When it comes to building some serious muscle, all that work you do in the gym is only half of the battle. The other half takes place in the kitchen. Diet is extremely important when trying to improve your body composition. Without proper nutrients, no matter how much time you spend weight training, you won’t get the results you’re looking for.
Your muscles are made up of over 25% protein (a very significant amount!) along with up to 75% water and stored glycogen (carbohydrates). While people generally understand that consuming adequate protein is very important to support muscle growth and maintain lean mass, the amount of protein to consume becomes the tricky part.
I ‘ve seen recommendations that range from as low as 50 grams per day to as much as 3 times your bodyweight. Although it sounds good in theory, the traditional ‘more is better’ approach doesn’t necessarily work here. So how much protein do you need when trying to get huge?
Protein To Build Muscle | Common Recommendations
The American Dietetic Association’s RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein is 0.36g per pound of bodyweight. This would mean that as a bare minimum, a 180lb male only needs 65 grams of protein per day to meet requirements. One thing to note is that these requirements are based off of sedentary individuals and those that are more active will have a slightly higher RDA.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (N.S.C.A.) recommends that active people consume 0.4g to 0.6g per pound of bodyweight with as much as 0.8g for a competitive athlete. What is important to note is that with a higher overall activity level the requirement goes up. I think it is safe to say that if you are trying to build muscle you will be on the higher end of the spectrum.1
Protein To Build Muscle | How Much Is Really Enough?
Popular belief is that in order to build muscle you must consume up to 1.0g of protein per pound of bodyweight. For some of you that might seem high and for others it might seem too low. The answer to that is really, it depends.
Research shows that the average trainee looking to build muscle can benefit anywhere from .6g to around 1.1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. It all really depends on your goals, genetics, and the rest of your diet, but aiming to hit between those targets should be sufficient for most people. For example, a relatively fit 180lb man should aim to consume between 108g and 198g of protein daily for muscle gain.2
What I recommend if you are overweight and trying to reduce your body fat is to aim to consume your target bodyweight in grams. For instance, if a 225lb man wants to reduce his bodyweight to 180lbs through proper training and nutrition he would consume a base of 180g of protein per day.3 It is also important to note that lowering your carbohydrate and fat intake as extremely important as well!
On the other hand, if you are trying to gain weight it might not be a bad idea to eat a few extra grams of protein (along with fat and carbohydrate) to get your calories up.4 You may have heard that consuming extra protein is a waste and that what your body doesn’t use will be excreted, but I beg to differ. Although this is partially true, if you are trying to put on size and weight, you need to consume extra calories so now is not the time to nitpick nutrients – just eat!
Protein To Build Muscle | Not All Protein Is Created Equal
One question that I get asked frequently is “What is are good sources of protein?” To answer that you have to first understand that there are two types of protein that occur in nature: complete proteins (all of the amino acids) and incomplete proteins (some of the amino acids). Very simply, complete proteins come from animal source and incomplete proteins come from plant sources.
What’s more is animal proteins have a higher biological value (BV) which means they are more readily used by your body for cellular repair and muscle growth. To set a standard, eggs are given a BV of 100%, beef 80% and beans are less than 50%. What this means for you is the higher quality of protein you consume the more efficiently your body will utilize it.
Speaking of BV, whey protein can have a value of 90% all the way up to 104% depending on the quality of processing. For those of you who have trouble eating enough steak and eggs, this is an easy way to increase your daily protein intake. The only down side is you may get a little stronger. Wink, wink.
Protein To Build Muscle | The Bottom Line
Whether your goal is to build muscle, burn fat, or train like an athlete, you should aim to consume roughly your bodyweight in grams of protein daily to cover all your bases. Since this isn’t an exact science, going a little over or a little under shouldn’t be detrimental to your results or health. I will, however, argue that it may be better to err on the side of eating a little more rather than eating too little as the drawbacks of undershooting far outweigh the effects of overdoing it.
- Brooks, G.A., Fahey, T.D., & Baldwin, K.M. Exercise Physiology: Human Bioenergetics and It’s Applications. 2005 Boston, MA: Mcgraw-Hill. ↩
- Bilsborough S, Mann N. A review of issues of dietary protein intake in humans. International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. 2006 Apr; 16 (2): 129-52. ↩
- Wilson, J., & Wilson, G.J. (2006). Contemporary issues in protein requirements and consumption for resistance trained athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 3(1), 7-27. ↩
- Tipton K.D., Wolfe R.R. Protein and amino acids for athletes. Journal of Sports Science. 2004 Jan; 22 (1): 65-79. ↩