Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
January 28, 2023

How Much Protein for Building Muscle?
By Mo Mendez

How Much Protein for Building Muscle?

For the person concerned with increasing muscle size protein is the area to focus on. How much protein should a person take? In the mid-1970s Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote that "protein is the most important element to the bodybuilder. Protein is for growth, maintenance, and repair of muscle tissue. The amount of protein needed by the average person is 1 gram for each 2 pounds of bodyweight. The bodybuilder needs more -approximately 1 gram of protein for each pound of bodyweight. Someone on a supergain program will require even more protein - at least 1.5 grams of protein for every pound of bodyweight."

It is interesting to note that some nutritionists dispute the amount of protein necessary for the human body and most specifically the athlete. They contend that an athlete needs very little if any more protein than the average person. What they fail to realize is the difference between an athlete, who primarily uses energy for competition, and a bodybuilder needing protein for new growth. The athlete does not need much new muscle growth whereas the bodybuilder drastically needs it. There is a big difference in the protein requirements for gaining as opposed to maintaining. A bodybuilder is in a similar state as is a baby because of the new growth factor. The protein requirement per pound of bodyweight for a newborn is much higher than it is for an adult. The requirement is very similar to that which Arnold mentioned for the growing bodybuilder.

Many more nutritionists and doctors are finally starting to see the light though. A recent article mentioned that "the suggested daily requirement for protein intake is about 0.4 grams of protein per pound of ideal bodyweight. Unfortunately, these recommendations were based on studies of sedentary individuals. Recent data indicates that active people need much more. For example, Peter W.R. Lemon, PhD, from the University of Philadelphia, recommends that endurance athletes consume about 0.6 grams per pound per day, and strength athletes are advised to consume about 0.8 grams per pound per day." The research is beginning to back up what bodybuilders have known all along - the body needs a lot of protein for muscle mass.

How Much Protein for Building Muscle?

So what amount of protein should you take? Instead of an exact number, which may not fit everyone since everybody is slightly different, use the range Dr. Lemon mentions as the low point (0.8 grams per pound per day) and use Arnold's recommended range as the upper limit (1.5 grams per pound per day). You should keep your daily protein intake within this range if you want to gain muscle mass.

If you find that your workouts are complete but you are still not growing, recheck your protein intake. You may need a protein supplement.

Recommended daily protein intake: 0.8 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.

This amount of protein should provide you with enough to keep your body in a "positive nitrogen balance," the place where muscle mass gains are made. Christine Lydon, MD, notes that if you get an adequate intake of protein (positive nitrogen balance):

  • Your muscles will appear harder and fuller

  • You will feel stronger.

  • You will notice decreased muscle soreness.

  • You will be more rested after the same recovery time.

  • You will probably observe a decrease in bodyfat.

  • You will have an increase in lean muscle mass.

How Much Protein for Building Muscle? Whenever you are planning a meal, center it on quality protein. The intake or lack of intake of quality protein will make or break your goals of developing more mass.

As pointed out, you need lots of protein. To make muscular gains, protein is crucial. Don't always take the current diet of a bodybuilding champion as a model for you to follow if you are trying to bulk up. Remember, the champion has already bulked up and is trying to stay ripped. If you are trying to get big, his diet for staying lean won't work for you. Dr. G. Kerry Knowlton writes, "Another favorite of mine is the champion diet. It goes something like this: before working out in the morning, a cup of black coffee and a piece of fruit. Breakfast is 2 or 3 egg whites and a piece of toast. Lunch is a small piece of chicken and water. Before the afternoon workout is a small potato. Dinner is a small piece of chicken or fish, and a salad. And the guy weighs 250 pounds. Bull! If that diet and work schedule were true, everybody in a third-world country would have bulging muscles." Don't make the mistake of using a champion's diet after he has already gained size and mass with a previous diet. Use the previous diet! That is the one where he gained all of his muscle size. His current diet is just for refinement, not mass. When observing the training elements of someone who has gotten massive, look to the earlier training time. For instance, Arnold used two very different approaches for building his body - one for mass, and one for shaping the mass. Use more protein when you are packing on the muscle mass; less after you have attained the mass.

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