What Percentage of Calories Should Come from Protein?

What Percentage of Calories Should Come from Protein

What percentage of what we’re shoving in our pie hole every day should be comprised primarily of protein?  A weighted question, there is no true correct answer.  Much like the number of calories you consume every day differs based on what your goals are and the physique you’re trying to maintain or achieve, the types of calories differ as well.  Dietary Guidelines are released by the food and drug administration and significant studies have been performed to help us know exactly what we should be eating and subsequently, how much protein we should be getting.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, the breakdown of calories per day should be as follows [1]:

  • Calories from protein should be 10-35% of total calories
  • Calories from carbs should be 45-65% of total calories
  • Calories from fats should be 20-35% of total calories

To better understand what percentage of calories should come from protein versus overall caloric intake, we’ll look at the three main scenarios or reasons our site’s visitors would care about protein levels in their diet.

Optimize Fat Burn

If you’re trying to burn off excess visceral fat, there is a good chance you’re going to be increasing the percentage of protein in your diet far beyond the suggested 35% max as dictated by the government.  By increasing your protein consumption to about 65% of your diet, you’re going to be able to provide plenty of recovery fuel for your muscles so you can continue on with the frequent cardio workouts.  As we know, cardio is the best way to burn off excess fat.  When you increase the percentage of protein in your diet, you need to decrease one of the other categories that make up your caloric intake.  A drastic reduction in the amount of carbohydrates consumed is suggested to compliment the increase of protein.  Don’t worry, the protein will help you feel content for longer and assist in the fight against hunger pangs [2].

Boost Muscle Gains

So… you’re looking to get buff, eh?  Much like the optimize of fat burn, you need to increase your protein intake to about 65% of your entire diet.  Here’s where it differs: you don’t need to worry about the carbohydrate decrease quite as much.  Consider a 50/50 split in the reduction of carbohydrates and fats in your diet.  You still need to consume carbs so that you don’t accidentally deprive your body of energy, resulting in unintended weight loss.  You simply want to beef up your muscles without much thought or concern about visceral fat [3].

Maintain Physique

Oh, you’re happy with the way you look?  Well, that must be nice!  Let’s try to keep it that way.  If you’re not looking to lose more weight or gain much more muscle and you definitely want to make sure that you keep the same physique you worked so hard to achieve, try following the guidelines set by the government.  Between 45 and 65 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, 10 to 35 percent from protein and between 20 and 35 percent of calories from fat.  Remember to keep the total amount of calories between 2000 and 2500 each day and supplement with whatever you seem to be lacking!



  1. Donald K Laymancorresponding author1
    Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs
    Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009; 6: 12. Published online 2009 Mar 13. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-6-12
  2. FX Liu,1 SW Flatt,1 JF Nichols,2 B Pakiz,1 HS Barkai,1 DR Wing,2 DD Heath,1 and CL Rock1,*
    Factors Associated with Visceral Fat Loss in Response to a Multifaceted Weight Loss Intervention
    J Obes Weight Loss Ther. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Apr 6. Published in final edited form as: J Obes Weight Loss Ther. 2017; 7(4): 346. Published online 2017 Aug 14. doi: 10.4172/2165-7904.1000346
  3. Leidy HJ1, Clifton PM1, Astrup A1, Wycherley TP1, Westerterp-Plantenga MS1, Luscombe-Marsh ND1, Woods SC1, Mattes RD1.
    The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance.
    Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jun;101(6):1320S-1329S. Epub 2015 Apr 29.
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