If you’re trying to build muscle, chances are you’re already aware of the importance of getting more protein in your diet. One of the most important macronutrients, protein is made up of amino acids, which are the very building blocks of body cells and tissues.
But why is protein so important in muscle building and how much of it should you consume to maximize your muscle gains?
The importance of dietary protein in bodybuilding
Tissue growth and repair
Proteins are usually made up of special biochemical molecules called amino acids, which serve a variety of important functions in the body. These functions include facilitating cell/tissue growth and repair, which are incredibly important to muscle building.
Essential for muscle building
And of the 20 amino acids that make up proteins, 9 are known as essential amino acids. Registered Dietitian Natalie Olsen advises that these essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet and are usually found in foods such as eggs, milk, meat, beans and certain nuts.
Much of the tissue in your body, including muscle, is made up of proteins that are constantly being broken down and rebuilt in a pre-programmed process. This means that building muscle is next to impossible unless you’re consuming more protein than what’s being broken down!
Note that the body also tends to lose mass and strength over time when protein intake is inadequate.
Photo of RODNAE productions
Increase in muscle protein synthesis
Once you eat a high-protein diet, the proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are then used to facilitate (muscle) cell growth, tissue repair, as well as other body processes such as metabolism and immune function.
With a good muscle building routine, eating more protein on a regular basis can help increase your muscle mass and definition over time by increasing muscle protein synthesis.
How much protein is optimal to facilitate muscle building?
The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.36 grams per pound. However, this number is a bare minimum to prevent protein deficiency in an average sedentary adult, making it too low for people actively trying to build muscle.
For someone trying to gain muscle, a higher protein intake of 1.2 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight (or 0.54 to 1 gram per pound) is often recommended. This range is based on research showing that higher protein intake can increase muscle growth and strength, but different people may have different needs!
Nonetheless, it’s important to note that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to protein intake for muscle building. Your individual needs may vary based on factors such as gender, activity level, body mass index (BMI), body composition, and dietary preferences.
Luckily, there are many reliable protein intake calculators that can help you estimate the amount of protein you should be consuming each day for best results.
Get more protein in your diet
One of the best ways to add more protein to your diet is to eat more high-protein foods. These would be foods like lean meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt, and oily fish like sardines and mackerel. Vegetable variants include legumes such as lentils and beans; Tofu, soy and tempeh.
If for whatever reason you are not getting enough protein from your meals, you may consider supplementing your dietary protein with dietary supplements. A good example is whey protein powder, which can aid in muscle recovery, maintenance and growth.
Also remember that in addition to the amount of protein you eat, the timing and distribution of your protein intake is also important. From spaced main meals to healthy snacks like these easy-to-make protein cookies, eating protein throughout the day can help optimize your muscle-building efforts.
So there you have it! You now have an idea of how much protein you should be consuming alongside muscle building exercise, what it does for you, and how to get it in appropriate amounts.
Don’t forget that other nutrients like carbohydrates and fats are also important for muscle building. Eating a balanced diet with adequate amounts of all essential nutrients is the best way to support and achieve your muscle building goals.