Hard work and dedication are essential factors for building muscle, but what you eat and how much you eat play just as important of a role.
Most people understand that protein is a requirement for muscle gain, but how much protein do you need to eat to build muscle as quickly as possible?
Furthermore, is there such a thing as eating too much protein?
Let’s take a look at the research!
Importance of Protein for Gaining Muscle
In simple terms, protein is a macronutrient made up of amino acids. These amino acids are considered the building blocks of proteins in your body, and there are two types: essential and non-essential amino acids.
Our bodies can create non-essential amino acids even if we do not consume them regularly in our diet. Contrarily, we cannot create essential amino acids, so we must consume them from dietary sources or supplements.
Consuming adequate dietary protein is crucial for the muscle repair process that comes after strenuous workouts. Muscle mass is the body’s storage system for protein, so if you do not consume enough dietary protein to repair your muscles after workouts, your body will break down muscle tissue to assist with the repair process.
True dietary protein deficiency is not common, but that does not mean you are consuming enough protein to build muscle as best as possible.
Protein needs largely depend on your lifestyle and the type of exercise you are doing.
The required protein for people varies based on their lifestyle. People who exercise frequently require a higher recommended daily protein intake than those who do not.
However, higher protein diets such as the ketogenic diet can benefit some people even if they are not regularly exercising.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), most adults over the age of 19 should consume about 10% to 35% of their daily calories as protein.
One gram of protein contains approximately 4 calories, so if you typically consume 3,000 calories daily, you should consume between 75 and 262.5 grams of protein daily.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8g for every 1kg of body weight, which is the recommended amount to maintain the nitrogen balance in your body and prevent muscle loss.
However, to build muscle mass, your muscle protein consumption needs to exceed your muscle protein breakdown.
According to the research, the optimal protein intake for peak muscle growth is not specifically known, but a daily intake of 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein for every 1 kg of body weight appears to show the most promising results.
I am for 1.5 to 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight for my own goals.
Best Sources of Protein for Muscle Gain
You can meet your daily protein requirements by eating plant and animal-based proteins, which could be in the form of whole foods or supplements.
When I choose protein sources, I prefer to consider the food’s overall nutrient density to determine whether it is the best choice.
Plant protein sources such as beans, peas, nuts, lentils, and hemp are excellent because they contain a significant amount of protein and other vitamins and minerals.
However, if you choose plant protein sources, it is important to understand you should increase your daily protein intake slightly more because plant protein sources are usually less bioavailable and are often not “complete” protein sources, like animal proteins.
I prefer grass-fed beef, eggs, bison, and wild-caught fish or seafood, such as salmon, for animal protein sources. Grass-fed animal products and wild-caught fish or seafood contain significant amounts of micronutrients and healthy dietary fats.
Protein supplements are effective because they are convenient and can be taken with you to the gym or while traveling throughout your day. You can look for the best isolates, which are better than whey concentrate.
Although you need to consume a lot of protein to build muscle, you do not want to overconsume protein.
Most doctors suggest that a healthy adult can have a protein intake of up to 2 grams per 1 kg of body weight without side effects, and people who work out frequently, such as athletes, may consume up to 3.5g per kg without any problems.
Eating more than 2g of protein per kg of body weight daily could lead to health issues, such as weight gain, nausea, fatigue, heart disease, and kidney or liver issues.
While protein is vital for building muscles, it is not the only nutrient you need. You also need to get enough carbohydrates and calories. Ignoring these nutrients would do more harm than good and may cause serious health complications in the future.
In addition, ensure to drink lots of water. Besides helping to prevent dehydration, water can help your body remove excess protein.
Concluding Thoughts – Protein Needs for Maximum Muscle Gain
The best way to support muscle building is to combine resistance training with a protein intake that exceeds the current RDA. You can consume proteins such as lean meat, nuts, legumes, eggs, and dairy products to meet your daily needs.
However, if you struggle to meet the required amount, consider buying protein supplements.
Keep in mind that the optimal amount of protein consumption to build muscle mass varies from person to person based on several factors.
Furthermore, you should not consume too much protein.
As always, it is best to speak to a doctor or registered dietitian to discuss what amount of protein is optimal for you.