Protein is the building block for the cells in a human body. In other words, it is essential for the growth and health of not only muscles but also our blood, skin, hair, nails, organs, etc. Anybody who knows a little bit about bodybuilding or fitness will tell you that protein intake is vital for building muscle. But just how much protein per day to build muscle? Read on for the full scoop.
Our body is constantly at work breaking down proteins in the system and as a result needs a regular intake to replace it. Much of our protein intake is used up by the body just to maintain muscle and regular function. So for muscle building, protein consumption must be increased.
The main components of proteins are amino acids, essential as well as non-essential. Essential amino acids, as the name implies, are essential for the body. They cannot be synthesized by the body from any other nutrient and must be ingested from outside in the form of protein-rich food. Most of the rich sources of protein with essential amino acids are animal protein. Chicken, beef, fish, eggs, milk, cheese are great sources of such protein.
Some vegetable sources also have high protein content, but most of them don’t have a high concentration of essential amino acids. Tofu, rice, legumes, corn are good sources of vegetable protein.
For a healthy protein-rich diet, it is essential that a balance is struck. Both vegetable and animal proteins are necessary for building and maintaining muscle.
Protein Intake To Maintain Muscle
The protein per body weight required by an individual to maintain muscle is around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram per day or 0.36 gram of protein per pound per day. This requirement is the absolute minimum to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Keeping the above in mind, an individual with 70 kg or 154 lb weight should consume 56 grams of protein everyday.
1 kg body weight = 0.8 grams of protein intake
70 kg body weight = 0.8 grams X 70 kg
70 kg body weight = 56 grams of protein intake
Protein Requirement To Maintain Muscles For Different Weight Classes
Protein intake must also be watched in terms of calorie consumption. Research has shown that it is best to have protein contribution of 10-35% of the total calorie consumption per day. So for a person who is consuming 2,000 calories a day, at least 200 and at most 700 calories must be from protein. Now, 1 gram of protein is equal to 4 calories. To ensure adequate calorie consumption, for someone who ingests 2,000 calories a day, your diet must contain 50-175 grams of protein.
4 calories from protein = 1 gram of protein
200 calories from protein = 200/4 grams of protein
200 calories from protein = 50 grams of protein
You can substitute your weight or calorie consumption in the above formulas to find out how much protein you need. For clarity, this is the required protein intake to maintain muscle and not necessarily build them.
So now that you know your minimum requirement for grams of protein to maintain muscles, let’s talk about how much protein per day to build muscle.
How Much Protein Per day To Build Muscle
How much protein per day to build muscle varies depending on a number of factors. Let me first allude to what I said earlier about our body breaking down proteins regularly and requiring a certain amount of consumption just to balance the loss.
Muscles can only be built if the protein breakdown in the body is less than the protein processed by the body.
We can assume that the protein requirement for maintaining muscle (mentioned above) is protein breakdown amount per day.
The Net Protein Balance must be positive.
Net Protein Balance = Protein Processed – Protein Breakdown
Protein synthesis is not an exact science and you can never exactly know how much protein is processed by the body. Protein synthesis though is much higher after a physical activity. Development of muscles depends on your fitness regime. Resistance training or body building exercises with a good intake of protein is the order of the day.
I have often been asked by fellow gym-goers, how many grams of protein should I eat a day to build muscle? I always tell them that it depends on their muscle building regime.
For someone who is into strenuous body building, it is best to eat around 1.5-1.7 grams of protein per body weight in kilograms or 0.5-0.8 grams of protein per pound body weight.
This is to say that a 70 kg individual would need to consume 105-120 grams of protein per day.
How Much Protein Per Day to Build Muscle For Different Weight Classes Involved In Resistance Training
When To Consume Protein
Protein synthesis is at its highest after exercise. This time period can be quite long (up to 2 days after exercise) for people who are just starting out and not used to exercise. As a rule of thumb, let’s say the protein synthesis is accelerated for around 3 hours after exercise. Make sure your energy levels and protein intake is high in that period. Research has suggested that protein intake within the hour of strenuous exercise can be especially beneficial for muscle building.
This does not mean that you should not take any protein before exercise. Trust me, you’ll need the energy. Pre-exercise protein is quite important for the recovery of the muscles after exercise and growth of muscle mass (hypertrophy). Research has also shown that it can help in the development of lean muscle mass because of the improved delivery of amino acids to the muscles.
How Much Protein is too much
If your protein intake is 30% or more of your calorie intake, it is too much. Too much protein can lead to the production of ketones in the body which are toxic for the kidneys. Your kidneys might go into overdrive trying to get rid off these ketones. Dehydration might set in as your kidneys shed water to clean the system. Kidney failure is a distinct possibility.
The amount of energy the body needs to process protein is very high. Too much intake will not only affect the kidneys but also put a strain on other parts of your body as a whole including the heart, your muscles and even bones.
If you feel like your regular diet cannot support your protein requirement in view of your workout regime, you can turn to supplements. Remember to always read the fine print of any supplement you take and stick to trusted sources. Keep tabs on your protein intake in your regular diet and try make up the shortage with supplements.
There are two popular types of supplements that are often quoted, whey and casein. Casein has a slower rate of absorption compared to whey and thus provides a steadier flow of amino acids to the body. Whey, on the other hand works in bursts and is easily absorbed by the body.
Both have benefits. For longer term muscle development, casein works like a charm. For short term, quicker growth, whey is the answer. It is recommended to use both supplements together. There are products available in the market that offer a mix of both or if it suits you, you can do the mixing yourself.
We will talk more about protein content of foods and protein supplements in a later article dedicated to this. But for the purpose of building muscle, remember to always be as responsible as possible.
Some people decide that in order to build muscle they should remove carbs from the diet and add protein. As pointed out before, too much protein is bad for you.
Removing carbs from your diet for building muscle is not a good idea either. You need the energy from carbohydrate digestion, especially while working out. It is a good idea to know about good and bad carbs and avoid bad carbs. Aim for a calorie count of 40-50% of your total calories from carbohydrates. Similarly, avoid saturated and trans fat, but make sure you have a healthy dose of unsaturated fats in your diet. 25-30% of your calories should be coming from healthy fats. Avoid salt, drink plenty of water and take a healthy dose of fiber to ensure proper digestion and a healthy digestive tract.
Proteins along with exercise and a good diet are the corner stone of muscle building. We hope to have helped you understand how much protein per day to build muscle. Mostly following a balanced diet, working out regularly and keeping an eye on your protein intake should be enough. In case you are aiming for faster muscle building, protein supplements are not a bad option. Resistance training and the timing of your protein intake play a major part too.
The secret to building muscles is not to keep worrying about “how much protein per day to build muscle”. It is about maintaining balance in your life with regular exercise and a good diet.