Some links in this article are affiliate links, which means we earn from qualifying purchases. Learn more.
As a nutrition coach who works with people of all different shapes and sizes, with varying goals from weight loss to elite performance and bodybuilding goals, I know exactly what foods, in what amounts, are needed to get 180 grams of protein per day.
If 180 grams of protein is your goal, then you’re in the right place because I’m sharing the same tips that I use with my 1:1 clients to help them hit their protein targets. Plus, I’m offering a free 180g protein meal plan at the end.
- Those who are more likely to need 180 grams of protein per day are those eating between 2000 – 2900 calories per day, especially if they’re active and trying to lose fat.
- High-quality protein powder can help you reach 180 grams per day, but this should account for no more than 20-33% of your daily protein intake.
- Getting a daily intake of 180 grams of protein can be easier than you think if you’re strategic about your protein, carb, and fat sources and you plan ahead.
Who Should Be Eating 180 Grams Of Protein Per Day
Generally speaking, active individuals, and especially people who do resistance training, need about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
This means that active people who weigh 180 lbs need 180 grams of protein per day.
However, this general guideline of 1 gram of protein per pound might not apply to you if you are less active or if your goals go beyond simply maintaining your weight (like building muscle or losing body fat).
Check out the guidelines below to ensure that 180 grams of protein is right for you.
Sedentary individuals only need about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which is less than half of the requirement for active individuals.
Based on this information, 180 grams of protein per day is too high for most sedentary individuals.
For reference, you would be considered sedentary if you have a desk job and get less than 20-30 minutes of purposeful activity (like exercise) per day.
This guideline applies regardless of sex or gender since it is based on body weight.
Someone is considered active if they get at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day, or if they have an active job that requires standing and/or walking such as firefighters, restaurant servers, delivery people, nurses, and other similar professions.
During a fat loss phase, the guideline is 1.2 grams of protein per pound of goal body weight for active individuals, which is slightly higher than the general guideline.
Why does the guideline go up when you’re eating fewer calories? This is because protein helps to preserve lean muscle mass, which ensures that as much as possible of the weight loss is fat, rather than lean tissue.
Additionally, protein is very satiating, which will help with managing appetite and cravings.
- Related Article: How Much Protein While Cutting? (A Nutrition Coach Answers)
During a muscle-building phase, the guideline is 0.7 grams of protein per pound of goal body weight for active individuals, which is slightly lower than the general guideline.
For example, a person who wants to gain muscle to get to a goal weight of 257 lbs should be eating 180 grams of protein per day (257 x 0.7 = 180).
Why does the protein guideline go down when calories are increased (surplus)? This is because when calories are increased you will be eating higher amounts of carbs and fats which have a “protein-sparing” effect.
“Protein-sparing” means that there is no risk that the body will “steal” protein to try to meet its energy (calorie) needs, so there is no need to increase your protein intake further.
Also, eating less protein in a surplus can reduce the uncomfortable feelings of fullness that can come from eating a higher number of calories.
- Related Article: Calorie Surplus vs. Calorie Deficit: What Are The Differences?
Percent Of Total Calories
A final guideline to follow is to get 25-35% of total daily calories from protein.
180 grams of protein provides 720 calories (180 x 4), which is 35% of 2,057 calories (approximately 2,000 calories), and 25% of 2,880 calories.
This means that 180 grams of protein could be appropriate for people eating anywhere between 2,000 – 2,900 calories per day, depending on their individual goals and preferences.
- Active individuals with a daily calorie target of 2,900 calories or more should be eating at least 180 grams of protein.
- Active individuals with a daily calorie target of 2,000 calories or less should be eating fewer than 180 grams of protein to avoid exceeding 35% of calories from protein.
Related Article: Is It Better To Hit Your Macros or Calories?
10 Tips For Reaching 180 Grams Of Protein A Day
Now that you know you should be eating 180 grams of protein a day, here are my top ten tips for reaching this target:
1. Know Your Highest-Protein Foods
To get enough protein to meet your 180-gram target, you’ll need to know which foods provide the most protein. This is extremely important because there are many foods that people THINK are high in protein but actually ARE NOT.
Take peanut butter, for example, it’s commonly referred to as a “good source of protein” but actually only provides 3 grams of protein per tbsp (and 8 grams of fat).
To learn more about common protein classification misinformation, check out my article on the Best Single Macro Foods.
You can also check out my list of the Top 50 Highest Protein Foods so that you don’t blow your calorie budget by eating protein bars and other foods that don’t provide as much protein as you might think.
To start, here are the top five whole food sources of protein:
- Seafood & shellfish
- Egg whites
- Turkey breast (skinless)
- Wild game
- Chicken breast (skinless)
2. Supplement With Protein Powder
Even if you’re eating the high-protein foods from Tip #1, you may still find it challenging to get 180 grams of protein just from food because protein is very filling. Plus, whole food sources of protein can be expensive and time-consuming to prepare.
This is where a convenient, affordable protein powder comes in.
That said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so I recommend limiting your protein intake from protein powder to no more than 20-33% of your daily intake.
Based on 180 grams of protein per day, this means 36-60 grams from protein powder (which is about 1½ to 2½ scoops).
3. Choose High-Protein Carbs & Fats
All of the protein you eat in a day adds up to your daily total, so it’s worth considering the trace amounts of protein in foods that are primarily considered carb and fat sources.
For example, beans and legumes are a better source of protein than rice and other grains, even though most of their calories still come from carbs. There are 9 grams of protein in half a cup of cooked lentils.
Even when you do choose whole grains, some ancient grains (like amaranth or kamut) have a higher protein content (9-10 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked) than common choices like rice or oats (5 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked).
Finally, even if peanut butter is not a good source of protein, it does at least have a few grams per tablespoon whereas pure fat sources like oil and butter do not provide any protein at all. Choosing nuts and seeds for your fat can provide more protein.
Being strategic with your carb and fat sources can help you rack up some extra protein throughout the day and help you meet your 180-gram goal.
4. Get Protein At Every Meal & Snack
One of the most useful tips to meet your 180-gram protein goal is to figure out how much protein you need at each meal and snack to make it to 180 grams.
To do this, consider how many meals and snacks you plan to eat per day and divide your protein intake evenly or as desired across them. Having a protein goal for each meal/snack will help you stay on track throughout the day.
Spreading out your protein intake saves you from trying to cram it all into one meal at the end of the day, and it also increases your potential for muscle retention and growth.
5. Plan & Prep Your Protein
The only way you’ll be able to eat protein at each meal and snack (Tip #4) is if you actually have protein in your house that is ready to eat when you’re hungry. To achieve this, you’ll have to go to the grocery store or order it online.
Each week, I recommend that you make a plan for what protein sources you’ll be eating.
Then on Sunday, I prepare my proteins so that they are easy to add to any meal. I brown a pan of ground beef with a little salt and pepper, I grill a package of chicken breasts, and I roast the pork tenderloin in the oven.
That way, I can easily add a cooked protein source to my meal, or use a no-cook option like canned tuna or Greek yogurt.
6. Increase Your Protein Serving Sizes
An easy way to increase your protein intake to get closer to 180 grams is to increase your serving sizes for proteins that you’re already consuming. If you typically eat 4oz of meat, then try increasing it to 5 or 6.
If you were already eating 120 grams of protein, this one trick would take you from 120 grams to 180 grams of protein per day.
7. Opt For High Protein Snacks
If you don’t want to (or can’t) make large increases to your existing meals (Tip #6), then having more snacks is a great opportunity to get more protein.
Aim for snacks with 15-30 grams of protein to get you closer to your goal.
Ideally, your snack will contain protein, fiber, and fat (a “PFF” snack) to provide a satisfying blend of macro and micronutrients.
However, if you’re in a time crunch, aren’t prepared, or just don’t feel hungry then opt for a protein bar instead. Most protein bars have at least 15 grams of protein, and they are a convenient and portable choice.
- Related Article: 15 Ideas For High-Protein Snacks
8. Cook With Protein Powder
As I mentioned in Tip #2, you can easily boost the protein content of any meal or snack by utilizing protein powder, but what you may not know is that you can actually cook with it.
Protein powder is a great choice to thicken soups, stews, or stir frys and you can also add it to baked goods.
Here are a few recipes that use protein powder:
9. Choose High Protein Processed Foods
Including high-protein alternatives to these foods helps you hit your 180-gram protein target and gives you a reason to include these delicious foods in your diet more regularly.
10. Track Your Protein Intake
The only way to know for sure if the tips and tricks are helping you meet your 180-gram goal is to track your intake.
Use a macro-tracking app like MacroFactor to track all of your food for at least a week to see if you’re hitting your target of 180 grams of protein.
If some days are under, figure out why and brainstorm ways to improve your protein intake on those days.
Is it an extra-busy day that would benefit from more prepared meals? Do you need to keep a stash of protein powder at the gym or the office to top you up on long days?
You can learn a lot by seeing what’s going well on the days that you do hit your target, as well as what isn’t working on the days that you don’t.
- Related Article: How To Hit Your Macros: 12 Tips From A Nutrition Coach
How Much Protein Should Come From Supplements vs. Whole Foods If Eating 180 Grams of Protein A Day?
Whole foods provide valuable micronutrients, water, and fiber that aren’t present in protein powder. To avoid any nutrient deficiencies, no more than 20-33% of your daily protein intake should come from protein powder.
The remaining 67-80% of your protein intake should come from minimally processed whole foods.
For a daily intake of 180 grams of protein, no more than 36-60 grams should come from protein powder (or other protein supplements like protein bars or ready-made protein shakes).
Same Meal Plan: 180 Grams of Protein
Here are three sample meal plans with 180 grams of protein:
Omnivore Meal Plan (includes meat, eggs, & dairy)
- Breakfast: 2 eggs, any style; ¾ cup (60 g) of rolled oats for oatmeal; ¾ cup (175 g) of nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with ⅓ cup (50 g) of blueberries (37 g protein)
- Snack: ¾ cup (175 g) low-fat cottage cheese; 1 medium apple (154 g); ½ oz (14 g) hemp seeds (20 g protein)
- Lunch: 4 oz (112 g) grilled chicken breast; 1/2 cup (100 g) cooked brown rice; 4 oz (112 g) steamed broccoli; mixed greens salad; 2 tsp (10 g) olive oil (39 g protein)
- Snack: 1 scoop (30 g) whey isolate protein powder; 1 medium banana (126 g); 1 cup (180mL) skim milk; 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (41 g protein)
- Dinner: 4 oz (112 g) grilled sirloin steak; 4 oz (112 g) baked sweet potato; 4 oz (112 g) sauteed mushrooms; ½ cup (85 g) steamed spinach; 2 tsp (10 g) butter (37 g protein)
Total: 181 g of protein
Vegetarian Meal Plan (includes eggs & dairy)
- Breakfast: 2 eggs, any style; 1 cup (85 g) steamed spinach; 2 slices (68 g) sprouted whole grain toast with 2 tbsp (30 g) peanut butter; ½ cup (74 g) sliced strawberries (32 g protein)
- Snack: ½ cup (125 g) nonfat plain Greek yogurt; ½ cup (63g) high protein granola; ½ cup (77 g) fresh cherries (33 g protein)
- Lunch: 6 oz (170 g) extra firm tofu, cubed, stir-fried with 4 oz (112 g) of mushrooms and 1 cup (70g) of shredded bok choy, served on ½ cup (100 g) cooked brown rice (35 g protein)
- Snack: 1 scoop (30 g) whey isolate protein powder; 1 medium banana (126 g); 1 cup (250mL) skim milk; 1 serving (12 g) powdered almond butter (43 g protein)
- Dinner: 2 cups (500mL) black turtle beans; ¼ cup (63 g) sugar-free salsa; ¼ cup (30 g) part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese; 2 corn tortillas (40 g); 1 medium (119 g) grilled bell pepper; 2 tbsp (30 g) light sour cream (38 g protein)
Total: 181 g of protein
Vegan Meal Plan (no animal products)
- Breakfast: 8 oz (227 g) extra firm tofu, fork-mashed, scrambled with ¼ cup (15 g) nutritional yeast and 4 oz (112 g) sauteed mushrooms; 1 small (53 g) sliced tomato; 1 slice (34 g) sprouted Ezekiel bread with 1 tbsp (15 g) almond butter (30 g protein)
- Snack: ⅔ cup (100 g) roasted lentils; 1 cup (262 g) soy-based yogurt (36 g protein)
- Lunch: 2 cups (200g) grilled eggplant,]; 2 cups grilled portabella mushrooms (242 g); 1 cup (100g) sauteed kale, 3 roasted red peppers (190 g); 1 cup cooked quinoa (185 g); ¼ cup (60 g) hummus (24 g protein)
- Snack: 1 scoop (41 g) Vega sport plant-based protein powder, 1 medium banana (126 g), 1 cup (250mL) soy milk (39 g protein)
- Dinner: 4 oz (112 g) Explore Cuisine black bean spaghetti (dry weight); ½ cup (125mL) primavera pasta sauce; 2 cups (170 g) chopped romaine lettuce; 2 tsp (10 g) olive oil (52 g protein)
Total: 181 g of protein
Staying On Track: My Practical Recommendations
If you’re nowhere near the 180-gram target, then working up to it over time will feel much easier than trying to jump to this higher intake right away.
Plus, you’ll likely feel more comfortable and experience less digestive discomfort if you make small changes gradually.
Here are my tips to work up to 180 grams of protein per day:
Start by adding 20-30 grams to your existing daily intake for one week. This can look like adding 1 scoop of protein powder over the course of your day, or 4 oz of lean meat.
Once you feel like you’ve mastered this new protein intake, increase it by another 20-30 grams. Do this until you hit your 180-gram goal.
Learn From Challenges
You can usually learn more from the days you struggle to hit your target than from the days you hit it easily.
Look for patterns on the days that you don’t hit your target. Are you working late and missing a meal? Are you out and about and don’t have a convenient source of protein with you?
Figure out what is going on, and make a plan for how you will prepare for these situations.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Eating 180 Grams Of Protein Safe?
Eating 180 grams of protein per day is safe for most people unless their doctor has advised a lower intake.
Check our guidelines to ensure this amount is appropriate for your activity level and goals, and do not exceed 35% of daily calories from protein (eat at least 2,000 calories per day while eating 180 grams).
Can I Eat 180 Grams Of Protein With Just 1 Source of Protein?
Yes, you can eat 180 grams of protein from just one source, but this is not optimal and not recommended. Getting protein from a variety of sources ensures a balanced amino acid profile, as well as a balance of micronutrients.
Plus, it reduces boredom and makes eating enjoyable, which is helpful for adherence.
Can I Eat 180 Grams Of Protein In One Sitting?
Yes, you can eat 180 grams of protein in one sitting, but this is not optimal and not recommended. This amount of food could lead to digestive discomfort and limit absorption of other nutrients.
Aim for 0.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight at each meal (36 grams for a weight of 180 lbs; 5 meals = 180 grams).
How Many Calories Is 180 Grams Of Protein?
The calorie content of 180 grams of pure protein with no additional grams of carbohydrate or fat is 720 calories. Each gram of protein provides about 4 calories.
But, in reality, most high-protein foods also contain at least a few grams of carbs and/or fats, which provide additional calories.
Jäger, R., Kerksick, C. M., Campbell, B. I., Cribb, P. J., Wells, S. D., Skwiat, T. M., Purpura, M., Ziegenfuss, T. N., Ferrando, A. A., Arent, S. M., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Stout, J. R., Arciero, P. J., Ormsbee, M. J., Taylor, L. W., Wilborn, C. D., Kalman, D. S., Kreider, R. B., Willoughby, D. S., Hoffman, J. R., … Antonio, J. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8
Manore MM. Exercise and the Institute of Medicine recommendations for nutrition. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2005 Aug;4(4):193-8. doi: 10.1097/01.csmr.0000306206.72186.00. PMID: 16004827.
Lambert CP, Frank LL, Evans WJ. Macronutrient considerations for the sport of bodybuilding. Sports Med. 2004;34(5):317-27. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434050-00004. PMID: 15107010.
Burd, N. A., Beals, J. W., Martinez, I. G., Salvador, A. F., & Skinner, S. K. (2019). Food-First Approach to Enhance the Regulation of Post-exercise Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Remodeling. Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 49(Suppl 1), 59–68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-018-1009-y
About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.