how much protein do you need to build muscle?
Whether you’re a pro athlete or a novice weightlifter, chances are you’ve heard about the benefits of a high protein diet for muscle building. It’s true that protein plays an important role in our ability to pack on muscle mass, but protein recommendations tend to be all over the place.
Some recommendations are as low as 50 grams of protein per day, while others go as high as several hundred grams per day. So how much protein do you really need to be eating on a daily basis to build muscle?
To answer this question, we’re going over everything you need to know about protein and the muscle building process.
what is protein, and why does your body need it to build muscle?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients that we consume in our diets. It is our bodies’ central tool for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue. An ample daily supply of protein is needed to maintain and especially to build muscle.
what proteins are made of
Our muscles are made up of proteins, which in turn are made up of amino acids. Our bodies are constantly going through a state of muscle protein breakdown (MPB) and muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Activities such as exercising and walking can place stress on our muscles, causing some of the tissue within them to break down.
In order to repair the damaged muscle tissue, our bodies require a variety of different amino acids. Some of the amino acids needed to rebuild muscle proteins cannot be produced by our bodies and therefore, must be obtained through our diet. These are known as essential amino acids.
When we consume protein, whether it’s a protein shake or a piece of chicken, our bodies break it down into amino acids. These amino acids are then used to build new proteins within our bodies. Some of these new proteins are ultimately used to repair damaged muscle tissue.
how proteins help building muscle
Even if you don’t work out, your body still needs a steady supply of protein. It doesn’t take strenuous exercise to break down muscle tissue. The simple activities we perform in our daily life also strain our muscles, creating the need for our bodies to regularly repair damaged tissue.
If we don’t consume enough protein on a daily basis, our bodies will not have enough amino acids to adequately repair damaged muscle fibers. This especially impacts building muscle – if our bodies don’t have enough protein, we won’t be able to build bigger and stronger muscles.
Exercise places strain on the muscles, causing serious damage to the fibers within them. As a result, increased amino acids are needed to repair and rebuild muscle tissue in individuals that exercise regularly.
This makes high-protein diets essential for everyone from the elite athlete to the casual gym-goer looking to lose fat or build muscle.
how much protein do you need to build muscle?
In general, 1 gram (g) of protein for every pound (lb) of body weight has been a daily dietary staple in the bodybuilding community for over 50 years. Athletes and those looking to lose fat have commonly claimed even greater success with higher protein intakes, often times between 1.2 – 1.5g of protein for every lb of bodyweight per day.
what do scientists say?
An almost universally accepted recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g per kg (0.36g per lb) for the average adult. The number is the same for both males and females. However, males on average weigh more and thus, require more grams of protein on average per day to maintain muscle mass.
Is the old bodybuilding staple of 1g of protein per 1 lb of bodyweight just a tall tale? Not so fast.
The RDA mainly pertains to people who don’t work out and aren’t looking to build muscle. Numerous studies have found that athletes and individuals who frequently exercise require higher doses of protein to build muscle.
For instance, a 2007 article published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism (IJSNEM) concludes that somewhere around 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight was an ideal intake for resistance and endurance-trained athletes.
A 2018 study also published in the IJSNEM found that a daily protein intake of around 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight was the ideal range for athletes looking to improve their body composition.
how much protein to consume in your daily diet
The table below will give you an idea of around how much protein you’ll need per day to meet your training goals and level of activity.
These numbers are just a rule of thumb; protein needs may vary slightly from person to person. If your primary goal is to build muscle, it’s a good idea to start around 1g per pound of bodyweight and then adjust your protein intake as necessary.
To illustrate your personal protein needs, you can take a look at this chart:
best sources of protein
Protein comes in many different forms. Some of the most commonly consumed protein sources for muscle building are:
Different forms of proteins digest at different rates and have different bio-availabilities.
Not all protein sources have the same amount of essential amino acids. So which sources should you choose?
Whey protein is an excellent protein source because it digests quickly, is rich in essential amino acids, and has a high bioavailability (over 90% is used by the body). This makes it an ideal supplement for anyone interested in building muscle.
Beef is also a good source of protein for muscle building. Like whey, it also digests quickly and is packed full of essential amino acids. It has a slightly lower net protein utilization (NPU) however, with only around 73% of its protein content being utilized by the body.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Eggs have a bioavailability of over 90%, meaning more than 90% of the protein in an egg is effectively utilized by the body. Unlike beef and whey, however, they have a much slower rate of digestion.
The amount of protein you need to build muscle is dependent on your body weight. Most people are able to sufficiently build muscle with a protein intake of around 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Athletes and those looking to shed fat may find greater benefits with a daily protein intake of closer to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Too much protein can have a negative impact on building muscle. You don’t need to overdo your protein intake. In fact, if more than 35% of your calories are coming from protein, it could actually hinder your ability to build muscle.
Meal timing doesn’t appear to play a huge role in your ability to build muscle. Whether you’re intermittent fasting or consuming 6-8 small meals throughout the day, you should be able to build muscle as long as you are taking in a variety of quality protein.
Supplementing protein directly after a work appears to be advantageous for building muscle. Somewhere between 20 and 40 grams seems to be the ideal range of protein post-workout for maximal muscle increase.
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