How Much Protein Do I Need To Build Muscle
EMMIE SATRAZEMIS, RD, CSSD December 7, 2022
Muscle is made up of mostly protein, so its no surprise that a high-protein diet can help you build more of it.
Exactly how much protein per day you need is debatable. Common bodybuilding advice suggests eating one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to support muscle growth, however, the science behind this recommendation varies depending on age, fitness level, and overall body composition goals.
Based on the existing research, heres how much protein you should be eating to build muscle.
How Do You Lose Fat
There is a simple answer and a slightly less simple answer when it comes to losing body fat.
The simple answer: âconsume fewer calories than you expend or burn.â
Eight words, and one or two of those could probably be thrown out.
When your body needs more calories than the amount you are eating, you are in a âcaloric deficit.â Your body doesnât have the calories it needs as fuel, so itâll start breaking down parts of itself for its energy requirements.
The hope is that your body will mostly pull from fat stores, though depending on how you are training it will also break down muscle too.
Said again: when you are eating a caloric deficit, your body will pull from both its fat stores AND existing muscle for energy.
From a physique and health standpoint, obviously weâd prefer that your body doesnât break down muscle when in a caloric deficit, and instead really focuses on using fat stores instead.
I make this point for a reason: your goal in fitness shouldnât only be âweight loss,â despite the common vernacular used.
Who cares what the scale says, right?
The goal instead is to reduce body fat while also keeping the muscle you have .
That leads to a better physique and a healthier body.
This is why there is a big market for devices that supposedly assess your body fat percentage.
And lower body fat percentages are where âtoned armsâ and â6-pack absâ hang out.
Your options to create this caloric deficit include:
How Much Protein Should I Eat A Day To Build Muscle And Lose Fat
To build muscle and lose fat, it is recommended that you consume 0.8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim to consume between 120 and 180 grams of protein each day. It is also important to make sure that you are getting enough calories and other macronutrients to support your goals. Additionally, it is important to focus on eating quality sources of protein such as lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, and plant-based proteins.
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Where You Get Your Protein Matters
Remember those amino acids that your body uses to build muscle? Well, its important to note that different protein sources contain different amino acids. When you choose your high-protein foods keep the following in mind:
- Get protein from a variety of sources to obtain different amino acids.
- Choose protein sources that metabolize at a high rate to maximize your protein usage.
Get Your Macronutrients Right
Start with the protein calculation first, says Miyaki. Protein is the building block that drives your muscle growth if you want to gain size, you need to eat the optimal amount. Target one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Then, calculate your fats. Keep the fats constant at 25% of your calories, Miyaki explains. Protein and fat stays constantits the carbs that go up or down. Thus, use carbohydrates to fill your remaining calories. Emphasize carbs because thats the fuel for anaerobic activity, says Miyaki.
It provides the energy for peak performance and acts as a buffer to prevent the body from burning protein as reserve fuel.
For example, heres the macronutrient breakdown for a 180-pound male:
- Calories: 16 x 180 = 2880 calories
- Protein: 1 x 180 = 720 calories
- Fat: 0.25 x 2880 = 720 calories
- Carbs: 2880 720 720 = 1440 calories
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Get Enough Protein At The Right Times To Change Your Body Composition For The Better
Athletes spend years striving for the right body composition for their sport. They often do additional agility or speed or mobility work, they lift weights, and then something happens. Their diet isnt optimal or they get injured or they move into a sport that is aesthetic or that has weight classes. Suddenly they need to lose some weight! Specifically, they want body fat loss, not muscle mass loss.
So then whats the best way to lose weight but retain all that muscle that took years to build? Keep lifting and training, have a moderate to high protein intake and cut calories all at the same time. How does this work??
Consume A Moderate Number Of Calories
To walk the fine line of building muscle while burning fat, it’s imperative you find your caloric “sweet spot.” You need to eat enough calories to fuel muscle building while encouraging release of fat from storage.
Remember, you’re not on a diet! You’re trying to increase muscle tissue while preferentially burning stored fat. Someone who is going all-out in the gym needs the proper balance of macronutrients and enough calories to fuel their efforts to build muscle and lose fat.
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Why You Should Eat Protein
Because the human body does not know how to make them, although it absolutely needs them. The 8 or 9 essential amino acids from this macronutrient are, among other things, the building blocks of your muscles. They are also necessary for many vital functions.
And if you also want to lose fat, build muscle or simply improve your appearance and your physical abilities, then proteins become crucial.
However, knowing what we need is one thing, but knowing how much we need is another.
Yes, how much protein is ideal for you to achieve your goals?
Lets try to answer this question
Do You Need To Consult A Doctor Before You Start Lifting
Maybe, but probably not. It used to be the standard recommendation to consult a physician before starting any kind of exercise program. However, we now know that the risks of sitting on the couch far outweigh any risks associated with exercise. Having to go to the doctor even if you feel great is another obstacle to taking up exercise, which prevents many people from starting in the first place.
Accordingly, in 2015, the American College of Sports Medicine changed its recommendations. You dont have to check with your doctor before participating in regular exercise if you dont suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or renal disease, and you dont have any signs or symptoms of these diseases.8
If you feel healthy, youre good to go.
Now, were not saying you should jump into an elite lifters training program from the get-go. Thats a bad idea, regardless of age. A good training program eases you into the habit of regular exercise.
If you want to be on the safe side, feel free to consult your physician before hitting the weights. It doesnt hurt, for sure.
Important: everything in this article assumes that you are healthy without any severe medical conditions. Everyday age-related aches and pains are one thing and part of life. However, if you have any serious injury, disease, or other medical condition, dont jump into any exercise program without talking to your doctor first.
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How To Tell If Its All Working
If youre trying to improve something, itâs important to track it. This also holds true of body composition.
Most people do this by jumping on the scale. This can be âokay,â but itâs only going to tell part of the story.
If youâre building muscle while losing fat, the scale might not go down.
Despite weighing the same, you could potentially have an improved physique.
Thatâs why in addition to jumping on the scale, I would also encourage you to take progress photos.
Take front and side photos in your mirror, wearing underwear or a bathing suit. Each week, take new photos, and record the number on the scale under the same scenario. Two forms of tracking here allow us to get the full picture.
The scale sometimes lies!
If you eat for a caloric deficit, strength train, and prioritize protein, see what happens.
You may find yourself losing some fat and gaining muscle.
If not, track each category:
- Are you prioritizing protein in your meals? Track your macronutrient breakdown each time you eat.
Data can help tell the story.
I was thinking of detailed notes.
But an android would be helpful too.
Oftentimes if youâre not seeing desired results, notes and record-keeping can help point us in the direction to make adjustments.
Test your assumptions if things donât appear to be on track. Hereâs our Guide on Tracking Fitness Progress for you to learn more.
Try your free trial right here:
Alright, I think that about does it for this guide.
PPS: You may be asking
Minimum Protein Intake For Performance
Sports dietitians and nutritionists weve spoken to, like Precision Nutritions Brian St. Pierre, MS, RD, Stronger By Sciences Dr. Eric Trexler, and Dr. Mike T. Nelson, simplify that by saying the floor you should hit every day is 0.7 grams per pound of bodyweight. Thats your minimum. A lot of research, like a meta-analysis of 49 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, supports that number as well.
If your goal is muscle gain, the evidence doesnt really suggest that eating more protein than that helps you gain more muscle, says St. Pierre.
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Can You Lose Fat And Gain Muscle At Home
If you train at home instead of a gym, you might be wondering if its possible to do a successful body recomp diet and training plan. The good news is, the nutrition part of the deal can be done anywhere, and your own kitchen is the best place to take control of your food quality and macronutrients.
The only issue might be lifting heavy enough at home. Its hard to overload your muscles with light dumbbells or kettlebells. But if you have a home gym set up with a barbell and plates, you can definitely train to achieve a body recomposition.
How Long Should You Rest Between Sets
As a general rule, long rest intervals between sets, around 3 minutes, are better for building muscle and strength, even though the difference isnt significant.22 Resting longer allows you to regain most of your strength before gripping the bar again. That means you can perform more reps, and your training volume increases as a result. Training volume is one of the major factors for muscle growth.
That might not apply when youre above 50.
When it comes to recovering from training, youd think young individuals would have the advantage. That might be the case the hours and days after a training session, but in between sets, its probably the opposite, strange as it may sound. Young individuals might require twice as long rest to recover properly between sets.2324
When you get older, your muscles change their composition. Your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which fatigue easier, become smaller, while your slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are resistant to fatigue, increase.25 That might, at least partially, be why you dont require as long rest to recover between sets as you grow older.
Science backs this up in practice as well. In one study, 22 older men gained more muscle and strength with rest intervals of one minute compared to taking a four-minute break between sets.26
In summary, if you feel ready to hit the weights again after 12 minutes of rest, go for it.
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Protein Is Hard To Store As Body Fat
During periods of weight loss, there are often times where more energy is consumed than expended. As such, minimizing how much of that excess energy is stored as fat is important.
The body processes the three different macronutrients in very different ways.
Leaving out a lot of jargon and mumbo jumbo, in order for protein to be stored as fat, it goes through a much different biochemical process than either carbohydrates or protein.
This process makes it much harder for protein to store as body fat.
One study found that protein is stored as body fat with roughly 66% efficiency, while carbohydrates store with 80% efficiency and fats store at 96% efficiency .
During weight loss, overeating protein results in much less stored body fat than overeating on carbohydrates or fat. If you are looking for ways to lose weight fast, consuming protein is a great option!
Can I Body Recomp Forever
No, you cannot lose body fat while gaining muscle forever.
When youre first starting off, focusing on body composition is a great strategy and can give you a lot of progress.
But with consistent workout and nutrition habits over many months and years, you may notice that your changes and progress slowing down or plateauing.
At this point for many, going into a more distinct muscle/weight gain phase for several weeks, followed by a fat/weight loss phase for several weeks will produce results faster than doing both at the same time.
Does that mean itâs the best course of action for everyone?
- For some, they enjoy the relative simplicity of body recomposition tactics and itâs less to mentally think about. They still feel great, look much different than when they started, and are completely content with how everything is going.
- For others, switching from weight gain/weight loss phases might be stressful and triggering, especially if they have a checkered history with their nutrition. So while distinct phases of gains and losses may work best in theory, they might not be ideal for everyone.
Choose whatâs best for you!
And if youâre looking for a pro to help you navigate through all these questions and situations, check out Nerd Fitness Online Coaching! The team spends all day talking about these sorts of things. That and Super Smash Bros.
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How Much Protein Should I Eat A Day
Clinical nutrition recommendations suggest a protein intake of 0.6 to 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight .
This would equal roughly 40 to 55 grams of protein a day for a 150-pound adult.
Another way to consider protein needs is by looking at macro balance.
The US Dietary Guidelines suggest protein intake should make up 10% to 35% of your daily calories. And on a 2,000-calorie diet, this will equal 50 to 175 grams of protein a dayquite a large range!
It is important to note that the recommended daily 0.8 g kg typically skews towards the minimum amount you should be eating.
And 50 grams of protein a day might not be adequate in maintaining lean mass, building muscle, and promoting better body composition for someespecially active individuals and older adults.
In reality, protein needs are not as directly related to calorie intake or total body weight as they are to the amount of lean mass you have and how much you use your muscles.
Best Carb And Fat Sources
The truth is that next to nobody recommends a meal of carbs, fat, and little to no protein. Typically, thats the profile you find in junk food, and even if youre eating a combination of whole foods with these macros say, a rice pudding with coconut oil in it these meals are rarely filling and they dont provide protein, which should ideally be eaten with every meal of the day. But hey, if you dont have that much protein left in your macros, you could, in moderation, enjoy:
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Gain Muscle With Gainful
Looking to boost muscle building, prevent muscle loss or simply achieve a higher protein intake?Gainful can help you get enough protein with a personalized protein powder thats tailored specifically for you and your needs. Start by taking Gainfulsquiz, select your preferences and overall wellness goals, whether thats building muscle, weight loss or both. Then Gainful takes care of the rest. Gainful will help you create the customized protein powder that not only helps deliver the results youre looking for, but also comes in the flavors you crave, thanks to ourFlavor Boosts.
But if youre still worried about meeting the protein requirements necessary for building muscle, dont worry. With Gainful, youll never have to do this alone: Each subscriber has unlimited access to a personal Registered Dietitian, whos available to answer any questions you may have about your protein balance, protein supplements or workout regimen.
We want to help make gaining and maintaining muscle as easy as possible.
Here’s Exactly How Much Protein You Should Eat For Muscle Gain And Weight Loss
Regardless of your goal the answer is simple: 30 grams of protein at every meal.
A 180-pound guy who wants to maintain his current weight would need 100 to 130 grams, or six palm-sized portions of protein-rich foods, every day. Thats about 30 grams at each meal and an additional 10 to 20 grams in two snacks. Chicken breast is great, but so are chicken thighs, tofu, salmon, pork, shellfish, whitefish, lamb, tempeh, and much more.
And don’t forget that a heaping scoop of most protein powders will net you around 30 grams of the nutrient.
Within the larger picture of your daily diet, that means youll want to consume 30 percent of your daily 2,600 calories from protein.
And, yes, that includes plant proteins.
If you’re trying to reduce the amount of meat youre eating, you need to swap in a high-protein plant food.
Some plant foods that are high in protein: soybeans , quinoa, chickpeas, lentils, any kind of nut, peas, any kind of bean, and seitan. You can use an app to track your nutrient intake, or you can simply aim for a palm-sized portion of whatever protein youre including in your meal.
Also, be careful with snacking. Youll find some protein products on the market that contain a measly four grams per serving, along with an abundance of added sugars.
Experts differ on what the exact amount of protein you need to build muscle, but the general consensus is that if your goal is muscle gain you should consume 1 gram of protein for every pound of your target body weight.
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