Awwwww, the bread and butter to any nutritional plan whether it be to build muscle or cut down unwanted body fat. However, before we get into the topic of how much protein is needed to build muscle, I first want to give you a brief overview of what protein is and what role it plays in a good nutritional plan.
Why Is Protein So Important?
I’m not going to go into all the deep sciency stuff about protein, as there are 1000s of articles already written about this on the internet. Plus, knowing things like what a protein is exactly made of isn’t going to impact your goals, but I am going to try to make sure you realise how important protein is and how it can really impair you from improving if insufficient amounts are consumed.
I cannot stress this next point enough, and in terms of what we are trying to achieve with our bodies, it’s probably the most important fact you should take away from today’s article. Protein is the only macronutrient that can directly repair and build muscle. So what does this mean for us? Well, its simple, you could have a diet rich in good sources of carbohydrates, fats and fibre, but if you are not feeding your body a sufficient amount of protein for recovery, then all your hard work lifting weights in the gym could potentially be wasted effort.
However, this is just a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to protein. Apart from water, protein is the single most plentiful substance in our bodies. Protein is present in every organ in our bodies and is responsible for every process promoting growth. Another important fact is that protein is extremely important and essential for an optimal immune system. So as you can see a lack of protein in our diets, will not only just effect muscle growth but a whole load of other mechanisms.
Weight Training With A Lack Of Protein = DISASTER
Okay, the heading is quite extreme, but if I am putting all that hard work in, in the gym and not gaining any improvements what so ever, then this to me is a disaster.
When weight training you are going to be putting your muscles under an incredible amount of stress. In fact, you will actually be causing little micro tears to the fibres. Your body will now have to go through a process in order for your muscles to adapt, and cope with what you are putting them under. Enter the role of protein.
As soon as you start weight training, the demand for protein in your body increases dramatically. The more muscle the body produces, the higher the demand for protein, therefore a greater amount will need to be consumed through your diet.
If you are not supplying your body with the amount of protein it requires, then it will directly take protein from your muscle tissue putting us in a catabolic state. So what does this mean to us? Well, your body will be directly breaking down the very muscles we are trying to build to satisfy its protein needs.
The Most Annoying Myth EVER
Myth – My body will start to break down muscle if I miss a single meal.
Reply – What a load of tosh. The human body is amazing and will adapt as best it can and run in the most efficient way possible. It amazes me how many people really believe the body would be that dumb to start eating away at its self just because you have had to go an extra 2 hours before eating again. To start with the protein synthesis process is not an instantaneous thing. After consuming your meal, protein isn’t instantly broken down and used within seconds or minutes. It takes time to absorb through the digestive system and then more time to synthesise.
So I understand not everybody is weight training to become a bodybuilder, but these athletes are a great example for getting the point across with their large muscular physiques. This goes for both steroid and natural lifters. Some of the greatest bodybuilders of the past only used to eat once or twice a day. One of my all-time favourites Serge Nubret is a prime example of this. It was well documented that he consumed only one to two meals a day and met all his protein requirements within these two meals. Now he seemed to do okay on the muscle front.
I think the take-home point here is, as long as you meet your daily requirements of protein, whether it be from 1 meal or 7 meals, you are all good to go.
How Much Protein is Needed To Build Muscle?
Over the years I have gone through a lot of trial and error both on myself and clients trying to answer this question.
The most typical answer you will find on the internet is anywhere between 1 g to 2 g of protein per pound of body weight. Now let me tell you why this is an extremely flawed approach. Every single person’s calories and protein needs will be different. you can have two people with the same body weight but both requiring a huge difference in the number of calories they need.
So let’s take John. He is 220 lbs in weight ripped at about 9% body fat and carrying a huge amount of muscle.
We then have Peter. He weighs exactly the same amount as John, however, has never weight trained before and has a body fat % of about 35 and very little muscle.
Using the most common formula of 1 g to 2 g of protein per lb of body weight, this would mean that both John and Peter would be consuming the exact same amount of protein. However, we know from reading above that the more muscle you have the more protein your body needs.
This is why I do all my calculations in percentages. It has taken a lot of trial and error to get what I believe to be the correct percentage of protein an individual who weight trains need. Also doing it this way means that two people weighing exactly the same but with very different body compositions will no be taking in the same amount of protein.
What I Believe The Magic Percentage To Be
40% is what has worked best for me and my clients over many years. This means that 40% of your calorie intake will come from protein.
Let’s go back to John, our ripped muscular guy. It’s been worked out to slowly add muscle without gaining fat he will need to consume 3500 calories.
40% of 3500 is 1400 calories
There are 4 calories per gram of protein so to get the correct amount you simply use this calculation
1400 calories / 4 = 350 g of protein
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I hope you can now see the importance of protein in your nutrition plan. Without it, you will not succeed. Here are the main take-home points of this article
- Protein the only macronutrient that can directly build and repair muscle
- Insufficient protein will cause the very muscles you are trying to build to break down
- You will not lose muscle by missing a meal
- 40% of your daily intake should come from protein
There we have it. If you have any questions or comments, then please leave them below and I will reply back as soon as possible.
Related: Click here to see how many calories you should be having to lose fat and build muscle
Related: Click here to learn the truth about carbohydrate. They are not the enemy