RAW nuts are satisfying.
    Also, I have found a vegan protein (blend of 3 plant proteins) that scores 100% of all essential amino acids that is not whey or soy based. I know CrossFit folks who use it to build mass, but I use it for the benefit of cellular health and anti inflammatory benefits. It is much easier on the kidneys/liver and easier to digest than whey or casein proteins.
    I encourage anyone who goes primal to regain their health and lose the weight not to starve your body and give it the nutrient dense calories it needs for optimum success – not that Mark was suggesting anyone go on a 750 calorie diet…

    1. Rita S, what’s the name of the vegan protein you use please?

      1. I’ll go out on a limb and say this mythical “vegan” protein doesn’t exist. (The product probably does, but it’s not vegan if it’s effective.) Crossfit promotes the Zone diet and the rest are Paleo. Most of the Crossfitters I’ve met have no problem with animal products.

        And raw nuts cause seriously bad reactions in me. And no one’s ever seriously proved the whole char = cancer bit. It’s almost a rumor as far as i can tell. But hey, it’s all good. 😉

    2. Did Mark actually mean a 750-calorie a day diet? Or was that a typo and he meant a 750-calorie DEFICIT a day?

  41. It really does come down to listening to your body.

    Does anyone recall that gem of a film, “The Gods Must Be Crazy”? Years ago I read that during filming, N!xau (the Namibian San farmer who played “Xi”), ate an entire goat. Jamie Uys had to shoot around N!xau’s scenes until his distended stomach returned to normal — in about 3 days!

    He must have needed the protein.

    1. “Jamie Uys had to shoot around N!xau’s scenes until his distended stomach returned to normal — in about 3 days!”

      N!xau’s stomach was distended, not Jamie Uys’s!

  42. My husband and I started eating this way about a year and a half ago. He has actually gained quite a bit of weight. He thinks calories are to be ignored and he can eat as much as he wants to – especially meat (aka protein). I haven’t lost a lot of weight but clothes fit a lot different and I went down in jeans sizes, but then again, I’m paying some attention to calories too.

    1. Carbs and calories are important if you’re losing weight, even on Paleo You’re not ahead if you’ve decided tubers are Paleo and eat more calories in those than you did on bread.

      If you combine the Atkins plan with Paleo, you’ve got an extremely healthy way to lose weight. (That’s what I did)

  43. Thank you for bringing this up. Denise Minger presented on this subject at AHS 12, as I’m sure you know, and Ray Peat has the best article written about the different amino acids in muscles versus connective tissue and their physiologic roles differences. This is a huge missing link in the average paleo diet and consuming only muscle is clearly not optimal and will probably lead to problems. I don’t know why mentioning Ray Peat seems so taboo. Have you read his work?

  44. For those of you (athlete types) who eat high-protein while on a slight calorie deficit, how do you manage to hit the 1 gram/per pound lbm benchmark without overeating?

    To build muscle, my protein requirement calls for 150ish grams a day. To hit that total, I’d need to down 2 pounds of meat daily (bordering on absurd). Factor in some tubers post-workout, and I’ve quickly surpassed my calorie limit.

    Supplementation seems to be the only way of staying lean while attempting to add lean mass–two contradictory goals, it would seem.

  45. This is a great article, and I’m loving reading everyones comments!

    The post is quite timely too, and I’m wondering if anyone can help me with a weight training / diet related question?!

    Here goes:

    – I followed a strict paleo diet routine for about a year after leaving the military, and lost loads of weight and size (including around belly regions!).

    – I have been lifting weights again regularly over the last 6 months, with the goal of ‘bulking up’ with some lean muscle-mass up top, keeping the belly off too.

    – My natural body type is a cross between ectomorphic and mesomorphic. I am quite tall and slim, though did bulk up a bit whilst in the military, which lends me the benefit of some ‘muscle memory’ now.

    – Various personal trainers are telling me that my diet needs to be predominently carbs (60%), of various sorts (not purely vegetables) if I want to add more size to the definition I have already developed…

    – Following their advice, I just seem to have developed a belly again! I am now unsure how to proceed… do I keep taking their advice and see where it leads? Or should I move back towards a more paleo approach (though I’m slightly worried I’ll lose my muscle gains!).

    All advice appreciated! Thanks 🙂

    1. If you are a cross between ectomorphic and mesomorphic, lucky you! Work with what nature gave you. Rather than wasting time “bulking up”, focus on functional fitness and efficient movement and you will put all those Ahh-nold wannabes to shame.

      1. Thanks Helga. I didn’t get email notification, hence the delay!

        I certainly don’t put myself in the category of an Arnold wannabe, and I agree that would be a massive (and unhealthy) use of my time and energy! My worthwhile goal is to simply have a bit more shape, which I can then maintain as I build my functional fitness. I particularly want to delve more into calisthenics…

  46. Sorry, though I was glad to see this article come out, over all it is confusing, because of the ambiguity between “how much protein?” and nothing being 100% protein, so your words are mostly theoretical, even though you are speaking of different protein sources.
    You are speaking of grams of protein per day, but 100 grams of chicken gives you 23 grams of protein, so you eat 800 grams of meat to get 100 grams of protein?
    Many of us are still clueless, “How much meat/eggs/chicken/fish?”

    Do you see my question?
    “How much protein do you eat?” Requires a chart of how much that means in cheese, eggs, beef, or whatever source.

  47. Great post Mark. I have been trying paleo nutrition for 2 years without success. Still had constipation, skin problems, weight problems, depression. I came across the GAPS diet which recommends only bone broth and fermented vegetables in the first stage and straight away I had regular bowel movements, stopped craving sugar, lost weight. I hardly need to eat anything to get through the day now and feel really strong. We need to heal the gut properly before anything else can improve.

  48. Great article, Mark! Thank you for posting it. I think this will end up being one of those classics that is referred to often in future posts. It is a question I get a lot from people who ask me how to “get big” and all that stuff. They assume I’m doing all kinds of bodybuilding-style supplementation and are surprised to hear my responses.

    For myself, I’m a big fan of trying to keep my body guessing a little bit and just try to listen to what my body is asking for (which also implies quitting when it tells me to quit. I don’t do any supplements, but just try to eat quality food.

    As an example, I don’t really plan my feeding times, but eat when I can, trying to imagine myself as an early ancestor whose feedings didn’t come on a regular schedule and weren’t always a “balanced diet” in the way we think of today with all the “food groups” represented. Sometimes I will get busy with work and just work straight through lunch, then have a bigger meal later. Sometimes I will complete a tough workout, but instead of having some kind of well-planned post-workout meal, I’ll throw myself a curve by just hydrating and having a small snack of nuts and veggies. Then I’ll eat a nice big protein meal later. I definitely don’t plan every meal around a balanced diet of food grouips. There are plenty of times when the only thing I’ll have for a meal is animal-based protein with fat, skins, etc. It’s essentially a sort of unprogrammed, randomized caloric restriction, but I’m still getting all the protein I need to maintain my athletic conditioning.

  49. I eat an EXTREME amount of protein and have always wondered what was a healthy amount, but really it depends on each individual. I honestly eat about 2 pounds of meat a day, if not more at times. It works for me because I only eat healthy fats and extremely NON starchy veggies. I work just fine this way, but that being said, others may not. I also feel like it has something to do with my blood type, but that’s just another “fad” that a lot of people don’t believe in… However I believe there is a TINY BIT of truth to it.

  50. I think that this is very personal and I was eating far more meat and chicken before but I found that I wasn’t recovering from exercise (I wasn’t eating enough carbs). Also I noticed my uric acid was way way too high. So I did increase bananas and yams and decreased the amount of protein I ate at lunch and breakfast and magically my uric acids which where way higher than normal are now in the perfect range. I stiff often eat more than 15% of my calories from protein (between 15 and 20%) but aim to get that lower when I increase my caloric intake as I’m doing now.

    I just don’t feel I need to have protein in the mornings or if I do it’s a tiny amount of protein powder in a smoothie after I exercise and I eat probably about 3 or so ounces of meat or chicken at lunch time. At night I have a can of sardines in my salad and I still call myself primal but I think one needs to ensure that things are working for your own body. I enjoy the food and the lifestyle. I do find that when I eat too many nuts to cover my caloric needs I find it hard to digest or don’t feel so good but I’m getting there I think.

  51. When they say ‘x grams/lb bodyweight’, is it grams of meat, or grams of protein in that meat??

  52. VERY IMPORTANT POST! Thankyou. I see so many paleo enthusiasts using it as an excuse to to eat absurd amounts of meat. Sure our ancestors ate lots of animals, but it wasn’t 2 pounds of sirloin every day…
    By far the most critical element is eating to your needs, and knowing those needs.
    I especially like the part on gelatine and organs. Eating all parts of an animal also respects its life and sacrifice, guaranteeing a spiritual experience while eating. That’s paleo.

  53. Good article. Not only does less meat do your own body good, it is also better for the environment to eat less meat!

  54. Eat less meat, that is good for your body, good for animals, good for the environment! (Cows emit a ton of methane and CO2)

  55. Couldn’t agree more with the ‘listen to your body’ school of thinking.

    Try experiementing with different foods/proteins and monitor how you feel.

    Eat more protein than you normally would – how does that make you feel? How does it effect your workouts?

    Eat less protein than you normally would – any difference?

    Your body WILL let you know what it needs!

  56. Great post Mark. Protein intake is not a problem. I need to work on the vegetable intake. Haven’t found any that taste as good as a steak.

  57. Thanks for opening my eyes Mark, this is an area that really confuses me because some say eat lots of protein and others say eat minimal protein.

  58. I wonder how it is with women who are in (peri)menopause and would like either to loose weight or at least don’t gain. I always miss that part in these kinds of blogs. What could you advice to them?

  59. Interesting article! I’ve found that my protien intake varies quite a bit. Some days I can eat a grassfed TBone & a grassfed Ribeye at one sitting & not feel stuffed, especially if I have been intermittent fasting. Other days, I only seem to want a much smaller portion of grassfed beef or lamb or fish or duck or shellfish or other meat.

    I, too, have been enjoying more short ribs, neck bones, ox tail, marrow bones, etc. In fact, I now ask the processor leave the bone in the ribeye steaks (aka club steak) & when processing lamb, I ask them to save all of the lamb’s short ribs.

    With that in mind, it’s interesting that my favorite beef “cut” used to be a big, thick “hamburger” covered with cheese. However, I recently realized that I dont consume nearly as much burger anymore… Even those real good grassfed cheese burgers. 🙂 I seem to crave the bone in cuts more. I guess it’s the minerals, gelatin, etc.

  60. I’m glad you’re addressing this because I’ve been trying to eat more protein and I’m struggling with how much. Eating on my own, sometimes I really want meat, in particular red meat. And then I go through days where I’m almost a vegetarian (never vegan!) and eat relatively little meat.

    Also, this gives me a good excuse to try the demi-glace recipe I got a few weeks ago!

  61. I have been reading and learning a lot since last fall on primal/paleo/low carb (of course I have both kindle and hard copy of Primal Blueprint). What frustrates me with the “how much protein” discussion is that recommendations are in “grams”. I have no idea how to relate grams to ounces which is how I purchase my meat – in ounces. My eyes glaze over when I’m told I need to eat so many grams per lb of body weight. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. May I respectfully suggest future writings close this gap? Maybe a chart by a person’s weight range to grams to ounces? Just a thought. Thanks.

    1. Dee, it is so simple a caveman or woman can do it. Just google how many grams of protein are in certain foods, and you will get hundreds of sites telling you your answer. Most folks on here already know that an egg has 7 grams of protein (so 3 eggs for breakfast is 21, etc.) and an ounce of hard cheese has around 6-8. Chicken breast the size of your fist has it’s own number ad infinitum. Don’t make this harder than it is. It is really simple.

  62. I’d recently heard that processing protein produces ammonia as a biproduct and that consuming more than 150g of protein daily can cause significant stresses to the body from ammonia toxicity.

    I’m generally not too worried about these numbers, but would be interested in hearing your thoughts on protein, ammonia, etc.

    Rick…

    1. It’s really not that easy to eat more than 150 a day, so why worry? And if you are real active and lifting heavy things, believe me, you will love eating those grams of protein.

  63. I attempted making home made bone broth on three occasions. The first time was with red wine, tomato paste and apple cider vinegar to pull the nutrients out. It has the worst smell ever that took almost a week to get out of the house. It cooked out and the broth was good, but the smell was unreal. I thought the smell came from the red wine, so next time I just used tomato paste that was rubbed on the bones to roast prior to simmering and apple cider vinegar. It smelled great and the broth was to die for. The third time I used the exact same things as the second time and again it smelled horrible. What am I doing wrong? I would love to make more broth and drink it which is why I started to make it but my partner is going to kill me if I keep cooking something for 40 hours that smells like dirty rotten moldly feet. Thanks!

    1. roast your bones first!
      rub bones with oil of choice (coconut or olive are mine) then roast at 350 for 20 min or so. no smell, and mellows the broth flavor.
      then, add a 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, cover with filtered water, few sprigs parsley, celery, carrot, and cook. I use a pressure cooker, but stove or crock pot, also!

      Mark has a recipe also…search above.. “primal soup”.. fantastic recipe for short rib soup, a staple in my house.

  64. I make my bone broth from Chicken bones. Today the bones were so crumbly I decided to smash them up (I could do this with my fingers) and pureed them with a bit of the broth. I plan to use it with the broth and the pureed veggies I like to eat. Does anyone else do this? It appeals to me as I am over 70 and wanting to heal an arthritic hip. I have been eating the soft ends of the bones since I started making the bone broth months ago. Does anyone see any contraindications for doing this? I was concerned about chicken bone slivers, but I think the bones were all too crumbly to worry about that. But I could be wrong. Thanks.

  65. Thanks Mark. This is such an important point to address, that not everyone needs the exact same amount of protein in their diet. I love nuts and seeds as a protein hit and have been making these awesome little raw peanut butter choc protein balls before a workout! Yum 🙂

  66. I truly appreciate the time you take to write these important articles; but I really wish we could all be on the same page with the pounds vs kilograms (lb v kg). There’s a big difference as we all know, and it can get confusing when you use kg one minute and lb the next…just sayin’. Thanks, Mark (and others commenting).

  67. Wow, 0.8g to 1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight is certainly a lot. Shikes!! I dont know…I am not a red meat eater type myself. I cannot picture myself gorging down the organs, joints, tail, etc. Personally, I would prefer fish and protein powder but again, each to its own.

  68. Is the grams/lb of bodyweight a serving size or a recommendation for total daily intake?

    1. RDA = Recommended Daily Allowance (also Recommended Dietary Allowance, but it means the same thing).

      1. So for my weight, I should only be having 4oz of protein per day? That seems awefully small portion for a whole day!

        1. We’re talking about grams of pure protein–the amount of food needed to get that much protein will be considerably larger. Remember, even the most protein-rich foods are only around 35% protein by weight.

  69. Why do you always refer to kg? when all meat packaged in the U.S. is in ounces?
    It is very frustrating. How many ounces of protein should I be eating every day?
    thanks,
    m

    1. I don’t understand your confusion here–He uses kg for body weight, because that is the standard unit used by scientists in the papers he’s referring to, but he also gives the equivalent in pounds each time. He doesn’t refer to meat in kg. Meat is sold by ounces/pounds, but the nutrition facts list the protein in grams. The amount of meat you need depends on how much protein is in that particular cut of meat.

  70. Can you reply in ounces instead of kg. my meat is not package per/kg???

  71. i weigh 117 lbs. I am active so 0.8g/lb or 1.8g/kg=

    0.8x 117 = 93.6 grams protein or

    one pound = 453 grams

  72. i weigh 117 lbs. I am active so 0.8g per pound body weight.

    0.8x 117 = 93.6 grams protein

    one pound meat = 453 grams. does this help?

    1. One pound equals about 453.6 grams, but one pound of meat does NOT equal one pound of protein. Meat is less than 25% protein by raw weight.

  73. It seems that more proteins are very much necessary either you want to be athlete or you are recovering from an injury. But it should be upto our body level in order to be fit.

  74. Mark, under your “Dieter’s” paragraph, surely you meant a 750-calorie-a-day DEFICIT rather than a 750-calorie-a-day DIET? Meaning about a 1200-calorie-a-day for dieting women.

  75. Hmmm. Your maths about recovering meat from a cattlebeast is a bit different than mine. We find a liveweight animal of, say, 500kg will be about 250kg on the hook. the butcher will end up with 130/140 kg of meat. As we use a mobile abbatoir, we recover up to 20kgs of tail, tongue, cheeks, heart, liver, kidney and “mystery meat”. We also compost the first two stomachs.

  76. In response to the methane and co2 from cows. A properly pastured farm animal (cow in this instance) will not produce excess methane and co2. Yes, it will produce methane and co2, but those will be utilized beneficially to the environment. If you utilize pastures, with appropriate grasses which should be planned to grow naturally in the season that the animals will be grazed, and rotate the pasture animals along with goats and chickens in this manner there will not be any excesses unused and harmful to the environment. The goats and chickens will eat the weeds and weed seeds, providing manure and loosened topsoil for the grasses to grow, the grasses will utilize the co2 and fertilizer and in turn produce clean pure air.

    Only are farm animals harmful to the environment in the manner that modern agriculture puts them into feedlots and feeds them unhealthy and unnatural grain (hopefully just unnatural grain and not animal parts) and keeps them unmoving in stalls, standing in their feces, then being given antibiotics and antifungal medications to keep them from dying in these fetid conditions. This is what produces the excess methane and co2, as it is not going back to the plants and earth to create an ecologically productive environment.

    US is the worst agricultural country for this misuse of farm animals, which is why most countries will not allow sale of our meats (export) including dog foods. Not too mention the added growth hormones for quick gains which causes pain, weak bones and inflammation to the animals already unable to move away from their own feces in these small confines.

    Grazing pastured cows in a proper environment creates a healthy balance for our earth, as do other farm animals. Farm animals should be treated in a natural and humane way, from birth onward.

    Should all people become vegan, and farm animals become extinct, and there is a draught or other prolonged inclement weather, where would we be?

  77. Really good article, finally to get something good, most of the time I see they say you should take 0;45 to 0.6 grams per pound, but I’m active in bodybuilding exercising from 3-6 times a week and need huge amount of calories 3400 to keep my muscle, and i;, 190 lb * 0.5 that is 95 g of protein 95 * 4 = 380 calories just from protein, rest 3000 calories from fat and carbs and there is no way that you stay lean. Think about, that, but this article says it good for active people I take somewhere from 180 to 220 grams of proteins, and some times more, that way I’m keeping lean. probably gonna write about this topic on my site fitandneat.

  78. Thanks for the article. I have been primal for about 24 months. I’m a 33yo/f and went from 160 lbs to 130lbs in a year, but the last 8 months I steadily have gained 18 lbs. I have been more sedentary because of a surgery, but my eating has not changed. I am gaining about .5lb per week. I recently started logging my food intake and I am averaging 1250-1350 calories a day. My average protein intake is 120 g. Is possible that I’m consuming too much protein? I am at a loss here.
    Thanks!

    Kelly

  79. I’ve had trouble with my carbs being too low but not low enough to be in ketosis. I was eating around 60 carbs per day. I was very exhausted. I have thyroid issues too (hashimotos) plus I am over the top stressed out so I feel my adrenals have taken a hit.
    My energy is gone and I have gained ten pounds over the last six months making me feel worse and sluggish. I stopped taking natural dessicated thyroid for now and am trying to support my adrenals and get destressed (rest, deep breathing, long walks at least 3 miles a day). I upped my carbs by eating more sweet potatoes and squash.
    I added short burst exercises like jumping jacks and jumprope. I am feeling better, but something is missing, I still don’t feel well and can’t shed the ten pounds. I am grain free and eat lots of veggies, olive oil/coconut oil/real cream in my decaf, small amounts of meat,fish, eggs, cheeses, plain yogurt and small amounts of nuts and seeds. Any advice? What am I missing? I am post menopausal and 55. I love this site.

  80. I’m 6-0 and 265 pounds, does this mean I should be eating more than 200 grams of protein a day??? That doesn’t even seem possible. I’m usually somewhere between 150 and 180 day. I think anything more than that and I’ll be force-feeding myself. I lift weights and sprint twice a week and I’m just looking to burn fat, not get ripped or anything. Any thoughts?

  81. Nice article. Recently I have been testing how little I need to eat to keep up my workout routines (four times a week). I am about to turn 61, so my workouts are quite different. I keep my aerobic up (40 minutes on a cross trainer or a 3/4 mile climb at a local State park on 45 degree angle on week ends) and some mild lifting to keep muscle tone. I am a T2 diabetic, but my Paleo ways have me creeping closer to normal every year ( I have been doing this for 5 years). Mark, I thank you so much for all your insight. It has helped me greatly.

  82. of course like your website but you need to take a look at the spelling on several of
    your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it
    very troublesome to inform the truth however I’ll definitely come back again.

  83. Hello, Mark. Ive stumbled onto this article well past its posting date, but i have a question or two for you.

    1. Is the information still clinically valid, or is their new learning on this?

    2. Am i to assume that when you say 0.7g protien/lb bodyweight, that i am to multiply 0.7 by my weight, correct? I wanted to clarify that, because the number seemed awfully high. Please let me know. Thatnk you.

  84. Does this pertain to percentages? Or grams? I have had bowl surgery and am under a lot of stress. Weight struggle and carb intolerance has me doing best digestivelh on fat and protein. But I can consume over 6,000 calories a day. I’ve eaten as much as 315g protein in a day also. I can’t trust my body, any thoughts about grams vs protein? Thanks.

    5’2″ 98-100lbs. 25 walk and lift some. Vibrate as well.

  85. Hello! I am 9 weeks pregnant & am also very active. I do about 2 hours at around 120 bpm on my arc trainer @ 100 resistance daily, burning about 2400 calories, in addition to my regular metabolism, which is kind of slow, as I am hypothyroid, so I end up around 4500 per day burned. My doctor has my goal set to maintain weight, but said I could lose up to 30lb and be fine. I have lost 60lb over the past 7 years, but am still heavy (5’11” & 243, extra large frame say doctors) & around 37% body fat, so I don’t want to lose more than 10-15lb during this pregnancy as I am not quite as fat as my weight conveys (healthy waist to height ratio, waist to hip ratio, etc).

    The cardio is necessary to keep my blood sugar normal and for me to feel good, and I love it & it makes me happy. (Just to note.)

    I am trying to figure out how much protein I need, in a grams/kg goal due to pregnancy & activity level. I keep finding recommendations for either/or, not both. I would really appreciate any feedback on this. I was getting more, around 130g to 140g a day, but then my morning sickness suddenly gave me an aversion to all animal protein foods, and I am allergic to all the vegan ones, so I am down to around 90g or less per day, and that is with forcing myself to eat. I am thinking maybe 1.4g/kg, but I am not sure.

    Anyway, thanks in advance!

  86. THANK YOU for this article (and for all you do of course)!

    Way more helpful than anything read before. I just can’t stay in the range of 0.8g/kg without being hungry, I’m trying to lose just a couple of kilos and put on some lean mass and I need more proteins than as indicated in RDA.

    PS. I’m reading this from Italy and I must say that you deserve a special thank for metric units. I’m tired of reading recipes and information in other units that I have to convert every single time 😀

  87. Just to confirm, the 0.7g/lb bodyweight for women is the daily intake, correct?

  88. Love this breakdown of different protein needs for different groups! I’ve heard a lot about collagen protein lately and also whey protein. Are these good low-carb options for non-meat protein?