Should You Eat More Protein if You’re Trying to Build Muscle?

by Optimum Nutrition
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Should You Eat More Protein if You’re Trying to Build Muscle?

Optimum Nutrition LogoIt turns out there’s a very good reason you see weight-room regulars leaving the gym with a protein shake in hand. It’s not just about image, but rather building muscle and optimal recovery. Indeed, long after the pumping of iron ceases, your dietary decisions make a difference when it comes to the effectiveness of your strength-training regimen.

While an all-around healthy diet is important, those who are especially interested in increasing muscle mass should focus on protein intake. That’s because the muscles are made up of two types of proteins (actin and myosin), which are composed of linked amino acids. When you take in protein during meals, the body breaks it down into amino acids. This, in turn, assists in building muscle. What’s more, it also plays a role in repairing the muscles following the natural breakdown that happens during resistance training.

In addition to the underlying science, research has demonstrated increases in both strength and power in athletes who consume protein supplements over those who do not. Many of those increases involve as little as 10 weeks of supplementation, suggesting that it doesn’t take long to see the effects of taking in that extra protein.

If building muscle is on the top of your fitness goals, be sure to pay attention to not just what you do in the gym but also what you’re eating throughout the day. Keep reading to find out how much protein you need, which types are best and when to consume it.

How Much Protein Do I Need?

While the USDA recommends the average person take in 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound), those numbers should be adjusted if you’re an athlete. In particular, if you’re utilizing strength training to build muscle, you need to increase those amounts. To be sure, the International Society of Sports Nutrition states: “Vast research supports the contention that individuals engaged in regular exercise training require more protein than sedentary individuals.”

In terms of actual numbers, they suggest 1.4–2.0 g/kg of body weight/day for physically active individuals. Similarly, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.6–1.7 g/kg of body weight/day, comprising 15–20% of your total calories for the day.

What Sources of Protein Are Best?

There are a variety of ways you can get the protein you need to support muscle growth. The most obvious is through your regular meals. Lean beef, chicken, salmon, milk, eggs, nuts, beans and lentils are just a few examples of high-protein foods that can be worked into nearly any meal.

Getting some of your protein via supplements, shakes and drinks is another viable way to help you consume the recommended amount of daily protein. In fact, the ISSN states: “While it is possible for physically active individuals to obtain their daily protein requirements through a varied, regular diet, supplemental protein in various forms are a practical way of ensuring adequate and quality protein intake for athletes.”

While there are plenty of options out there, recent research suggests that 20 grams of whey protein after a workout does a great job of repairing and rebuilding those ailing muscles.

When Should I Consume Protein?

In addition to helping guide the type and amount of protein intake you should be shooting for, the International Journal of Sports Nutrition also emphasizes the significance of timing: “Appropriately timed protein intake is an important component of an overall exercise training program, essential for proper recovery, immune function, and the growth and maintenance of lean body mass.”

On top of consuming protein with regular meals throughout the day, the American Council on Exercise emphasizes the importance of eating a snack within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. Ideally, it would include both protein and carbohydrates together, as studies have demonstrated they have a positive impact on subsequent performances when combined.

ACE recommends consuming the following after a workout:

  • Carbohydrates: 1–1.5 g/kg of body weight
  • Protein: approximately 1/3 of the number of grams you ingested in carbohydrates

Keep in mind that a number of factors can influence how much protein you need, the type of protein that is best for your body and the timing of protein intake. Everything from workout duration and fitness level to health history and food allergies will guide how and when you consume that much-needed protein. If you’re unsure of where to start, consider sitting down with a sports nutritionist or wellness coach to help determine what will work best for your particular situation.

Sponsored by Optimum Nutrition.

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  • badrock4 .

    So in other words please by optimum nutrition protein powder….gtfo

  • Abdullah Jefri

    The insinuation in the article that for athletes who require a higher protein intake supplements are a must is dishonest. The maximum protein intake I need is 120g since I weigh 60 kgs (my fat % is 8%), yet I manage to regularly consume close to 150g of protein a day well within my 1,750 calories a day diet without any supplements. I see no problem using supplements if you’re facing difficulties getting enough proteins on some particular days, but to claim that it needs to be a standard component of your diet is obviously a false claim that’s supported by commercial interests of the supplements makers.

    • Ivanovich

      Obviously you are a slim dude with no muscle… A bodybuilder should consume about 2-4 grams of protein per kilogram

      • Abdullah Jefri

        Obviously you need to read my comment again. I never said I was muscular, but I said that I eat 150 g of protein, and if you read all the research on the subject including this article you’ll realize that 2g per kg of weight is the maximum need for the body. Thus, my consumption is sufficient for a person who weighs 75 kgs. If you’re lean then that’s a good weight for most natural athletes. Plus I’m on a low calorie diet. With 2,000 calories I can push my intake to 180 g a day without supplements. That should be more than enough for a 90 kg athlete.

  • Rachel

    Protein needs for active individuals is a valid topic for discussion and one that many active people and MFP users have an interest in. But extremely poor judgement on MFP’s part to source this content via a supplement company, and in such a nakedly dishonest tone. Even people with poor critical reading skills or little skepticism can’t help but read this article with eyes rolled up in the back of the head. We get it, you want us to buy your product and you’re not particularly eager to give us useful information about how to meet our goals without your product. Bad call.

  • Chris

    Wow this is basically telling you to buy supplements. Dont believe the hype!
    You get the best reults in strength, endurance and shape through REAL food not powders or pills!

  • Inga

    I have to consume 225 grams of protien a day with all of my weight training and cardio while on a deficiet and it’s not impossible to do without supplements but it’s extremely hard and stressful . With that said i get most of my protien from real clean food but about 20% I get from supplements and there is nothing wrong with that!

  • James

    In the last 6 months or so, since under armour got their claws in, mfp has hugely gone downhill in the amount advertisements that are presented as “facts” and product placement under the auspices of getting you fit and healthy.

    It was used to be go honest blogs or exercises from real trainers.

    I’ve been going off reading these but this is the limit. Mfp for logging calories and the community section only. Bye bye dressed up advertising.

    I feel sorry for the remaining good articles still on here.

    Ps I know this needs to make money through advertising etc I just resent the way it’s being done.