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How Much Protein Do I Need To Build Muscle?

How Much Protein Do I Need To Build Muscle?

One of the first things you will hear on your bodybuilding journey is that you need protein to get those muscles. How much protein you need to build muscle depends on a variety of factors, including your body weight, your activity level, and your fitness goals.

Protein intake for beginners 

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), the average person looking to build muscle should aim to consume between 1.4 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Here's an excerpt from the study:

For building muscle mass and for maintaining muscle mass through a positive muscle protein balance, an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) is sufficient for most exercising individuals, a value that falls in line within the Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range published by the Institute of Medicine for protein.

That means, if you weigh 70 kilograms, you should be consuming between 98 and 140 grams of protein per day.

Protein intake for athletes and bodybuilders

Professional athletes and bodybuilder, need to consume even higher levels of protein. ISSN, in their paper on the recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation, recommends 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein. That's a lot of protein and only professional level bodybuilders and athletes should aim for these levels. 

Pro Tip: In addition to protein, it's also important to make sure you're getting enough carbohydrates and fats in your diet. Carbohydrates are important for providing your body with the energy it needs to exercise and build muscle, while fats are necessary for hormone production and overall health.

How to Calculate Your Protein Needs

Using bodyweight as a measure to calculate your protein needs may not be the most accurate method. In fact, relying solely on bodyweight to calculate protein requirements may be misleading, especially for individuals who are overweight. In such cases, using an overweight person's total bodyweight to calculate their protein needs may result in overconsumption (since the excess weight may be comprised primarily of body fat and not lean muscle mass).

A more effective approach in determining your target protein intake is to focus on lean body mass or fat-free mass. This method takes into account the amount of muscle mass of an individual, which is a better indicator of target protein intake than total bodyweight alone. 

Lean body mass is the weight of your body not composed of fat, such as muscles, bones, and organs. Fat-free mass includes body water and glycogen. 

When Is the Best Time to Take Protein to build Muscle?

Walk into any gym and you will find people drinking protein shakes immediately after their workouts. Its not just a trend, but there is some science behind it. According to ISSN, consuming protein up to two hours after your workout showed to be the ideal time frame for building muscle mass.

But let's not rush to consume your daily protein requirement in a single sitting. Our bodies are unable to process more than 25g to 35g of protein per serving. So aim to spread your protein intake through out the day, preferably in evenly spaced meals (approximately every 3 h during the day).

Complete vs Incomplete Protein

What makes a protein "complete" or "incomplete"? A complete protein contains all nine essential amino acids (which are the building blocks that our bodies can't produce on their own). In contrast, an incomplete protein is missing one or more of these essential amino acids.

Our bodies need all nine essential amino acids to build and repair tissues and maintain proper health. If we're not getting all nine of these amino acids from our diet, our bodies won't be able to function at their best. 

Animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are great sources of complete protein. These foods are considered "complete" because they contain all nine essential amino acids in the right ratios. 

Most plant-based foods are considered "incomplete" because they're missing one or more essential amino acids. However, there are some options for plant-based complete protein such as quinoa, soy, and chia seeds.

While complete proteins may be easier to come by in animal-based foods, vegetarians and vegans can still get all the essential amino acids by combining several plant-based foods. And even if you're not vegetarian or vegan, it's still important to include plant based foods in your diet to ensure you have variety in your diet and you are getting other nutrients. As the saying goes, variety is the spice of life!

Best Protein Supplement to Build Muscle

Which protein powder is the best? The tried-and-true classic whey protein is generally accepted to be the best. Derived from milk, whey protein powder is a complete protein, containing all essential amino acids. It's also rapidly absorbed by the body, making it a great choice for post-workout recovery.

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Can you Build Muscle without Protein?

While it's possible to build muscle without consuming large amounts of protein, it will be much more difficult to do so. Without enough protein in the diet, the body may struggle to repair muscle tissue efficiently, which can lead to slower gains in muscle mass.

Protein plays a key role in muscle hypertrophy, which is just a fancy way of saying muscle growth. When you put your muscles thorough exercise, you create micro-tears which leads to muscle protein breakdown (MPB). Protein helps to repair these tears, making the muscle stronger and larger. Protein can also help you recover faster from your workouts. It helps to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, so you can hit the gym again sooner (and with less pain).

When we consume protein, our bodies break it down into amino acids and use those amino acids to build new muscle tissue. It's like giving our bodies the raw materials it needs to build a masterpiece (or in this case, a set of killer biceps).

Why Protein Is Important During Weight Loss

Protein also plays a key role in preserving muscle mass during periods of weight loss. When you're in a calorie deficit (i.e. burning more calories than you're consuming), your body is more likely to break down muscle tissue for energy.

This is because your body needs energy to function, and if it's not getting enough from the food, it will turn to other sources (like your muscles) to make up the difference. To prevent your body from cannibalizing protein, make sure to eat enough protein in your diet! Studies have shown that increasing your protein intake help preserve muscle mass during weight loss.

Protein also helps you feel full and satisfied, which can be especially helpful when you're trying to stick to a calorie-controlled diet. So not only does it help preserve muscle mass, it can also help you avoid overeating and snacking on unhealthy foods.


  • How often should I eat protein for muscle growth?

In order to maximize muscle growth, it's recommended that you consume protein throughout the day, rather than just in one or two large meals. Aim to consume 20-30 grams of protein per meal, and try to eat every 3-4 hours.

  • Should I drink protein shake before or after workout?

While there is no hard and fast rule, consuming a protein shake after a workout is generally recommended as it can help replenish muscle glycogen stores and facilitate muscle repair and growth.

  • What is the 2 hour protein rule?

The "2-hour protein rule" suggests that you should consume protein within 2 hours after your workout to enhance muscle recovery, growth, and adaptation. But remember that our bodies are unable to process more than 25g to 35g of protein per serving. Hence focus on getting adequate protein throughout the day, rather than just immediately after a workout.

  • Should I drink protein on rest days?

Yes, it's important to maintain adequate protein intake on rest days to support muscle recovery and growth.

  • Is it better to drink protein with water or milk?

It ultimately comes down to personal preference and dietary needs. If you're looking to limit calories and fat, mixing protein powder with water may be a better option. However, if you're looking to add extra nutrients and flavor, mixing with milk can be a good choice. Just be mindful of the added calories and macronutrient content.

  • Can too much protein be harmful?

Consuming too much protein can put a strain on your kidneys and liver, as these organs are responsible for filtering excess protein from your body. However, it's generally only a concern if you're consuming extremely high amounts of protein (more than 2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day).

  • Can vegetarians and vegans build muscle?

Absolutely! While it can be more challenging to consume adequate protein on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it's still possible to build muscle. Some good plant-based protein sources include tofu, tempeh, beans, and lentils.

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