High Protein Diet to Build Muscle
As you begin your exercise program, one question you may start to wonder about is the level of protein you need to be taking in daily.
If you look at well-muscled individuals, there’s a good chance you’ve seen them pounding back a protein shake right after the gym.
If you’re close friends with someone who is well developed, you’ve also likely seen them feasting on multiple meals per day, always including a protein source such as chicken, fish, or beef.
Is this all really necessary? And, can’t too much protein harm you?
Let’s get these questions answered as we look at how much protein you need to build muscle.
Your Baseline Level Requirements
The very first thing that you’ll want to take into account is baseline protein requirements.
In general, the average person who is not working out will require around .75 g/kg (for a woman) and .84 g/kg (for a man) each day.
If you calculate this out based on your own body weight, you’ll quickly come to see this isn’t really all that much.
A 68kg individual would only require around 54 grams total, which would easily be consumed with a serving of chicken breast, a steak, a morning omelet with a cup of egg whites and one glass of milk per day.
Nothing too serious there.
Now, as soon as you add exercise into the picture, your protein requirements will go up.
Exercise is going to place physical demands on the body as you’ll be continually breaking your current muscle tissue down and then building it back up again.
The end result? Greater demand for this nutrient.
Because protein is the raw material that muscle is made of, as you can see, your body will need more of it.
Now, assuming you are not looking to build muscle, just keeping active, doing some strength training to gain physical strength, and hoping to get healthy, you’ll likely need somewhere around 0.8-1.0 grams per kilo of body weight.
As you can see, this isn’t a dramatic increase – the increase is there, but it’s a small one.
You really won’t need all that much over and beyond standard levels when the typical workout is being performed.
Now, your mission isn’t just to get healthy and gain strength however. You want to actually gain lean muscle mass – you want to build your body bigger.
This presents a new scenario. Just as if you were going to build an addition to your house, you’d need more building blocks, here again, you need more building blocks over and beyond that of what you normally need.
Again, not too much more. One thing that many people overlook in the process of muscle building is the fact that when it comes to getting bigger, carbohydrates and dietary fats play just as important of a role as protein does.
This is where many mistakes are made because you’ll find people only boosting their protein intake up (often in great amounts), while keeping their dietary fat and carbohydrates constant.
Remember, protein only provides the building blocks to form these muscles with.
It’s the energy that you take in from carbohydrates and dietary fats that ‘make the magic happen’, so to speak.
Carbohydrates are what your body will use to fuel each and every workout you are doing, ensuring that you’re putting forth maximum effort.
Likewise, they are also what the body will use to assemble the amino acids into muscular tissue.
Without those carbohydrates, your body will have a hard time using the protein you have provided.
On the other hand, dietary fats can also provide some energy as well, but more importantly, they are going to come into play to help ensure that your hormone levels are where they need to be for optimal muscle growth.
Dietary fats are heavily connected to testosterone development, and the more testosterone you have, the faster you will build lean muscle mass.
So don’t just think that eating as much protein as possible will get you on the road to gains. It won’t. You need to attend to all areas of your diet.
Which brings us back to the original question – how much is enough when it comes to protein and building muscle mass?
Generally, you’ll want to shoot for 1.2-2 grams per kilo of body weight. (ausport.gov.au)
Your Body Type
Now, another thing that you will want to take into account with these recommendations is your specific body type. There are three main body types: ectomorph, endomorphs, and mesomorphs.
An ectomorph is someone who can’t gain weight no matter how hard they try.
The ‘tall and rail thin’ type, if you will. For these individuals, their calorie intake is going to have to be sky-high if they hope to gain any muscle mass at all, so it may be beneficial for them to take protein to the higher end of the scale.
The primary reason is because their calorie intake is so high, this added dose of protein will help to balance out the increased dose of carbohydrates and dietary fat they will also be adding to their diet.
Remember, not only do you need to meet your nutrient recommendations, but it’s also important that you have a good balance between the nutrients.
So for the naturally skinny guy, 2 grams per kilo is ideal.
Next you have the mesomorph. This is the individual who seems to gain muscle just by looking at weights.
He’s naturally well-built and has likely always been athletic. This individual will do just fine taking in 1.5 grams per kilo a day.
His/her body will react very well to the stimulus of strength training and as long as they are eating a higher calorie mixed diet, they’ll see good results.
Finally, the last body type is the endomorph. These are your typical ‘fat gainers’.
The individuals who seem to gain weight just by looking at food on the other hand. They put on excess body fat very easily, so need to tread carefully when aiming to build muscle mass.
If they take in too many calories, they’ll just be quickly adding excess body fat.
These individuals will want to err on the higher protein side as well. 1.5-2 grams/kg. of body weight will be perfect.
The reason for this is not because they have a sky-high metabolic rate like the ectomorph’s do, but rather because protein is one nutrient that can help you stay leaner in the face of a higher calorie diet.
So for them, boosting up protein a little more and being more moderate with their carb and fat increases may help keep them leaner over the long run.
This can then mean better overall rates of progress.
So there you have the key points to know and remember about how much protein to take in to build muscle. At these levels, it will be a safe level provided you ensure you stay adequately hydrated.
Remember that increased protein does have a dehydrating effect on the body, so down a glass or two extra of water each day.
Consistency in diet and training will lead to the best results.