How Much Protein Is Needed To Build Muscle And Lose Fat

Protein, the bread and butter to any nutritional plan whether it be to build muscle or cut down unwanted body fat.  If you want to know how much protein is needed to build muscle, then keep reading on.  By the end of this article, you will know exactly the amount you should be consuming each day.


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 realize 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, it’s simple, you could have a diet rich in good sources of carbohydrates, fats and fiber, 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 of 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 affect muscle growth but a whole load of other mechanisms.

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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 fibers.  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 EVERSerge Nubret

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 synthesize.

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 favorites 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.

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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.

Personally, I believe 2g per lb of bodyweight to be fat to high, and no one regardless of how much muscle you hold will ever need this amount.

1g of protein per pound of body weight is a much better figure to work with and when putting my clients through a bulking cycle it’s the figure I will always use.  However, when going through a cutting phase,  I prefer a slightly different approach.

Let me explain below.

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

35 to 40% is what has worked best for me and my clients over many years.  This means that 35 to 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 lose fat whilst maintaining muscle he needs to consume 2700 calories

40% of 2700 is 1080 calories

There are 4 calories per gram of protein so to get the correct amount you simply use this calculation

1080 calories / 4 = 270 g of protein

The reason for using the 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight formula when bulking is because you don’t actually need quite as much as when you are cutting.  And using percentages would give an incredibly high number of grams of protein to consume.


How Much Protein Is Needed To Build Muscle Final Words

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 is 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
  • 35 40% of your daily intake should come from protein when dieting to lose fat
  • When Bulking stick to 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight

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14 thoughts on “How Much Protein Is Needed To Build Muscle And Lose Fat”

  1. Just by experience I always go with 1 gram of protein per pound of your body, and it seems to work quite well, I used to be a natural bodybuilder and this is really essential. Every one metabolism its so different that a cookie cutter plan wont work because is like saying everyone fit into a certain mold which is not true. And you are absolutely right about the human body it will adapt to anything so this is also a crucial factor while dieting or weight training. You don’t want to make change drastically while cutting or else the body will adapt to the amount of calories it requires to be on a deficit. 

    Reply
    • Hi Erick

      You are bang on.  We all weight different amount, have different metabolisms and carry different amounts of fat and muscle, so a one size fits all approach will never work.  

      It’s great you have learnt what your body needs and 1g of protein per pound is working for you.  

      Reply
  2. Nice website, David!  Before you wonder is I am a muscle guy, no, I am not.  I am a recovering couch potato who finally found out that losing weight won’t work without protein!  Now that I am moving in the right direction, I would like to build a little bit of upper body muscle, but I really don’t know how much protein I need.  Will too much protein put the fat back on?  Is it healthy to stay on my fruit and veggie diet with just protein supplements?  Thank you for a very informative website!

    Clay

    Reply
    • Hi Clay

      Having to much protein won’t put fat back on.  The only way you will be fat back on is if you eat more calories than your body needs to function.

      I would say its not a great way to go, only eating fruit, veg and protein shakes.  One you will feel starving and two you will be missing out on a lot of nutrients the body needs from neglecting other food sources.  If you need any help in putting together a plan than email me [email protected] and I will be more than happy to help.

      Reply
  3. Hi David, brilliant post!  You really got the message home.  So I need to be eating 40% protein in order to build muscle. And I’ll be breaking down muscle if I don’t get in the right amount of protein.  Can I get this from my diet or do I have to supplement?  And are all protein sources alike?  If I were vegan, for example, would I be at a disadvantage? Something tells me I’d be better off with meat and fish than nuts and legumes but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Reply
    • Hi Lauren

      Depending on how many calories you eat per day, it is 100% possible to hit your protein requirements from your diet alone without the use of any supplements.  This will all be down to how much time you have across the day to prepare food etc.

      I would say it is slightly harder for a Vegan to consume the amounts they need from food alone but still not impossible.

      There are some fantastic vegan friendly protein supplements now which can be used to supplement your food and top up your protein levels. 

      Reply
  4. Hi

    I knew protein was important but it was useful to read a bit more about why it is important.

    I hadn’t heard that myth before about the dangers of missing a meal.  I have heard a lot more that fasting is good for you. Have you looked at this question and do you have a article about the benefits of fasting, and any recommendations?

    I look forward to hearing what you think.

    Reply
    • Hi Julia

      I haven’t written an article on fasting as of yet, but it is definitely near the top of my list.  In terms of its benefits, although there have been some studdies on them, no exclusive results have ever been released.  Its very opinion based at the moment.  

      In terms of weight loss fasting will get you there no quicker than eating 6 meals spread over a day.  Its all about calories in vs calories out.

      I do have clients who are quite happy to fast throughout the day and eat all there food over late afternoon and evening.  This is more to do with their lifestyle over what health benefits they think they are getting.

      My personal view on it is, why would anyone want to go a whole day of feeling hungry and miserable by not eating.  

      I know not everyone want to lose weight to compete on stage, but I have dieted using fasting and also eating 6 small meals a day.  Both gave me exactly the same results.

      I hope this helps.

      Reply
  5. Hey David,

    Thank you for your precious insights on how much protein is needed to build muscle. I was stunned to learn that 1-2 g of protein per pound is kind of a recommended protein intake for those who are working out.

    I am training 4-5 times a week but with the work and stuff, I really can’t reach this kind of protein intake.

    Could you possibly recommend a good protein supplement for me? 

    Thank you in advance for your help!

    Xaric!

    Reply
    • Hey Xaric

      Yeah it can be difficult to get the required amount of protein in from food alone, especially when you live a busy life style.

      My two favorite protein supplements are ON Gold Standard Whey and Legion Whey+

      Both products are top quality and will add that extra protein you are not getting from food. 

      Reply
  6. Hello David,

    According to what you express, proteins are very important macronutrients if we want to develop muscles in our body. The more physical exercise we perform, the greater will be the grams of protein that we should consume in our daily diet. What foods do they offer? Meats, Chickens, Fish and Eggs fundamentally. I will take your post into account as I do a regular physical activity weekly. Regards!

    Claudio

    Reply
    • Hi Claudio

      There are so many sources of good protein that you can add real variety to your diet.  I will list some of the basics below for you

      Beef, steak, lean beef mince, chicken, turkey, whole eggs, egg whites, pork, turkey mince, yogurt, nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, fish, seafood, whey protein shakes, casein protein shakes.

      Reply
  7. Hello David,

    1st, our WA business is in my wife’s name, hence the gravatar pic. I did this for the LLC we registered.

    Wow sir, this is exactly where I’m at in my life right now. 60 yr old 19 yr truck driver. Am approx 35-40 lbs (embarrassing) over weight. One good thing I’ve done is quit smoking after 40 some years. Has been 4 years now. 

    I love everything about your site. Looks good, great pics, and I have bookmarked it for my guide as I am in process of setting up fitness program. The timing of finding your site is perfect for me.  Thank you for that.

    I really do not have a lot to comment on except for the fact that you look very healthy and you have a great looking son there.

    I suppose I would like to ask if you would be able to offer up a good start up regime for me as I am out of breath easily of course my weight is contributing to that.  If you would have a start up for me I would be be holdin to ya sir.  You can send that to me via private msg if you would prefer, or perhaps do a post on just this ? for us over the hill gang.

    Great Website David,

    Jim

    Reply
    • Hi Jim

      Thank you for your comment.  I really appreciate your kind words and positive feedback on my site.  I am in the process of writing an article exactly what you are after as have had a few requests now.  This will be a full training regime to get you going.  Once I have released it I will PM you sir.

      Thanks again for your kind words

      Reply

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