How Much Protein to Gain Muscle

Building muscle can be a laborious process. You need to work out with weights three or four times a week, get plenty of rest between workouts, use the right supplements, eat the right foods, and do your utmost to keep daily stress to a minimum. 

It’s a full-time job!

Even then, a lot of exercises are frustrated with their lack of progress. They train hard, regularly, and consistently, spend hundreds of dollars a month on nutritional supplements and eat a healthy diet with very little junk food. 

Talk about annoying!

So, what’s the problem? Why can’t some people build muscle? The answer is maybe as simple as not eating enough protein. Protein is critical for building muscle.

While you CAN build muscle without consuming a lot of protein, the odds are very much stacked against you. Building muscle is hard enough without sabotaging your progress by missing out on the optimal protein intake for muscle growth!

In this article, we reveal the role of protein in building muscle, the best high foods, and supplements, and how much protein you actually need to reach your muscle-building goals.

We’ll also discuss briefly how you can have too much of a good thing and what happens when you eat too much protein. 

What Does Protein Do for Muscle Growth

Your body uses protein like a builder uses bricks. When you lift weights, your workouts cause microscopic damage, called microtrauma, to your muscles, literally tearing them apart. While that might sound horrific, it’s this breakdown that triggers the muscle-building process. 

In response to this damage, and given enough time to rest, your body repairs your muscles, so they grow back bigger and stronger.

In some ways, this is like an immunological response. 

When you eat protein, it’s digested down into smaller compounds called amino acids, and it’s these amino acids your body then uses for muscle repair and growth. So, too little protein means insufficient amino acids and no materials for muscle building. 

If you are protein deficient, your workouts will break your muscles down, but they won’t get repaired as well as they should. The result? Slow or even non-existent progress. 

How to Calculate Protein Needs for Gains

Non-exercisers don’t need a lot of protein. In fact, the average recommendation for protein for sedentary people is just 0.8 grams of protein per kilo or about 0.35 grams per pound. 

However, exercisers and especially people trying to build muscle, need considerably more than this. That’s because exercise causes so much muscle breakdown. 

If you want to build bigger muscles, most exercise nutritional experts agree that you should consume roughly one gram per pound of body weight or about two grams per kilo. Alternatively, you can use an online calculator to determine your protein needs. 

This will ensure your body has all the protein it needs for growth and repair.

How to Get Enough Protein for Gains

Until someone invents a protein injection, the only way to get enough protein is through your diet. Here there are two options: Food and supplements. For most people, combining these methods is the easiest way to ensure that you’re getting enough protein every day. 

Food

High protein foods include:

Vegan/plant-based protein foods include: 

  • Beans 
  • Buckwheat
  • Hummus 
  • Nuts and nut butter 
  • Quinoa
  • Seeds 
  • Soy products 
  • Spirulina

It’s also possible to make proteins by combining two non-protein foods. These are called complementary proteins. Examples include: 

  • Legumes with grains, nuts, seeds, or dairy
  • Grains with dairy
  • Dairy with nuts
  • Dairy with nuts, seeds, or legumes

While you can get all the protein you need from whole foods, it does mean you’ll need to consume protein at every meal and most snacks. Even then, you may find it very hard, if only because it’s not always easy to eat protein on the go. 

That’s where supplements come in… 

Supplements 

Protein supplements make consuming protein much easier. They require no cooking, are portable, and very concentrated. For example, one scoop of whey protein powder contains about 24 grams of protein, which is the same as four eggs or a small can of tuna. 

There are several different types of protein supplements available, including: 

Each type of protein supplement has benefits and drawbacks, but they’ll all help you reach your daily protein intake and fuel muscle repair and growth. Two to three servings per day, combined with a well-balanced diet, should be all you need. 

What Happens If You Eat Too Much Protein

There is no escaping the importance of protein for repairing and building muscle. That’s why bodybuilders build their diets around this critical nutrient.

However, while your muscles won’t grow much without protein, consuming more than you need won’t produce better muscle-building results. 

So, if your body needs 150 grams of protein a day, that’s how much you should consume! But what happens if you DO go overboard on the dietary protein? 

Firstly, your body will attempt to increase protein metabolism, so none of this essential food group is wasted. But, if you keep on overdosing on protein, your body will start to convert any unused amino acids into uric acid for excretion, and glucose, which is a type of sugar. 

If your body doesn’t need the glucose for energy, it will be converted into and stored as fat. So, if you continually consume more protein than you need, you’ll pee out some of it and store the rest around your waist. 

Bottom line: There is no advantage to consuming more than two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or one gram per pound. 

What Happens If You Eat Too Little Protein

Not eating enough protein means your body won’t have the materials it needs for growth and repair.

As such, your workouts will tear your muscles down, but they won’t bounce back bigger or stronger. 

Also, not eating enough protein will force your body to catabolize your muscles and other bodily tissues to get the amino acids it needs for other critical functions. It will essentially cannibalize itself to get the nutrients it needs. 

Either way, if your goal is building muscle, you MUST supply your body with adequate protein or, like the builder with no bricks, you won’t be able to carry out the repairs your body needs to get bigger and stronger. 

If that doesn’t explain adequately how vital protein is, it’s worth remembering that the word protein comes from the Greek word for first or primary – proteus. That’s how necessary protein is; it’s #1 on the must-have muscle-building food list! 

Bottom Line

If you are training hard, getting plenty of rest, sleeping like a boss, and still not seeing the progress you want, your diet may be holding you back. More specifically, you may not be consuming enough protein. Your body needs protein for the amino acids it contains.

It uses these amino acids like bricks, repairing and building your muscles back up after your workouts. Unfortunately, too few building materials mean it won’t have what it needs to fuel the muscle-building process, and your progress will soon grind to a halt.

To get enough protein (about one gram per pound or two grams per kilo of body weight), you need to consume high protein foods at most meals and for snacks.

You may also benefit from using protein supplements, especially if your schedule means you cannot stop to eat high protein foods easily. 

Remember, though, that as necessary as protein is, you can have too much of a good thing. While consuming too much protein won’t harm your health, it could lead to unwanted fat gain, and at least some of it will just get excreted out in the form of uric acid. 

So, work out how much protein you need and then endeavor to consume that amount each and every day. That’s how to build muscle! Visit the Fitness Equipment Reviews homepage for more detailed information and product reviews. 

Patrick

Patrick

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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