How Much Protein Do Active Men Need?

By Jordan Stachel, MS, RDN

August 16, 2022

Active Men Protein

Protein is the most common macronutrient discussed when considering physical activity. Protein consists of amino acids, the building blocks of the muscles. But how much protein do active men need and how can they increase their protein intake?

Generally, active men should get around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To determine your weight in kilograms, simply divide your weight in pounds by 2.2, and then multiply this number by 0.8. For example, a 170 lb. man would weigh 77.3 kilograms and need roughly 62 grams of daily protein.

Pre-workout

To discuss how to optimize protein intake for athletic men, it is helpful to discuss it within the process of how exercising unfolds (i.e., fueling pre-workout and post-workout).

Pre-workout fueling varies significantly depending on the amount of time before a workout and the type of workout being completed. If you have more than 2 hours to eat and digest a meal before a workout, having a more sizable meal and a protein source, is helpful so that your energy levels are optimized and so that you don't arrive at your workout over-hungry.

However, pre-workout, it is most important to focus on carbohydrates since they are the body's fasting digesting macronutrient and will provide the body with quick energy. Pairing these carbohydrates with a little bit of protein and/or fat is helpful, as this helps to stabilize the blood sugar. Proteins and fats do not digest as quickly as carbohydrates, leading to sustained energy levels.

Experiment with some of these pre-workout meals (for 2+ hours before a workout):

  • 2 slices of whole grain toast (~7 grams of protein) with peanut butter (~8 grams of protein) and banana
  • A bagel with cream cheese (~1.5 grams of protein)
  • A bowl of oatmeal (~5 grams of protein) with berries and mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) (~5 grams of protein)

As you can see above, foods mainly carbohydrate and fat sources such as whole grains and nut butters will give the body bonus protein that adds to your total protein requirements for the day.

If you have less than 1-hour pre-workout, it is advantageous to have some quick, complex carbohydrates for an energy boost but in a smaller quantity to avoid feeling sick and/or overly full. You can still pair these with a small amount of protein, as shown below.

Experiment with some of these pre-workout snacks (for less than one hour before a workout):

  • 1 slice of whole grain toast (~3.5 grams of protein) with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (~4 grams of protein) or smashed avocado
  • ½ cup of whole-grain cereal (~2.5 grams of protein) with whole or soymilk (~6 grams of protein)
  • A banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (~4 grams of protein)

Post-workout

Post-workout nutrition is just as important as pre-workout nutrition for active men, as the post-workout meal replenishes nutrient stores depleted during activity. Post-workout, it is important to consume a well-rounded meal that is inclusive of a complete protein source within the hour, when possible. This helps to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue that has been torn during the workout by fueling the body with amino acids.

To replenish these stores and repair muscle tissue, consuming a meal with protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will aid in recovery efforts. However, protein is essential to allow your muscles to grow and recover for your next workout.

Experiment with some of these post-workout meals (within an hour after a workout):

  • Salmon (~20 grams of protein) teriyaki black rice (~5 grams of protein) bowl with sliced avocado
  • Omelet (~4 grams of protein) with cheese (~7 grams of protein) and a side of hash browns
  • Turkey (~15 grams of protein) wraps with a whole grain tortilla (~4 grams of protein), tomato, mayo, lettuce
  • Quesadilla with a whole grain tortilla (~4 grams of protein), diced chicken (~25 grams of protein), cheese (~7 grams of protein), cubed sweet potato, beans (~3 grams of protein), and corn

As you can see, protein content adds up fairly quickly, even in plant-based foods that are not typically considered "a source of protein." If you are working on increasing your protein intake, it is helpful to focus on complete protein sources, as they offer the most bang for your buck regarding protein content. Some of these sources include meats, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, tofu, and fish.

If you need help analyzing the protein content in your diet to help optimize your athletic performance, it may be worthwhile to meet with a dietitian or healthcare professional. Report back, what are your favorite protein-based foods to eat around your workouts?

Jordan Stachel holds a Master's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from The University of Southern California and is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She has several years of experience helping clients reach their health goals through her clinical work within private practice. Jordan is most fulfilled when guiding others towards making stepwise, sustainable changes that add up to big results over time. Jordan works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.

Resources:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096
  2. https://extension.okstate.edu/fact-sheets/nutrition-for-physical-activity-and-athletics.html
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20045506
  4. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/sporting-performance-and-food#eating-after-exercise
  5. https://extension.psu.edu/sports-nutrition-for-all-ages
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