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How Much Protein You Need to Build Muscle

This is the question I see and hear, asked by so many! Protein is such a buzzword in the health, fitness, and food industry right now. Food packaging is now covered in “PROTEIN!”, TV commercials are screaming the word “PROTEIN!”, and all the guys down the gym are still talking about “PROTEIN!”

But how much protein do we really need to be ingesting on a daily basis to ensure our muscles are receiving an adequate volume of amino acids, to encourage muscle growth and repair? What is the optimal? Unfortunately, there isn’t a definitive one-size-fits-all answer, however I can give you some solid guidelines on how to build muscle as a great starting point for you to tweak and build upon, as you see and feel your body’s response to the dietary changes you make.

First of all, let’s not be using the government’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. If you’re reading this article, I do hope we can assume that you are physically active, and as the title suggests, seeking to build lean muscle mass. So, you’ve guessed it... we need more! 

How much more? Try doubling it! 

I could now go onto reeling off the many research papers that have tried and tested and snubbed varying levels of protein intake, and the effect these different levels have upon protein synthesis and the body’s subsequent ability to build lean muscle. But I won’t bore you with that. I spent many hours trawling through those papers at university, so for now and the sake of giving a recommendation that you can apply to your diet, the guideline is 1.6-2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight.

So where do you sit on this guideline scale? 

This will depend on several factors, such as; your metabolism, training level, training goal, total calorie intake and where (which other macronutrient sources i.e. carbohydrates and fats) those remaining calories are coming in from, all of which are difficult to really explore and discuss right now, as these are going to be different for each individual. 

So if your goal is to lose unwanted body fat and maintain and/or build lean muscle, a good starting point may be 1.6-1.8g/kg bodyweight – remember that 1 gram of protein yields 4kcal, so if you want to lose weight, keep an eye on calories-in too. At the other end of the scale, if you want to bulk out and build muscle mass, start at the other end of the scale with 2.0-2.2g/kg bodyweight. I can’t stress enough that each one of us will have a different response to the same diet plan, so it’s down to you to learn how your own body responds and adapts to the protein and fuel that you put into it.

How do you go about getting this protein into your body? 

There are many high protein sources out there – chicken, beef, fish, eggs, protein powders etc – and so it’s important that you read food labels and compare proteins to find out just how much protein is within each source, to help you achieve your daily protein intake target and ensure you don’t break the bank. Unfortunately, living a healthy lifestyle can sometimes appear to be a more expensive lifestyle choice, but it doesn’t have to be if you shop around and find the best protein for you, at the best price. 

So, without getting stressed about it, keep an eye on your daily protein and total calorie intake, and tweak to match your bodies needs and responses, and watch those muscles grow!


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