Muscle is made up mostly of protein, so it’s no surprise that a high-protein diet can help you build more.
The exact amount of protein you need per day is debatable. Common bodybuilding advice suggests eating one gram of protein per pound of body weight to support muscle growth, however the science behind this recommendation varies based on age, fitness level, and overall body composition goals.
Based on existing research, this is how much protein you should eat to build muscle.
Calculate your protein needs
Get your ideal daily protein needs for weight loss or muscle gain in just a few minutes with this simple protein calculator.
How High Protein Intake Supports Your Muscles
Protein is made up of amino acids that act as building blocks for the cells and tissues in your body, including muscle mass. Basically, this means that your muscle is made of protein.
These amino acids are essential to support numerous bodily functions. If you don’t get necessary nutrients, like essential amino acids, through food, your body doesn’t have what it needs and has to compromise.
This involves stealing amino acids that are stored in your body (in your blood and muscle tissue), which can lead to loss of muscle mass over time.
Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) vs. muscle protein breakdown (MPB)
Amino acids are also used for muscles. protein synthesis (MPS) – the prProcess of repair, maintenance and growth of muscles after intense use.
When muscles are used during exercise or strenuous activity, microtears are created and leads to protein degradation (MPB). The amino acids are then transported to the muscles to repair this damage and to synthesize new tissue to replace the damaged ones.
This process doesn’t automatically lead to bigger muscles (it takes a bit more for that), but it can make your muscles stronger or adapt to the type of training that caused the tears in the first place (1).
MPS is the reason why protein and regular strength training, in particular, are so essential for maintaining and building lean body mass.
When it comes to building muscle mass, protein intake is a considerable factor.
With the role of amino acids in muscle protein synthesis, maintaining a positive protein balance—in other words, eating more protein than is broken down or used—is one part of the muscle-building equation.
Muscle growth occurs when muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown.
This can be achieved through a combination of increased protein intake, a strategic strength training routine (studies suggest a minimum of twice a week), adequate rest (this is when MPS occurs), and often plenty of calories to support overall weight gain (bulking). diet).
Depending on individual factors such as fitness level and starting body composition, it is possible to lose weight or fat while simultaneously building muscle, but this is not ideal for everyone and your rate of muscle growth is significantly lower than following a standard bulking approach. of weight.
How much protein do you need to gain muscle?
So how much protein do you need to gain muscle? Your protein needs are directly related to your muscle mass: the more you have and the more you use it, the more protein you need.
This is true for both preserving lean body mass and increasing muscle mass.
Age and activity level also affect the amount of protein needed to promote muscle growth.
Bodybuilders and weightlifters have higher protein needs because they are looking to add mass while using their muscles more than the average person or non-lifter.
Of course, it is entirely possible to overdo it. Eating too much protein can negatively affect your ability to build muscle by limiting your intake of other important bulking macros (healthy fats and carbohydrates) that support your training and weight gain.
Therefore, getting the right daily protein intake for your individual needs is crucial for getting the best results.
Many exercise enthusiasts recommend about one gram of protein per pound of body weight to build muscle, but this high protein intake is likely not a perfect approach for everyone and research varies on this topic based on age, fitness level physical and general body composition goals (two,3,4,5,6,7,8,9).
what science says
More recent studies suggest intakes of up to 1.8 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.8 to 0.9 grams/pound) (12).
And a larger, more recent review of the research found that, for most, there are no beneficial effects from eating more than 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram, or 0.72 grams per pound of body weight (13).
All of these recommendations fall within the range suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine that suggests 1.2 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight (0.54 to 0.9 grams/pound), which would translate to 81 to 136 grams for a 150-pound adult to preserve and build muscle.
Your ideal protein needs may also depend on your total calorie intake per day.
The ratio of your macro diet can have an impact on body composition when you are in excess or restriction of calories. A narrative review of the research and smaller studies have suggested that a higher protein intake between 2.2 and 3.4 grams/kg (1 and 1.5 grams per pound of body weight/day) during a large calorie surplus (to promote weight gain) results in less gains in body fat – promoting more muscle overall (14,fifteen).
So it seems that the debate continues as to how much protein is actually needed to gain more muscle and we may not get a definitive answer any time soon, due to the multitude of individual differences between all of us.
Based on evidence-backed recommendations, a good rule of thumb for maintaining existing muscle is to eat approximately 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. And this amount can increase as much as 1 to 1.5 grams per pound when looking to add lean mass using surplus calories.
How to get enough protein for your body
Once you know your daily protein needs, the next step is to find the best protein sources to eat. These include lean meats, fish, dairy, and plant-based options.
Then learn how to portion your food choices to match your macros, and start tracking your daily intake to make sure it stays consistent.
Dial up your nutrition and crush your bulking macros with this free muscle-building meal prep toolkit. An RD-written guide complete with macro meal planner, food lists, and expert tips to help you maximize results.