Want To Enhance Muscle Protein Synthesis And Build More Muscle
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Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, Aragon AA, Devries MC, Banfield L, Krieger JW, Phillips SM. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018 Mar 52:376-384. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608. Epub 2017 Jul 11. Erratum in: Br J Sports Med. 2020 Oct 54:e7. PMID: 28698222 PMCID: PMC5867436.
The Protein Needs Of Athletes
According to the Institute of Medicine, 10 35% of our daily calories should come from protein. Thats not very helpful for us, though.
10 35% is quite a range to choose from, and even if we went with 35%, if our daily calorie intake is too low, we wont get enough protein, and if its too high, well eat more than we need.
So lets look at some of the clinical research available on protein needs, and specifically with athletes.
First, lets look at research conducted by McMaster University.
According to their paper, protein intake of 1.3 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is adequate for stimulating maximal protein synthesis. They note, however, that more protein might be needed in the case of frequent and/or high-intensity training, and in the case of dieting to lose fat .
A widely cited study conducted by The University of Western Ontario concluded the same: 1.6 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight might be enough for athletes, but higher intakes may also be warranted depending on a wide variety of factors including energy intake, carbohydrate availability, exercise intensity, duration and type, dietary protein quality, training history, gender, age, timing of nutrient intake, and more.
As you can see, the topic is actually quite complex, and there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution.
Gym lore can actually lend some insight here, and it agrees with the above findings.
How Much Protein Should I Take To Gain Weight
While no one single nutrient will completely make or break your weight-gain progress, getting enough protein in your diet is key for maximizing weight gain. On top of needing extra calories to add pounds, you’ll also need more protein than the average sedentary person, especially if you’re trying to gain muscle. Your protein intake can come from high-protein foods — like meat or beans — or from protein supplements.
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How Much Protein To Build Muscle
When it comes to building muscle, your gym routine is only part of the puzzle your diet, particularly your protein intake, is the other key factor.
In general, you need between 1.2 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily to encourage muscle growth.1
While specific factors can play a role in where you fall on that range, supplying your muscles with quality protein from your diet is the key to promoting muscle growth. Read on to learn about how to make the most of your protein intake.
How Much Protein Is Too Much
In terms of muscle growth, theres not much point in eating more than one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. That is, going from one to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight wont lead to muscle being built any faster.
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While protein plays an important role in helping your muscles recover and grow, theres an upper limit on the amount that your body can use to synthesize new muscle tissue. And most research points to that upper limit being around 0.7 grams per pound, or 1.6 grams per kilogram, of bodyweight per day.
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Does Protein Have Any Negative Health Effects
Protein has been unfairly blamed for a number of health problems.
Some people believe that a high protein diet can cause kidney damage and osteoporosis, but science does not support these claims.
Though protein restriction is helpful for people with preexisting kidney problems, theres no evidence that protein can cause kidney damage in healthy people (
Overall, theres no evidence that a reasonably high protein intake has any adverse effects in healthy people trying to optimize their health.
Protein does not have any negative effects on kidney function in healthy people, and studies show that it leads to improved bone health.
The best sources of protein are meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, as they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs.
Some plants are fairly high in protein as well, such as quinoa, legumes, and nuts.
However, most people generally dont need to track their protein intake.
If youre healthy and trying to stay that way, simply eating quality protein sources with most of your meals, along with nutritious plant foods, should bring your intake to an optimal range.
So How Much Protein To Build Muscle
Now the question is that how much protein should we consume to overcome muscle protein breakdown?
Well, there is no single answer to this question. Protein intake to build muscle depends on various factors including your gender, muscle mass, fat percentage, body weight, etc.
What does science say?
Here also, different researchers and studies give different results. Some studies recommend protein intake as high as 0.9 to 1 gram per pound of body weight is required to build muscle .
Whereas some other studies say that about 0.8 grams per pound is enough to gain muscle mass. Going beyond this wont give you any extra benefit in muscle growth .
All these recommendations fall in the range given by the American College of Sports Medicine that:
0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight is sufficient to build muscle mass and for other body functions.
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Common Daily Protein Recommendations
The American Dietetic Associations RDA for protein is 0.36g per pound of bodyweight. This means that as a bare minimum, a 180lb male only needs 65 grams of protein per day to meet his daily requirements. Its important to note that the ADAs recommendations are based on sedentary individuals, and those that are more active will have a slightly higher RDA.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends that active people aim to consume between 0.4g to 0.6g of protein per pound of bodyweight, and as much as 0.8g for competitive athletes. In general, the higher your overall activity level, the more your protein requirement increases.1
I think it is safe to say that if you are trying to build muscle, you will want to be on the higher end of the spectrum.1
We Looked At All The Studies And Spoke To Multiple Experts To Land On The Ideal Number
When it comes to building muscle and losing fat, few questions can be as confusing as that of how much protein you should consume. The FDAs suggestions for avoiding a protein deficiency are a lot lower than what the average lean, muscular person will tell you they eat. Whats the minimum and is there a maximum? We talked to multiple experts and look at a ton of research to land on the formulas used in this calculator.
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But What About When Cutting
A final objection that is often heard is that these values may be true during bulking or maintenance periods, but cutting requires more protein to maintain muscle mass. Walberg et al. studied cutting weightlifters and they still found 0.73g/lb was sufficient to maintain lean body mass.
A perhaps even more telling study is by Pikosky et al. in 2008. The researchers took a group of endurance trained subjects and had them consume either 0.41 or 0.82g/lb of protein per day. They also added a thousand calories worth of training on top of their regular exercise. So these guys were literally running on a 1000 calorie deficit while drastically increasing their training volume. Talk about a catabolic state Of course the nitrogen balance in the low protein group plummeted. However, the protein intake of 0.82g/lb in the other group completely protected the subjects from muscle loss. Nitrogen balance, whole-body protein turnover and protein synthesis remained unchanged.
A further review of the literature on the optimal protein intake in a deficit can be found in this article of the research on protein by Eric Helms.
As such, there is simply no empirically substantiated reason to think we need more than 0.82g/lb of protein per day when cutting. If anything, you could reason the body should be able to use more protein during bulking periods, because more muscle is being built and a lot of other nutrients are ingested that may enable more protein to be used.
Protein Calculator: How Much Protein Do I Need
Determining how much protein to eat per day is important for any lifter, athlete, or person, period! Here’s the number to aim for to build muscle, lose weight, and support your exercise goals.
The amount of protein you need depends on a number of factors, including your weight, age, goals, and activity level. The daily minimum recommended by the National Institutes of Health is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight for a sedentary person. However, if you do intense workouts, have a physically demanding job, or both, experts say you may need moreâperhaps as much as double.
This calculator will tell you how much protein to eat each day based on your specific body and lifestyle. Dial in this nutritional priority to take control of your nutrition and nail your goals!
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How Much Protein Do You Need To Gain Muscle
Your protein needs are most directly related to your muscle mass – the more you have and the more you use it, the more protein you need.
Age and fitness level can also impact how much protein is required to promote muscle growth.
Bodybuilders and weightlifters have higher protein needs because they are looking to add mass and are simultaneously using their muscles more than the average person or non-lifter.
Of course, it is entirely possible to overdo it. Eating too much protein can negatively impact your ability to build muscle by limiting your intake of other important macros for bulking that support your training and weight gain. So getting the right amount for your individual requirements is crucial to getting the best results.
Many fitness enthusiasts recommend about one gram of protein per pound of body weight, but this likely isnt a perfect approach for everyone and the research varies on this topic depending on age, fitness level, and overall body composition goals .
Whats A High Quality Protein
One often hears of proteins being separated into categories of high or low quality. This refers to the sources content of amino acids, the building blocks of protein: animal sources contain all nine essential amino acids, meaning the ones the body cant make on its own. Vegan sources of protein typically dont, with the exceptions of soy, quinoa, buckwheat, and a few others.
Generally, people worry about this more than they should. Research suggests that if youre eating a varied diet, youll effortlessly get all your amino acids throughout the day, which is more important than getting them all at every meal. Its also easy to combine plant-based proteins like legumes and rice, an extremely popular combination throughout the world and this forms a complete protein on its own.
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How Much Protein 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. That might seem high to some of you, and for others it might seem too low. So, how much protein should you eat per day to build muscle? Really, it depends.
Research shows that the average trainee looking to build muscle can benefit from getting between 0.6g to 1.1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. The exact amount thats right for you will depend on your goals, genetics, and the rest of your diet, but aiming to hit between those targets should be sufficient for most people.2
For example, a relatively fit 180lb man should aim to consume between 108g and 198g of protein daily for muscle gain.2
If you are overweight and trying to reduce your body fat, I recommend that you aim to consume your target bodyweight in grams of protein. For instance, if a 225lb man wants to reduce his bodyweight to 180lbs through proper training and nutrition, he should consume a base of 180g of protein per day.4 At the same time, lowering your carbohydrate and fat intake is extremely important as well!
Plant Vs Animal Sourcing
We’ve established that vegan options aren’t ‘incomplete’ and that obsessing over combining different ones is almost certainly not needed.
Having said that: does a vegan source have the same anabolic, i.e., muscle building capacity as animal protein do?
You can try to answer this question by looking up figures such as DIAAS and PDCAAS – scores constructed to determine the overall quality. This is not a bad idea to get an overview of different proteins.
However, the problem with these numbers is that they view and rate the sources as isolated nutrients.
For example, cooked kidney beans have a DIAAS score of 0.59 — which makes it sound like the kidney beans are really, really crappy .
I wouldn’t want to base my favored source around something with a score of only 0.59. But now here’s the kicker:
Due to the way the formula is designed, it caps the score at any rate-limiting amino acid, which in the case of legumes such as kidney beans is methionine + cysteine.
As we have discussed already this does not matter if you eat a variety throughout the day. So to answer this question, we’ll have to take a different, completely unbiased look at the subject:
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So How Much Protein Do You Need
For any guy who’s cut his teeth on the gym floor and with several years of training behind them could theoretically get away with less daily protein. That’s because, the closer you are to your genetic limit in terms of muscle growth, the slower the gains will come. And the slower your rate of growth, the less protein you need to support that growth. Understood?
In short, if youre trying to gain muscle, or even if you just want to hold on to the muscle you have while you drop fat, 2.2g of protein per kg of lean body mass is plenty.
You can eat more if you like. However, bear in mind that its not going to make much difference to the speed at which you gain muscle and will make a difference not only to your bank balance, but potentially your waistline too.
How To Calculate Protein Intake For Muscle Growth
To calculate the amount of protein you need to maximize muscle growth, multiply your bodyweight in pounds by 0.7. If you prefer metric, multiply your bodyweight in kilograms by 1.6.
|230 lb||167 grams|
It is worth pointing out that the researchers dont rule out the possibility that a higher protein intake may be beneficial.
Given that the confidence interval of this estimate spanned from 1.03 to 2.20, it may be prudent to recommend approximately 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day for those seeking to maximise resistance training-induced gains in fat-free mass.
In other words, they think that the muscle-building benefits of protein plateau at around 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight per day.
But, they acknowledge that there may be a small benefit to eating more around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight per day, or 2.2 grams per kilogram.
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How Much Protein Powder Should I Consume
Once youve established how much protein you need on a daily basis, its also important to list the protein sources you plan to consume on a regular basis.
Protein powder is a popular source of protein for active individuals in need of a quality protein source that can be consumed quickly and nearly anywhere, but how much of our daily intake should come from supplements?
We like to recommend limiting protein supplements to account for no more than 35% of your daily protein intake. This means that supplements can account for 35% or less of your daily protein intake.
If we looked at the above example, then we would write out:
- Protein Supplementation Range: 147g x .35 = 51g
Contextually, this would mean that protein supplements could account for 51g of our daily intake. This amount is roughly two daily shakes, which would be perfect for active individuals consuming one post-workout shake and a shake as a snack or before bed to boost daily protein intake.
The amount and type of protein powder supplements you choose to consume on a daily basis should reflect your goals, lifestyle, and wants.