How much protein do I need to keep my gains?

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Protein is a key nutrient in our diet. One of protein’s many roles in the body is to build, repair, and maintain tissues like muscle. In addition to staying dedicated to your WODs, here is how you can use food to keep your hard-earned gains:

  1. Eat enough protein. Eating 1.6 – 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of your bodyweight (g/kg/bw) each day is adequate for strength-trained athletes (like CrossFitters) to retain muscle. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kg), 116 – 136 g of protein is totally adequate to help you save your gains, and even build muscle if you’re still working out at this time!
  2. Space your protein intake throughout the day. Your body is CONSTANTLY using the amino acids from protein for dozens of bodily functions (not just repairing muscle), so you need to give it a constant supply. But also, protein is digested quite slowly, so most people should not consume more than 30 g in one sitting (especially if you’re a smaller individual). To keep your gains, it is more strategic to eat moderate amounts of protein spaced throughout the day rather than a lot at once. One approach to accomplish this is, depending on how often you like to eat, split your daily protein intake evenly throughout the day. Let’s look back at our 150 pound athlete example. Say they like to eat 4 meals a day. If their daily intake is 116 g/day, that amounts to 29 g of protein each meal, 4 times a day. Or, if they prefer 3 meals and 2 snacks, that would look like 29 g for 3 meals, and 14.5 g for each of the 2 snacks.

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TRACK YOUR MACROS! For some people, eyeballing works! The chart below lists some quality foods and how much protein they contain. If you’re new to monitoring your food intake, start with one meal. Pick the food you’re in the mood for and eat the amount that matches your needs. Don’t worry about being too precise. Trace amounts of protein are in a lot of foods (like bread, oatmeal, broccoli), so eating a variety of foods can help meet your goal!

Meat foods with protein

 AmountProtein (g)
Lean cut beef3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)30
Chicken (dark meat)3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)23
Chicken (white meat)3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)26
Fish3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)20
Shrimp100 g (6 large pieces)24
Hamburger3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)22
Pork tenderloin3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)24
T-bone steak3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)21
Tuna3 oz (little bigger than a deck of cards)24

Vegetarian foods with protein

 AmountProtein (g)
Cheese2 slices9
Egg1 large6
Cow milk8 oz class8
Greek yogurt5 oz cup12
Beans½ cup cooked (tennis ball)8
Whole wheat bread1 slice3
Lentils½ cup cooked (tennis ball)9
Almonds¼ cup8
Peanut Butter2 tablespoons (a golf ball)8
Potato1 large5
Rice½ cup cooked (tennis ball)2.5
Spaghetti noodles½ cup cooked (tennis ball)3.5
Tofu6 oz12


1 American College of Sports Medicine [ACSM]. 2015. PROTEIN INTAKE FOR OPTIMAL MUSCLE MAINTENANCE.

2 Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2019). Nutrition for sport and exercise. 3rd ed. Boston, MA: Cengage.

3 Gordon, BG. (2019). How Much Protein Should I Eat?

4 Thomas, T. PhD, RDN, CSSD, Erdman, K.A. MSc, RD, CSSD, Burke, L.M. OAM, PhD, APD, FACSM. (2017). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501-528. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006