How Much Protein You Should Eat To Gain Muscle

by | Jun 26, 2018 | Featured, Fitness

There’s so much misinformation and “broscience” around the subject of how much protein you should be eating. On one extreme there’s what organizations recommend which is too low. On the other end, there are a ton of gym-goers that preach that you need to eat an insane amount of protein to build or maintain muscle. As with most things, the real answer is somewhat subjective based on what your goals are.

However, there is ample science to give you a definitive answer on what your protein intake needs to be to meet your goals. In this article, we break what protein is, how your body uses it, how much you need, and dispel some of the more common myths regarding the subject.

So if you’re looking to match your protein intake to accomplish your gyms gains, then you’re in the right place.

What Is Protein

Protein itself is a large molecule built by long chains of amino acids, which in turn are composed of four elements: hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, and oxygen. The human body requires 21 different kinds of amino acids to synthesize its proteins, but it can only produce 10. The human body also cannot store proteins, so if it does not get enough of the amino acids it cannot execute protein synthesis, and it begins to break down muscle to scavenge for them immediately.

How Your Body Uses Protein to Create Muscle

Your body uses protein to grow muscle after exercise when muscle tissue is damaged and needs to be repaired. Your body grows muscles by fusing together damaged muscle cells and building new ones. This process has the effect of increasing the size and number of muscle fibers, or myofibrils. Your body uses amino acids from protein to create these new muscles . It breaks down proteins into peptides, or chains of amino acids, which are then transported to your liver for temporary storage. They are then sent to the damaged muscle cells, where they are used to repair them and to create new muscle tissue.

That sounds like complicated stuff. And it’s more than I like to wrap my head around. But in a nutshell, just know that your body needs to ingest specific amino acids that it needs to build muscle.

Is All Protein Created Equal?

Plants, animals, and even fungi can be excellent sources of protein, but there are significant differences between them you’ll need to be aware of when designing your workout diet. For example, animal sources contain all 21 amino acids the human body needs in order to synthesize its own proteins and to build muscle. On the other hand, most plant proteins are “incomplete” proteins, which means they lack some of the essential amino acids your body needs. As a result, you must consume two or incomplete proteins to create a complementary protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. If you’re not mindful of the differences between these two types of protein, your protein intake could be far less than you believe.

Sources of Protein

CHICKEN BREAST

You can build a diet that includes plenty of protein no matter what diet you are following. Animal sources such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, seafood and dairy products are excellent sources of complete protein for anyone trying to gain muscle. Chicken breast, in particular, can be an excellent source of lean meat, as it has low fat and high protein content.

EGGS

Egg proteins are close to ideal for human consumption thanks to their unique amino acid balance.

FISH

And fish sources such as salmon or sardines can be high in omega-3 fats and low in fat and cholesterol, making them an attractive option for those looking for lean proteins. Overall, seafood such as shrimp, shellfish, or squid are also high in protein and low in fat, and though they can be high in cholesterol, they also have a range of beneficial nutrients, including omega-3s, which can counteract this.

RED MEAT

Red meat is high in protein but is also generally demonized for being high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and people usually associated it with higher rates of heart disease. However, while there is a correlation with red meat and specific conditions, scientist have yet to find any evidence that points to red meat as the cause of these problems. Like with all other meats, the key to red meat is choosing lean sources so that you can get high amounts of protein without consuming a lot of fat.

Some lightly-processed foods created using non-animal sources also provide complete proteins without relying on animal products. Tofu is one of the most popular sources of non-animal total protein. It is made by curdling soya milk, which is then pressed into blocks in a process similar to that used to make cheese. A 100-gram serving includes about 8.2 grams of protein and 70 calories, along with a wide range of vitamins and minerals, including zinc and magnesium. Tempeh is another soy-based product that offers complete proteins. Tempeh is created from cooked and fermented soybeans and offers about 16.6 grams of protein and 173 calories per 100-gram serving. However, its relatively high-calorie content means you’ll want to be careful when adding this to your diet.

You may be surprised to know that Ezekiel bread uses a mix of sprouted grains and legumes to create complete proteins. It is made of lentils, soybeans, millet, barley, wheat and spelt. It is also free from added sugars, which can be helpful if you are restricting your consumption of it. However, Ezekiel bread contains gluten, which could be a problem if you are following a gluten-free diet.

You can also obtain protein by combining two sources of incomplete protein to form a complementary protein. Typically, nuts or grains are paired with legumes to create meals with complete proteins (https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/proteins/incomplete-vs-complete-proteins.html). Some popular meals that do this include rice and beans or lentils, bread and hummus, or toast and peanut butter (https://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/proteins/incomplete-vs-complete-proteins.html). By varying your sources of protein, you can not only make sure you get the amount you need, but you can also obtain the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy and to build muscle efficiently.

How Much Protein You Need Depends On Your Goals

g/Kg of bodyweight if you're sendentary

g/Kg of bodyweight if you're moderately active

g/kg of bodyweight if you lift heavy weights

g/kg of bodyweight if you're dieting for fat loss

If You’re Sedentary

Most young people with sedentary lifestyles only need to obtain about 10% of their calories to come from protein. Sedentary people only need to consume 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of their body weight per day in order to consume their Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein. This works out to be about 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Those who are older need to consume more protein to maintain and build muscle mass, but not much more. A 2015 study showed that women who increased their daily protein intake to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight were better able to repair and build muscle than control subjects. This means that protein would then consist of 15-25% of a person’s daily caloric intake.

“The study also indicates that in general, people losing weight should increase their protein intake to anywhere between 2.3 to 3.1 grams per kilogram of weight depending on the severity of their diet. ”

If You’re Moderately Active

Those who are moderately active will have greater caloric needs than sedentary people and will need to consume more protein in order to build and maintain muscle. However, most people don’t need as much protein as many high-protein diets claim. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that men who are moderately active require about 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight of protein, or about .64 to .82 grams per pound. According to Rice University, women need anywhere from about .8 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of weight, or .4 to .6 grams per pound if they are moderately active.

If You Lift Heavy Weights

If you are lifting weights and want to build more muscle, you don’t need to down cups of whey powder in order to get enough to get serious gains. Recent studies show that men who double their protein intake to about 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or .72 grams per pound, during their weight-lifting regimens are better able to maintain their muscle mass and build more of it. Rice University says that women who are trying to build muscle should increase their protein consumption to about 0.6 to 0.9 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Consuming less protein than this might mean your body burns muscle in search of fuel, or that your muscles won’t be able to recover from your workouts.

If You’re Dieting For Fat Loss

If you’re planning on losing weight by cutting calories, you’ll run the risk of losing muscle mass instead of fat if your diet is too strict. One way to avoid this is by increasing the amount of protein you consume when trying to lose weight to about 30% of your caloric intake. According to a study published in the International Journal of Sport, trained athletes who consumed anywhere from 2.5 to 2.6 grams per kilogram of weight daily, the highest level of protein consumption in the study, were best able to preserve muscle mass. The study also indicates that in general, people losing weight should increase their protein intake to anywhere between 2.3 to 3.1 grams per kilogram of weight depending on the severity of their diet.

In addition to preserving muscle mass, you can get many other benefits from increasing your protein intake when losing weight. The protein you consume causes your body to release peptide YY in the gut, which can help to stave off hunger pangs. A diet weighted more toward protein can also reduce stress on your kidneys, as your body will require less insulin.

This can help you to shed water weight faster and may reduce the risk of diabetes. You might even gain some muscle mass while losing fat if you maintain a moderate workout regimen while slimming down. Added muscle can also make it easier to keep any weight you do lose off for good.

 Common Myths About Protein

Protein is crucial to your health, and it’s crucial to increase your consumption of it if you are planning on building muscle. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about protein, how much your body needs, and how and when it can use it to build muscle. There are many myths about protein intake which can make it harder for you to build muscle, or which might make you waste money on foods or supplements you don’t need. Learning about the myths can help you to identify and avoid them, which is especially important if you’ve built them into your workout routine.

“For many years, it was thought that eating too much protein could cause kidney damage.However, recent studies have shown this to be untrue for most people. It appears that the only people this would be a concern for are those that already have kidney or liver problems.”

You Have to Eat Right After a Workout

One of the most common myths is that in order to make the best use of your exercise time, you have to consume protein right after your workout. This may cause you to build your workout routine around the idea that you need to eat protein as soon as you set your weights down. You might artificially limit your workouts to fit time in to eat, and you may even pick venus closer to a place where you can get a post-workout snack. However, studies have shown that it may take one or two hours between the end of your workout to when your body hits its protein production peak. This can give you plenty of time to take a shower, make a snack, or plan another meal after your workout instead of forcing down a protein shake. This can also take a little stress off of your shoulders, as it’s one less thing you have to worry about when pumping iron.

You Have to Eat Right After a Workout

One of the most common myths is that in order to make the best use of your exercise time, you have to consume protein right after your workout. This may cause you to build your workout routine around the idea that you need to eat protein as soon as you set your weights down. You might artificially limit your workouts to fit time in to eat, and you may even pick venus closer to a place where you can get a post-workout snack. However, studies have shown that it may take one or two hours between the end of your workout to when your body hits its protein production peak. This can give you plenty of time to take a shower, make a snack, or plan another meal after your workout instead of forcing down a protein shake. This can also take a little stress off of your shoulders, as it’s one less thing you have to worry about when pumping iron.

If You Feel Tired, You Need More Protein

Another common misconception about protein is that if you start to feel tired during a workout, it’s because you’re not eating enough of it. However, this is highly unlikely. Fatigue can arise from any number of causes, but for most people who eat a well-balanced diet, low protein intake is not one of them. You would need to be experiencing a severe protein deficiency to feel tired from a lack of it. However, even if this was the case, you would most likely experience chronic fatigue, and wouldn’t merely feel tired after a workout.

The Body Can Only Use 20 Grams of Protein Per Meal

Another popular myth about protein is that after each meal, the body can only use 20 grams of protein. The idea is that your body will dispose of any excess protein that you consume as waste. While it’s true that your body has limits on the amount of protein it can use in a day, the threshold is far higher than 20 grams per meal. For active adults, the Recommended Daily Allowance for protein is anywhere from 1.2 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight for even just a moderate workout regimen. The body can only use about 1.8 grams of leucine, an essential amino acid linked to muscle performance, per day, but it appears in different concentrations across protein sources.

Just Eating More Protein Helps You Lose Weight

Many people who wish to lose weight while building muscle will increase their protein intake, thinking this diet shift alone will promote muscle growth. However, increased protein consumption alone won’t grow muscle. You must pair this increased consumption with an exercise regimen for your body to take advantage of the added protein and calories it is consuming. Protein’s main benefit, aside from providing your body with essential amino acids, is to promote the feeling of fullness, which can help you avoid overeating. Protein contains calories, just like any other macronutrient, and you could quickly gain weight if you consume too much.

Protein Powder is Enough

If you are trying to increase your protein intake, it’s tempting to rely on protein powder to consume the amounts you need. However, while protein powder can be a good source of complete proteins, it doesn’t deliver the same range of benefits that you can obtain from food sources. For one, a powdered protein may not contain the vitamins and minerals that you can obtain from plant or animal sources. In addition, powdered proteins can have limited amino acid profiles, meaning you may not be able to obtain the full benefits of your diet.

While I’m a big advocate of protein powders, especially when dieting. I limit it to no more than forty percent of my intake and make a point to get the rest from whole foods.

Too Much Protein Can Lead To A Early Death

Another myth dispelled in recent years is that you run the risk of dying early if you consume too much protein. While increased mortality can be seen among those who consume animal proteins, the opposite is the case for those who consume plant-based proteins. Animal-based foods contain salt, saturated fat, and cholesterol, which can lead to a wide variety of ailments, including heart disease. On the other hand, plant sources are normally free from these and contain heart-healthy fats along with a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants. The source of your protein seems to matter much more for your health than the simple fact that you are consuming protein.

You Have To Eat Insane Amounts Of Protein To Gaine Muscle

It’s commonly believed that to build more muscle, you need to eat more protein. There are some minimum levels of protein you need to consume to maintain the muscle you do have. You may also need to increase overall protein consumption to make the possible gains. However, eating more protein won’t be enough to help you gain more muscle if your diet is not paired with a workout regimen designed to build muscle. Depending on your age and sex, your optimal protein intake may be anywhere from 2.3 to 3.1 grams per kilogram of body weight. Any protein beyond this point will be stored in the body as fat. As each protein has four calories, you also run the risk of gaining fat instead of muscle if you consume too much protein.

Too Much Protein Causes Osteoporosis

Given that proteins can create metabolic acids, for many years there were concerns that the body could lose bone mass as it diverted calcium to neutralize by-products created by the metabolism of protein. However, according to a 2011 study published in the Current Opinion in Lipidology, an increased protein intake can actually lead to greater bone density. Protein and calcium interact synergistically, helping the body to improve its use of metabolism while also strengthening its bones. Cutting too much protein might actually weaken the bones rather than strengthening them

Conclusion

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how much protein you need to achieve your fitness goals. If you only take away one thing from this article, it should be that high protein diet has a multitude of benefits. It is also clear that regular recommended dietary guidelines definitely fall short of what is needed to build muscle mass or even successfully diet for fat loss.

So now that you know how much protein you need, you can go ahead and start crafting your meal plan for the week.

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