The endless debate that seems to thrive every time someone new comes into the picture and starts asking the question “how much protein do i need to build muscle”.
Over the years, even if research evolved and protein requirements swung from high to lower and back, in the area of sports nutrition there is a nice and big fog of misunderstanding regarding optimal protein in order to build muscle.
These nutritionists that are “invading” our life, preaching that athletes or bodybuilders don’t need any excess protein over the basal requirements found in general population are simply full of bullsh*t and you shall see why:
When comparing bodybuilders with these nutritionists, bodybuilders break that pattern with extreme recommendations of protein intake stating that huge protein intakes are required to build muscle mass and often promoting protein supplements.
Who Tells The Truth ? Nutritionists, Bodybuilders, Muscle Magazines, Average Joe ?
While the truth is that no one knows to pin point exactly how much protein is optimal for a specific body, we can look at the available studies and the applications of these studies.
It’s a known fact and common sense that protein is the ”muscle building block” for your body: It increases satiety in any diet you might try, it maintains muscle mass or at least spares muscle loss when you are on a diet and also helps you pack on some grams of muscle mass/week when you are bulking or trying to put some muscle on.
Protein is a critical substance made from amino acids which are used by the body as a building material for growth and reparation of muscle tissue, bones, organs, hormones, connective tissue, enzymes and is absolutely crucial for a healthy immune system function.
One way in which researchers know if the body is breaking down protein tissue from the body is by measuring nitrogen balance.
I’ll explain as simple as I can: The protein that we eat contains a certain amount of nitrogen and when our daily intake of nitrogen exceeds the daily nitrogen excretion, we are in positive nitrogen balance – positive is something good by the way, we maintain/build muscle in this state.
When our daily excretion of nitrogen is higher than our daily nitrogen intake, we are in negative nitrogen balance which indicates that we are losing lean tissue.
What this means is that an adequate protein intake will keep us in positive nitrogen balance and this is what researchers are looking for when they are studying protein requirement for dieting and muscle mass.
One Of The Most Common Mistakes Nutritionists And Bodybuilders Are Doing When Recommending Protein Intake
Nutritionists/bodybuilders recommending a newbie looking to pack some muscle mass or lose fat, % macronutrient recommendations like : 25% protein, 65% carbohydrates, 10% fat – this is the biggest mistake they can do and you will see why below
This approach is flawed for the simple fact that when you start calculating your “requirements”, the numbers will be quite strange for example:
1. In the case of a newbie at 170 lbs that wants to pack some muscle and eats 3000 calories/day, the ratios would be: 187 grams of protein, 487 grams of carbohydrates, 33 grams of fat
This seems good for an average Joe but let’s see how good this recommendations apply to a dieting newbie.
2. In the case of a newbie at 170 lbs that wants to lose some fat and eats 1700 calories/day the ratios would be: 100 grams of protein, 276 grams of carbohydrates, 18 grams of fat
Continuing with “why this approach is flawed” in the next paragraphs:
Let’s look at some common protein requirement recommendations that you can find everywhere:
- The US RDI for protein is 0.8 g/kg or 0.36 g/lb of protein everyday – calculating for a 180 lb person, the protein requirement would be ~64 grams of protein
- Typical bodybuilding advice 0.8-1 g/lb of protein daily – calculating for a 180 lb person, the protein requirement would be 144-180 grams of protein
- “Advanced” recommendation 1g/lean body mass ( only muscle mass ) – calculating for a 180 lb person sitting at around 10% bodyfat, the requirement would be 162 grams of protein
Different research studies pointing out a recommended:
- 0.54-0.63 g/lb - Increased protein beneficial for certain active individuals?
- 0.72 g/lb - Endurance Athletes
- 0.63-0.68 g/lb - Dietary protein requirements in sports
- And many other studies.
Some papers examining many other research studies come to our aid and recommend us a more optimal range of protein intake of 1.1 – 1.4 g/lb which is a summary of many studies and one of this papers that come closer to what some good recommendations would be is Kevin Tipton and Robert Wolfe’s paper.
Conclusion To The Question ”How Much Protein Do I Need To Build Muscle Or Lose Fat”
As discussed above, nobody really knows the exact formula that will be optimal for every person out there when recommending protein intake and I am just amazed by the variety of guru’s that are preaching their own formula to building muscle or diet when referred to protein intake.
My recommendations to the question “how much protein do I need” based on research studies and experience, a good protein intake is 1.1-1.5 g/lb and one can use the lower limit when bulking because you are in net anabolic state most of the time because of the excess calories and going for the upper recommendations when dieting.
That being said, can you share this article with some of your friends that are going to the gym to help them?
They’ll surely adjust their protein intake next time they want to build muscle of lose fat and thank you first and me later.
Also, how much protein are you consuming daily and why?
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