Confused About How Much Protein You Really Need To Build Muscle? Read On...
The first thing you will learn when researching the perfect bodybuilding diet plan is that you need to consume protein. Lots of it, supposedly. But of course, that's not very precise. You'll be asking yourself: Exactly how much protein do I need to build muscle? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is not as simple as it might seem. When we look at the research I have good and bad news for you.
First the bad news: Depending on the source and study, you'll find daily recommendations of anywhere from 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight to 1.4 grams per pound of fat-free mass. As you can see, even the scientific community is all over the place about this one.
Now the good news: In practice, optimal protein intake isn't nearly as difficult a subject as many people make it out to be. Keep reading and I'll explain why.
How Much Protein To Build Muscle - Why So Much Contradictory Advice?
Pretty much everyone knows that protein is somehow important to our overall health. As an important component of every cell in our body, it is considered the "building block" for skin, nails and hair. Because of its function to build and repair tissues, enough available protein is a necessary requirement when wanting to build muscle. No wonder doctors, scientists and dietitians have invested their time into finding out how much exactly is enough.
Over the decades, they have conducted countless studies on the relationship between protein intake and muscle growth, seemingly always with somewhat different results. Here are a few examples:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 0.36 grams of protein per pound per day.
- This study recommends 0.76 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- Common advice given in the gym is 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
- However, this study found no significant differences in muscle growth between strength athletes consuming either 0.77 grams or 0.91 grams.
Confused, yet? I don't blame ya!
You are probably asking yourself how such a big difference in recommendations is possible. The answer is actually pretty simple. All studies are not created equal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Governmental, which recommends 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight per day, is meant as a minimum protein intake required to avoid progressive loss of lean body mass for sedentary adults. It does not apply to active trainees looking to build muscle!
The same goes for the last of the four studies I mentioned. Even though it might be taken as proof that any daily protein intake higher than 0.77 grams per pound of bodyweight won't increase muscle growth, if you read the fine print it also says that the "caloric intakes observed were low compared to levels generally recommended for strength athletes". This means that some of the athletes might have been at a calorie deficit, and the authors admit that results would probably have turned out differently with adjusted calorie intakes.
So...How Much Protein Do I Need To Build Muscle?
Ok, I get it. After reading all these confusing studies you want a clear answer. No problem. Drum roll please...
The ideal daily protein intake lies anywhere between 0.8 grams and 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Go above 1 gram and you will see no increase in protein synthesis (unless you are a professional bodybuilder and/or at a severe calorie deficit). If you look at the present literature on protein intake for athletes, the number of grams recommended usually falls in between these two values.
However, because research on the subject is still not conclusive and due to the fact that genetics, training methods and calorie intake will always influence the results, we will most likely never get a definitive answer on how much exactly is optimal. But, like I said in the beginning, there is good news, too!
While, right now, science can't tell us with 100% certainty what's best, reviewing the literature has helped us close in on the optimal range (0.8 - 1 g/lb of bodyweight) quite a bit. And interestingly, the bro-advice of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight you here in the gym was actually pretty accurate after all.
Why You Shouldn't Stress Out About Protein Intake In The First Place
I get that looking for the perfect protein intake might seem like an important venture, but in practice you really don't need to stress out about it too much. The human body is a lot more efficient than many people think and you don't need crazy amounts of protein to build muscle.
I remember an article from a bodybuilding magazine a few months back, where readers were told to consume up to 400 grams of protein per day, along with numerous BCAA capsules and amino acids. Not only are such articles flat-out ridiculous, most of the time they are sponsored by supplement companies. Luckily, in reality things are lot simpler.
As long as you do smart diet planning, include high-quality protein foods in your meals and eat enough calories you will be fine. To make sure you don't fall below your daily protein requirements, drink one or two protein shakes per day. Should you consume more protein than your body can process, it will simply store it as fat. So unless you are on a cutting diet, there is no need in worrying about too much protein, either. Myths that it could cause kidney damage have been proven wrong over and over again.
How Much Protein Do I Need To Build Muscle - Summary:
- While there is quite a bit of scientific literature on protein intake for athletes, there is still no general consensus on the subject.
- Based on what most of the literature says, the ideal daily protein intake lies anywhere between 0.8 grams and 1 gram per pound of bodyweight.
- However, in practice you really don't need to stress out about it too much. As long as you do smart diet planning, include high-quality protein foods in your meals and eat enough calories you will be fine.
- Additionally, one (or maximum) two protein shakes per day can help you reach your daily protein requirements.