Building muscle requires more than just hitting the gym; it also requires an understanding of nutrition and macronutrients. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the protein principles that are essential for optimizing your muscle growth whether you’re cutting or bulking.
We’ll introduce key concepts such as daily requirements, meal timing, sources, types of proteins, and common mistakes made when focusing on protein intake so that you can start achieving your goals safely and effectively.
After reading through these principles, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to build those muscles!
What is Protein
Protein is a macronutrient made up of 20 amino acids, 9 of these amino acids known as “essential amino acids” that must come from our diet. It’s important for building muscle, maintaining healthy bones, and proper functioning of organs.
Protein helps to build, repair, and maintain the body’s cells. Protein also helps to produce hormones, enzymes, antibodies that boost immunity levels, and other molecules within our bodies.
Each 1 gram of protein is 4 calories.
Why do you need it for muscle-building
For those looking to build and maintain muscle, protein is just as essential as any other nutrient. Protein helps to repair muscle tissue after workouts, helping you reach your goals quickly.
Eating enough protein also ensures that the muscles have enough energy for their next workout – a lack of protein can lead to fatigue and a decrease in performance.
Different types of protein – animal, vegetable & other sources
Animal proteins are typically more well-rounded sources of protein, containing all the essential amino acids that we need. Examples include meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Vegetable proteins also provide a range of benefits – they tend to be lower in fat and cholesterol than animal proteins. Soy is a particularly great source of vegetable protein as it contains all the essential amino acids. Other sources of vegetable protein include legumes, nuts, and grains.
Other forms of protein that don’t come from animal or vegetable sources include hemp, quinoa, spirulina, pea protein powder, etc. These can be especially helpful for vegans and vegetarians who don’t eat animal proteins or those who have food allergies or sensitivities.
How much protein do you need?
The amount of daily protein intake can vary due to gender, body weight, fitness goals, form of daily exercise, activity level, age, etc.
On average, your daily protein intake should range from 10-35% of your total daily energy intake (calories). In terms of grams, this should be roughly 0.8-2.0g of protein/kg of body weight.
When building muscle or having a higher physically active lifestyle, the protein intake should be on the higher end of the range closer to 1.4-2.0g/kg of body weight.
When on a caloric deficit/cutting phase, higher ranges of 2.3-3.1g/kg of body weight may be needed to maintain lean muscle mass. (Morton, 2017)
If the numbers get confusing, a general rule of thumb is to try to eat close to 1g per pound of body weight. (Ex. 150lb male should aim to eat close to 150g of protein)
How Often/When Should I Eat Protein?
The optimal strategy for protein intake should be every 3 to 4 hours.
In general, each meal should contain at least .25g/kg of body weight to activate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS)– To simplify, MPS is the metabolic process that maintains or repairs muscle mass.
The goal should be to achieve your daily protein intake while trying to activate MPS for each meal. Snacks/lighter meals can be used to help achieve the daily amount even if it doesn’t active MPS.
Tips for getting more protein
Protein shakes and powder can help increase your daily protein intake while providing a low-calorie snack/meal replacement.
High Protein Snacks
There are tons of high-protein snacks that can help boost your intake. These snacks can help fill in whatever you missed during your meals.
Make a list of your favorite “Go to” protein sources
Trying to figure out what you’re going to eat next can be mentally draining. By having a list, you can stock up or grab whatever you need so that your daily intake requirements can be met.
Common mistakes when it comes to consuming protein
Not eating enough
This is probably one of the biggest problems when it comes to protein intake. Make sure you are hitting your daily requirements and activating MPS for every meal if you want to build muscle.
Eating too much
So, while getting enough protein is important, eating too much can be just as detrimental. Protein creates a thermic effect, meaning it takes more energy to burn than carbohydrates or fats.
Eating protein-rich foods without other macronutrients
It’s important to make sure you are getting enough of all three macro-nutrients in every meal. Protein alone won’t provide the energy and vitamins and minerals from other food sources.
Not tracking your protein intake
Tracking your daily protein intake can be helpful if you want to make sure that you are getting enough. There are many apps and websites that can help with this, so take advantage of those resources to ensure optimum growth.
While building muscle may seem like a straightforward process, it can take months to see progress and even years to achieve the physic you want.
The biggest thing when it comes to protein intake is to stay consistent and get as close to your daily goal. It can be challenging, but not impossible. Happy grinding!
-Morton, Robert W., et al. “A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults.” British Journal of Sports Medicine 51.6 (2017): 684-696. (PubMed)
-“What Is Muscle Protein Synthesis?.” Ritual, ritual.com/articles/what-is-muscle-protein-synthesis. Accessed 20 Mar. 2020. (Ritual.com)